Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao)

I’ve been wanting to make homemade cha shao bao for a while now. I finally got my hands on some good BBQ pork (thanks mom!) and asked my grandma for her amazing man tou (steamed bread bun) recipe. Combine the two, and voila! You get these steamed pork buns.

When I called my grandma asking about her recipe, I should’ve expected that she would say she doesn’t have one. She just eyeballs and throws a bunch of things together. I was trying to listen to her list off her “recipe” in mandarin and translating it into something I could put numbers to. She said things like 3 spoons of oil and an unknown amount of warm water haha. I decided to give it a shot and it actually turned out!

This was my first time making them so they definitely didn’t come out 100%. I’ll continue learning with each time, but they’re still tasty either way. My first steam batch was a huge fail. I called my mom to ask what could’ve happened and she made me realize that I didn’t let the buns rise long enough the second time. My grandma didn’t mention a second rise so I’m glad my mom came to the rescue with that, saving the rest of the buns!

Ingredients

Steamed Bun Dough

  • 3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup warm water (90-110 F)

BBQ Pork Filling

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3/4 pound BBQ pork, diced
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • Red chili flakes, optional, to taste
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dough with a wooden spoon or chopsticks. It should come into a shaggy ball and most all the flour should be absorbed. Add more water or flour in small increments as necessary if not the right consistency.
  2. Place dough on clean surface and knead until smooth and elastic, just a few minutes.
  3. Return dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. In the meantime, make the filling. Add the sesame oil into a large pan and saute the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent and fragrant, several minutes. Add in the rice wine and let it cook and evaporate. Then, add in the pork and cook together for a few minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, combine all the rest of the filling ingredients except for the scallions. Stir well to dissolve corn starch and make a slurry.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture into the pan and cook until filling has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add in the scallions and stir. Set aside.
  7. Cut up 16 little squares from parchment paper or gather 16 cupcake liners.
  8. Once done rising, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 equally sized balls. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Roll each dough ball into rounds that are approximately 3.5″ diameter, making the middle portion thicker than the edges.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of the round. Fold by pleating the tops and then pinching it all together at the center.
  11. Place the bun onto a parchment square and set aside. Repeat for all 16 buns and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until double in size, between 15-60 minutes, depending on the temperature.
  12. Prepare steamer (preferably bamboo) with water and place over high heat to get it boiling. Add buns to the steam basket and steam for 12 minutes on high heat. Be sure not to check on the buns/remove the lid.
  13. Turn the heat off and let sit for another 5 minutes before enjoying!

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