I think making these buns might have been the biggest mistake of my life. They’re just too dang good and I crave them constantly. The first batch quickly dwindled to nothing – I sent a bun or two off to my family and to Mike’s parents and sent a half-dozen off with Mike. I was left staring at four buns. I tried to make them last as long as possible, but I have to be honest… they lasted four days. Maybe less.
I think these buns might be the first thing I will ever put on my monthly “must make” list. I rarely make repeat dishes. It takes a good dish to warrant a second visit into my kitchen more than once a year. It takes a stellar dish to make a visit a few times a year. A dish that I want to make every month? Unheard of, until now.
I just can’t explain why I loved these buns so much. It’s a combination of the slightly sweet, mostly salty filling surrounded by an impossibly soft, fluffy, yet chewy bun. The texture of the buns is partially due to the tangzhong (roux) made from combining flour with water and milk. The tangzhong is incorporated into the dough and the endresult is a bun that’s… well, good.
I made this dish for this month’s What’s Baking. The host for August is Ali from Sparks from the Kitchen. She challenged us to bake up something to represent our heritage. I waffled between making dan ta, an egg custard tart, and feng li su, little flaky cakes encasing a pineapple filling. I don’t know how I ended up making neither of those and instead making the char siu bao, but I don’t regret my actions one bit. I loved char siu bao growing up, and I love them still. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)
for the buns:
6 cups bread flour, divided
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
for the filling:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups diced char siu (Chinese BBQ roast pork)
1 egg beat with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- To make the tangzhong (roux/flour paste), mix together 1/3 cup flour, 2/3 cup water, and 1/3 cup milk in a small saucepan until well combined. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens up and has the consistency of a thick yogurt. The temperature of the roux should not exceed 150°F. Remove the mixture from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 5 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the tangzhong/flour paste, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and melted butter. Stir together to form a soft dough. Knead by hand for 15 – 20 minutes. If your dough is sticky and not coming together, add the remaining 2/3 cup flour a little at a time until your dough is smooth and elastic.
- Lightly grease a large bowl. Place dough inside and turn to coat. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let rise for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, get started on the filling. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the honey, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy sauce. Cook until mixture starts to bubble, stirring frequently. Stir in the chicken stock and flour until well combined. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the diced roast pork. Set aside to cool.
- Separate the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 4-inch circle, leaving the center slightly thicker than the edges. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the middle of each circle. Crimp them closed, making sure they are tightly sealed. Don’t fret if they’re a little ugly – the crimped side ends up on the bottom, hidden from judging eyes ;)
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the buns seam-side down on the prepared baking sheets and let rise for another hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until buns are golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.
yields 16 buns. recipe slightly adapted from The Woks of Life