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How-To

How to Make Steamed Pork Buns

Cooking teacher, chef, and author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo shows you how to make a Chinese dim sum specialty: fluffy buns filled with sweet-and-savory barbecued pork.

Sarah Breckenridge
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In this video, you’ll learn  how to make char siu bau from scratch, starting with how to make the dough, the filling, and how to shape and steam them.

Steamed Pork Buns or jing char siu bau are a staple of Cantonese dim sum. The buns are soft and pillowy, made with wheat flour, and have a filling of sweet barbecued pork. In this video, you’ll learn  how to make char siu bau from scratch, starting with how to make the dough, the filling, and how to shape and steam them.

See more recipes perfect for a Chinese New Year celebration. 

Part I Make the DoughTo make the dough for the pork buns, start with 2-1/4 cups bleached flour-it’s important to use bleached flour here instead of unbleached: it ensures the snowy white color prized by the Chinese.

On a flat surface mix your flour with 1/2 cup sugar, and 3-1/2 tsp. baking powder. Make a well in the center, and pour 6 Tablespoons of room temperature milk into the well. Use your fingers to gradually work the flour into the milk until it’s all incorporated. 

Make another well, and add 3 Tbs. of water. Work this into the dough in the same way. Finally, add 2 Tbs. melted lard or peanut oil and work the dough until it’s completely combined.

Use a dough scraper to gather the dough with one hand while you knead with the other. Keep kneading until the dough is pliable, smooth, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Now shape the dough into a ball, cover it with a damp dishtowel, and let it rest for at least one hour.

Part II Make the Filling
While the dough is resting, make the filling. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup chicken broth, 2 Tbs. oyster sauce, 2 Tbs. ketchup, 1 Tbs. dark soy sauce, 5 tsp. sugar, 4 tsp. cornstarch, Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. 

Have 6 oz. of barbecued pork or char siu (you can buy char siu pork at most Asian grocery stores, or make your own), cut into small dice, and 1 small onion also cut into small dice.

Heat your wok over high heat for about 30 seconds. Add 2 Tbs. peanut oil and swirl it to coat the wok. As soon as you have a little wisp of white smoke appear, add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the onions are golden brown-giving it a stir every so often.

Add the roast pork, bring the heat back up to high, and stir-fry with the onions. At the edge of the wok, drizzle in 1 Tbs. Shao Hsing, or Chinese rice wine, and stir it into the pork.

Make a well in the center of the pork and add the sauce. Stir until the sauce thickens-this will take one or 2 minutes. Now add 1 1/2 tsp. of toasted sesame oil and mix well. Now we’ll let this cool in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before we shape the buns.

Part III Shape and Steam the Buns
Before you start shaping your buns, cut 16 2-1/2-inch squares of waxed paper or parchment. The buns will sit on these parchment squares in the steamer, so they don’t stick.

Lightly sprinkle flour on your counter, and roll your dough into a 16-inch log. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces, and roll each of these into a ball. Cover the dough you’re not working with with your towel to keep it from drying out. 

Take one dough ball and press it down on the counter until it’s a 3 inch circle. Cup it in your hand and spoon about 1  tsp. of filling into the center. Gather the edges and pull them up and over the filling, and pleat the top to cover the filling-it may seem like too much filling, but the dough will stretch around it. Twist the top to seal the bun and pinch off any excess dough. Place the bun on the parchment square, and shape the rest of the buns the same way. As you get a little practice, you can start adding more filling-up to 1-1/2 or 2 Tbs.

When you’ve shaped all the buns, arrange them in two bamboo steamers, and make sure they’re at least 2 inches apart.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a wok and stack the steamers over the boiling water. Steam the buns for about 15 to 20 minutes-they are ready when they look fluffy and the tops have opened like flowers. The buns are best when they’re hot from the steamer, so serve them right away to enjoy the soft fluffy bun and the sweet and spicy filling. 

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