Life’s a Feast: Steamed BBQ pork buns


Char siu bao is one of the signature dishes in Dim Sum restaurants around the world. These fluffy buns are traditionally stuffed with a barbecued pork that is utterly addictive. They originated in China perhaps as early as the third century AD, and have since spread through east and south-east Asia. The recipe below provides two options, a simple untraditional bun and a more traditional (but more technical) bun. I think the latter is worth the effort for the more authentic texture and flavour.


Pork Filling:
250g pork mince
1 clove garlic
1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 spring onions thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 50ml water 

Traditional bun-bao:
2 1/3 cups self-raising flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
8g sachet instant dry yeast
160ml warm water
2 tablespoons vege oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
10ml cold water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

Simple buns:
400ml can coconut milk
2 filled coconut milk cans of self-raising flour
Combine in blender, divide into 12 even portions then follow as above 

Note: You can poach the same quantity of pork mince in the recipe above in some leftover masterstock you have from the recipe a few weeks back then reduce the stock to a sticky sauce or just follow the simple recipe below.


1. Dissolve the yeast and vinegar into 160ml of warm water. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl then fold in the dissolved yeast mix until a dough forms. Add in the vege oil and knead this for about 10 minutes until the dough has become soft and malleable. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for about 30 mins.

2. Whilst the dough is rising, heat oil in pan, saute garlic for 1 min, add mince and cook for further 3-4 mins ensuring no clumps.

3. Add in all other ingredients for the pork filling except cornflour mix and stir fry for 1 min.

4. Pour in the cornflour mix and simmer until gravy has thickened. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

5. Next dissolve baking powder in 10ml water and pour over the risen dough and knead again until combined. It becomes a little sticky but, never fear, it still turns out a light fluffy end product.

6. Divide mixture into 16 portions, and then flatten into 6-7cm circles with a flour-dusted rolling pin. Place a tablespoon of pork mix into the middle of the circle.

7. Pull and fold (pleat) the sides around the filling, twisting the top to seal it. Place it upside-down so the messy edges are not seen (once you get good at this you can leave the pleating top-side up!)

8. Bring a pot to boil that will fit a bamboo steam on it. Place buns in the bamboo steamer with perforated baking paper on the bottom, leaving 2cm between each bun and place on the boiling pot. Steam for 12 mins without opening the lid, or else they will not be as light and fluffy.

9. Serve immediately with hoisin sauce.

N.B. If you get yellow spots, which my first batch did, it means you have not dissolved the baking powder properly.