Sunday, January 18, 2009

Char Siu Bao

Char siu bao

Liv and Ruth came over yesterday to make some bao zi, or more accurately, Ruth and I made bao zi and Liv washed the veggies, diced the meat, fixed my chairs, set up my HDTV, and cleaned up afterwards. I'm not complaining! =) At first we were going to just make veggie buns (su cai bao) and pork and cabbage buns, but I thought it might be fun to try to make char siu bao. I really like the big, fluffy, white char siu bao you can get a Cantonese dim sum, but after trying to find the recipe on-line, it looks like the only way to get that is with a Vietnamese mix, and I didn't really feel like heading back out to try to find some. And I was all ready to make char siu pork from scratch using a marinade of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, five spice powder, and honey, but then I found a jar of char siu sauce at the Asian grocery store, all mixed up and ready to go. So I copped out and bought that since, after all, this is my first time trying to make char siu, and I was making the dough from scratch.

Char siu

Char Siu Pork

makes enough for 16 buns and one or two servings over rice

1.6 lbs. pork butt or shoulder (you want something fatty, pork loin wouldn't work)
1 (8.5 oz.) jar of char siu sauce

Cut the pork into long strips about 1 cm thick. Using a fork, prick the strips all over to tenderize and also to help the sauce marinate the meat thoroughly. Add 5 tablespoons of the char siu sauce and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 °F. Boil 2 cups of water.

Making char siu

Place the pork strips on a grilling rack in a single layer. (I used the racks from my toaster oven with a baking pan underneath.) Add enough boiling water to the bottom of the pan to come to a depth of 1/2 inch. Roast for 10 minutes.

Turn the strips with tongs and baste with more char siu sauce. Repeat every 10-15 minutes until the pork has roasted for at least a total of 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Slice the pork on the diagonal against the grain. You can serve the pork with rice and vegetables, on top of ramen, or use as a filling for char siu bao.

Char siu

I liked how the sauce made the pork (artificially) red just like the kind you get from Cantonese restaurants, and the taste seemed similar enough, although the texture wasn't as crispy as what you get at a restaurant. Maybe next time I will try making this without the water bath or on a barbecue grill.

To prepare the char siu pork as filling for char siu bao, you'll need to dice the pork into small pieces and add a little more char siu sauce to bind it together.

Diced char siu

Char Siu Bao
makes 16 buns

1 recipe for hua juan dough, mixed, kneaded, risen once, and re-kneaded
1 lb. char siu pork, either homemade or from a store, diced
2 tablespoons char siu sauce

Toss the diced pork with the char siu sauce, adding a teaspoon or two of warm water if necessary.

Divide the dough into 16 equal parts. Take one piece, roll it into a ball, and flatten with your hands. Stretch the circle out so that it is about the size of your palm. (You could use a rolling pin to do this, but there's no need.)

Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the middle of the dough. Cup your hand so that the dough comes up around the filling. Using the hand not holding the dough, pinch a bit of the edge, pull it up and away from you. Then grab another piece further away from you and continue around the dough, rotating as you go. Once you have gone all the way around, twist what you have left between your fingers and seal.

Here is a (mostly silent) video of Ruth showing how to do it with her su cai bao:

Place the bun sealed side down on a square of parchment paper. Return the filled buns to the oven (set at the lowest possibly setting) for 20-30 minutes to proof.

Add water to your steamer (I use my stock pot with the pasta insert and steamer insert for two levels) and heat on high. Once the water is boiling, place the buns in your steamer and steam for 13-15 minutes.

Char siu bao

I found that when I made this I had added too much char siu sauce to the diced pork so it was too salty, so I reduced the amount in the recipe above, and I would suggest adding a little water to dilute the sauce even further so that you have enough sauce to bind the meat all together.

If you're not going to eat all the buns right away, you can freeze them in a freezer bag and reheat them individually in the microwave for 1 minute, wrapped with plastic wrap or in a sandwich bag.


  1. That pork looks really tasty!

  2. I tried the recipe and it came out "so-so".
    Instead of the rack I used meat hooks and hung the meat in the oven. It's quite simple, I just used the rack for the hooks and placed a baking pan with water on the bottom.

    For the Char Siu I tried your recipe and this one here
    The one from wiki wasn't really tasting authentic, but with a little bit of pratice I am sure it will be great.
    Your recipe was more balanced (premade sauce) but laked a bit in color. Also, I don't know why, but with the wiki recipe the meat was more tender.

  3. Been wanting manapua (what we call char siu bao in hawaii) forever, thanks for the recipe. I'll need to tackle the char siu part, but I'm sure I can handle it. Next will be the dough. Thanks so much for the pictures, it helps a lot.

  4. This recipe is terrific. I've made it a couple of times (usually just buy the pork from a local shop). Thanks so much for sharing it!