Char Siu Bao (Steamed Pork Bun)

 Mmm…I want to take an afternoon nap on these.

Have you eaten Char Siu Bao? They are steamed pork buns found in Chinese bakeries, dim sum restaurants, and interestingly enough, our local Costco’s frozen foods section. Imagine a warm fluffy white dumpling that is sweet and spongy, filled with barbecued pork morsels. Yes, it is yummy. In fact, char siu bao probably makes my top ten favorite foods of all time. That is saying something.

In the midst of some Chinese culinary inspiration, I decided to roll up my sleeves, and make some homemade char siu bao.

Now I am usually a big fan of simple, easy-to-make recipes. Let me be clear – this is not simple. While anyone who set their mind to the task could certainly make these bao, they need to dive in with commitment. These babies take some tender loving care, and a good couple of hours. It’s not a recipe for the faint of heart.

Okay, are you still with me, fellow chefs? If you are, you will be rewarded with some amazing, delicious dim sum. These bao are slightly sweet and perfectly moist, and the savory pork filling has a nice kick of ginger. As a bonus for all the hard work, un-steamed bao can be frozen for later. More bao for another time!

Char Siu Bao

Adapted from

1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 pound pork tenderloin
Cooking spray
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 package dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

To prepare the filling, rub five-spice powder evenly over pork. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 18 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°, turning pork occasionally. Remove pork from pan, and let stand 15 minutes. Cut pork crosswise into thin slices; cut slices into thin strips. Place pork in a medium bowl. Add onions and next 7 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt); stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate.

To prepare dough, combine 1 cup warm water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; let rest 5 minutes. Turn dough out onto a clean surface; knead in baking powder. Let dough rest 5 minutes. Divide dough into 10 equal portions, forming each into a ball.

Working with one dough ball at a time (cover remaining dough balls to keep from drying), roll ball into a 5-inch circle. Place 1/4 cup filling in center of dough circle. Bring up sides to cover filling and meet on top. Pinch and seal closed with a twist. Repeat procedure with remaining dough balls and filling. Arrange 5 buns seam side down, 1 inch apart, in each tier of a 2-tiered bamboo steamer. Stack tiers; cover with lid. Add water to a large skillet to a depth of 1 inch; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place steamer in pan; steam 15 minutes or until puffed and set. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

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