Thursday 4 June 2015

Steamed Char Siew Bun 蒸叉烧包

Steamed Char Siew buns with honey pork filling has been one of my favorite steamed buns. The meat filling gravy of this recipe has been added with caramel syrup to give sheen to the meat surface. The idea of adding caramel syrup came as an inspiration after watching roasted char siew skin turning into nice deep orange red after the sugar has been caramelised. Further, as I was not using real char siew meat for the filling, I believe the caramel syrup will replicate the "burnt" aroma to a certain extent which chracterises the real char siew. 
Love this soft steamed bun with juicy meat filling :)

Yield: 16 x 6 cm round buns
Raw dough weight: 515 g

Paper backing
2 pcs 19x22 cm tempura paper

1. Fold the paper into 9 "boxes".

2. Cut along the folded lines into 18 pieces. Set aside.

Caramel syrup 
30g fine sugar
1+1/4 tsp water
3 tsp hot water

1. Add 1+1/4 tsp of water to the fine sugar in a heat resistant cup. Swirl the cup to "wet" the sugar without having to dissolve it.

2. Semi cover by a metal plate, heat the mixture till reaching boiling point. 

3. DO NOT STIR the mixture till the melted sugar thicken and turns a bit yellowish. Continue to heat at low temperature till the caramel turns into dark orange.
Do not over-brown the sugar as it will turn butter.

4. Remove the cup from the stove and add in 3 tsp of hot water from the side of the cup. As the caramel is very hot, add the hot water slowly to prevent splattering.

5. Returns the cup to the stove to facilitate the caramel in dissolving into a syrup. Set aside.

Char Siew Filling
450g pork shoulder or 五花肉
2 tsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tsp chopped Chinese coriander leaves

Gravy ingredients 
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1+1/2 tbsp caramel syrup
2 tbsp pork broth
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine
Salt & sugar

Some dark soya sauce

Starch water
2 tsp  potato starch
130ml pork broth

Mix both ingredients together to form starch water.

You can adjust the ingredients quantity according to your preferred taste.

1. Rinse pork and cut into big chunks.

2. Boil some water to par-boil the pork. Remove from heat source and let the pork sits in the hot water for about 15 minutes.

3. Remove the pork from the broth and keep a portion of the broth for later use.
Cut the pork into tiny cubes. It's alright if part of the meat is still raw, as the later heating will have it cooked.

4. Heat up about 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil in a pot. When the oil is hot, pour in the pork cubes and give them a quick-stir for about 1 minute.

5. Pour in 1 tbsp of rice wine to add fragrance to the pork.

6. Pour in the gravy ingredients and bring to a light boil. Add in dark soya sauce slowly to adjust the colour of the gravy.
Add salt and sugar to taste.

7. Pour in the starch water to thicken the gravy. A drier gravy will help to bind the solid ingredients together better.

8. Sprinkle 1 tsp of roasted sesame seeds and chinese coriander leaves.

9. Scoop the char Siew filling into a bowl, cover and set aside.

Bun dough 

A. The Sponge 中种面团
80g HongKong flour* 包粉/香港低筋面粉
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast 即发干酵母
70g water 水

* Hongkong flour is a super fine flour.

1. Mix flour and instant dry yeast in a mixing bowl.

2. Slowly add in the 70g of water, stir in one direction till it form into a paste.

3. Cover and let the dough proof for 1 hour.

B. The Dough 
Sponge from above 中种面团
250g Hongkong flour 包粉/香港低筋面粉
50g fine sugar 细砂糖
1 tsp double acting baking powder 双重发粉
1/4tsp salt 盐
20g rice bran/corn oil 米糠油/玉米油
60~80g water, add as required 水,水量自酌

1. Mix HongKong flour, fine sugar, salt and double acting baking powder by using a hand whisk.

2. Pour the sponge and vegetable oil into the dry mixture.

3. Slowly add in the water and stir at the same time, till you get all the ingredients into a big lump.
Leaving behind about 20g of water to be added depending on the consistency of the dough.
Avoid adding too much water to the dough, to help the buns keep its shape after steaming.

4. Transfer the dough onto a floured work top and knead into an elastic and smooth dough.

5. Pull a series of small portions out from the main dough to divide it into 16 portions, each about 32g. Roll into balls, coated with flour, and place in a mixing bowl.

6. Roll out the dough into a flat dough with the edge thinner than the center. Flip the dough skin over, so that the smoother side will be facing out when wrapped.

7. Scoop a spoonful of char siew pork filling onto the center of the dough skin. Wrap up the dough,pleats several folds, and  sealed the opening.

8. Place the bun dough onto a piece of paper. The paper will help you to carry the buns into the steamer later.

9. Proof the buns for 20 minutes before steaming.
Start counting down the proofing time, the minute you finish shaping the first buns. If you only start to count down the proofing time after finish shaping the last buns, the first bun would be over-proofed.

Start heating a pot of water for steaming the buns, when you start shaping the buns.

10. When the water boils, steam the buns for 5 minutes under medium high flame.

Turn down the heat to low and continue to steam for about 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes, open the lid slightly and turn off the heat. Let the buns sit in the warm steamer for 5 minutes.

11. Transfer the buns to a cooling rack.

You can also keep the warm the buns in a rice cooker to prevent the bun skin from drying up.

12. Serve the buns warm :)
Keep the unconsumed buns in the fridge for overnight storage.


  1. Good morning Ms Goh,

    After searching through numerous blogs, I have decided to try your recipe as you don't use shortening in it. My 1st try was a success, using hand to knead the dough for 25-30 mins. On my 2nd attempt, I decided to use KA to assist in kneading the dough, kneading in low speed for 10 mins. The feedback was - hand knead produced a softer dough. So in my 3rd try, I went manual n hand kneaded it for 20 mins. However this time round, the skin was harder than both my previous attempts. My questions are:-
    1) is the kneading the same as that for bread making?
    2) is there such a thing as over or under knead?
    3) how to ensure that I have kneaded the dough to the right stage?
    4) as I'm using an electric steamer, do I need to ensure that the steamer was already heated up before placing in the pau?

    1. Hi Doreen, I'm not an expert in making bao, so I may not be able to give you an accurate answer :|
      But I'll try my best to give you my opinions based on my brief history of bao making :)
      As the flour we use for bao making is low in gluten, so there shouldn't be a problem of over kneading. As long as your dough become smooth and elastic, the kneading should be sufficient.
      A weak and aged yeast or baking powder may not be able to give sufficient leavening action to the dough, thus a more compact bao skin may occur.
      An under-steamed bao may also have a harder skin. So it is advisable to start steaming your bao when the water is hot.
      Hope I have answered to your doubts :)

  2. You are too modest Ms Goh. Your blog is THE place I would go to look for recipes and guidance. I really appreciate your advice and your time taken to answer to my queries. I will, base on your advice, try again and hopefully I will be able to produce a more acceptable bao skin. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you, Doreen :) I'm glad to share with you and happy to know my advice is useful to you. Good luck in your next attempt :)

  3. Hi, I tried your recipe and my bao turns out to be very dry. Can you advise me what could possibly be the reason? Is it not enough water or i did not knead it long enough? TIA!

    1. Hi Dolphy, there are two possibilities I can think of. First, like you have mentioned, your dough maybe a bit too dry. Second, you may not have steamed the dough long enough, or the temperature was not high enough, so the steam may not be able to penetrate deep into the dough. Hopefully, this answer helps :)


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