Char Siu Bao

This is a post I’ve been waiting for, since the very inception of Bashful Bao.  I finally made my own bao!!!!  And they were delicious.

Bao 包 means bundle or package in Chinese, and what marvelous little bundles bao are indeed.  I don’t remember this first time I ever ate bao, but I do remember the first time I ate the best bao ever, in Taiwan, of course.

There was a little stand near a night market that sold all kinds of bao and mantou.  Mantou are like bao, only they have no filling and are just bread buns.  I would buy like a dozen, while my apartment-mates watched me quizzically, and ate them for practically every meal in the following days.

I buy frozen pre-made bao from Asian supermarkets for Luke, though I rarely eat them myself.  I guess I’m just a bao snob like that.

These bao are made with a cooked pork filling, and I like that the dough is a bit crustier.  Many bao doughs are soft and squishy, which doesn’t provide for much texture, so I appreciate a crispier crust.  You can make the filling a day in advance too, which makes things easier, since this recipe is a little lengthy.  If you’ve never made you own bao, or eaten it before, I cannot implore you enough to try it.  It’s one of my all time favorite real Chinese foods.

Char Siu Bao (Pork Buns)

Adapted from Amy Bites

Makes about 12 medium sized buns

For the pork:

1 lb boneless pork shoulder

1 big clove garlic, sliced

1 1/2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 five spice powder

2 Tbsp hoisin sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Cut the pork into strips that are 1 1/2” thick.

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl large enough to fit the pork.  Remove 1/3 of the marinade to a small bowl and store in the fridge. This will be used later on for basting the pork as it roasts. Toss the pork in with the rest of the marinade to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, turning the pork 2-3 times.

Remove the pork and reserved marinade from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a roasting tack on top, or use a roasting pan.  Put the pork on the rack, leaving an inch between the pieces for heat circulation. Discard the used marinade.

Roast for 30 minutes, basting both sides of the pork with the marinade every 10 minutes. Flip the pieces over at every interval. The pork is done when it is glazed and slightly charred. Remove from the oven. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before using.

For the filling:

1 Tbsp sugar

pinch of salt

pinch of black pepper

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp oyster sauce

1 Tbsp water

2 tsp canola oil

2 scallions (white and green parts), chopped

1/2 pound Char Siu Pork, diced

1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp water

To make the flavoring sauce, combine the sugar, salt, white pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar and set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, or until aromatic and slightly softened. Add the pork and combine well. Add the flavoring sauce and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, or until the pork is heated through. Meanwhile, add the rice wine to the dissolved cornstarch. When the pork is hot enough, add the wine and cornstarch mixture. Cook for another 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes together into a mass that you can mound. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely before using. (The filling can be prepared up to 2 days in advance, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before using.)

For the dough:

10 Tbsp whole milk

4 Tbsp butter

2 tsp instant yeast

2 1/2 Tbsp lukewarm water

1 large egg

2 1/2 Tbsp sugar

12 1/2 oz all-purpose flour

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 Tbsp honey mixed with 1 Tbsp warm water

For the dough, melt the butter with the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, or until warm (about 110°F).

Put the yeast in small bowl, add the water, and set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the milk mixture and the egg to blend.

Combine the sugar and flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly stir with a wooden spoon to work in all the flour. (Add water by the teaspoon if this doesn’t happen with relative ease.) Keep stirring as a ragged, soft mass forms. Then use your fingers to gather and pat the dough into a ball. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, or until smooth, fingertip soft, and slightly elastic. (You should not need any additional flour on the work surface if the dough was properly made. Keep kneading and after the first minute or two, the dough should not stick to your fingers. If it does, work in a sprinkling of flour.) Press your finger into the dough; it should spring back, with a faint indentation remaining.

Lightly oil a clean bowl and add the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 45 minutes, or until nearly doubled.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper before beginning to assemble the buns.

Remove the dough from the bowl and put on a lightly floured surface. Knead it a few times, then roll it out into a 12-inch log, and then cut it into 8 or 16 pieces for medium or small buns, respectively. The tapered end pieces should be cut a little longer than the rest. Lightly roll each piece between your hands into a ball and then flatten each one into a 1/4-inch-thick disk. Use a rolling pin to roll the pieces into circles, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter for small or 3 1/4 inches in diameter for medium buns. The rim should be thinner than the center. The finished circle will rise as it sits. Lay the finished circles out on your work surface, lightly dusting their bottoms with flour if you fear they will stick.

To form a bun, hold a dough circle in a slightly cupped hand. Use a spoon or fork to center about 2 teaspoons of filling for small buns, or about 4 teaspoons of filling for medium ones, on the dough circle, pressing down very gently and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the dough clear on all sides; your hand will automatically close slightly. Use the thumb of the hand cradling the bun to push down the filling while the other hand pulls up the dough edge and pleats and pinches the rim together to form a closed satchel. Pinch and twist the dough closed at the end. Place the bun pleat side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Set in a warm, draft- free place for 30 minutes to rise. Meanwhile, work on the other dough half to form more buns.

About 10 minutes before the rising time is over, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
Bake one baking sheet at a time, brushing the top and side of each bun with the egg right before baking. Bake small buns for about 14 minutes and medium buns for about 18 minutes, or until a rich golden brown; the cooked buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove them from the oven, set on a rack, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Brush the honey mixture on the buns for a sweet-glaze finish that will also soften the crust. Refrigerate leftover buns for up to a week and reheat at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes, until hot. When making the buns in advance, wait to brush on the glaze until after you’ve reheated the buns. These buns may also be frozen for up to a month. Thaw them completely before reheating.


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