Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Steamed Buns)

Char Siu Bao

My mom gave us for Christmas a big basket of goodies from one of her trips to a local asian grocery, along with a challenge to find a way to use some weird ingredients she found during her shopping trip. (Which is why over the next little while, you can expect to see some rather odd recipes showing up!) She also gave us a beautiful two-tiered bamboo steamer, which my husband had only seen in pictures. (Thank you Mom!)

After explaining all the different things we could make with a bamboo steamer, my husband was really intrigued by the idea of steamed buns, or bao. I promised him I'd make him char siu bao or Chinese barbecued pork buns within the week.

Now, I've steamed a lot of different types of dim sum but I've never made bao before. Turns out, it's not a big deal: the yeast dough is quite simple to make and the filling is deliciously easy.

If you have an asian grocery nearby that you can buy precooked char siu, you can skip to the filling part entirely. Just dice it up and add it to the sauce.

Also, I'll warn you: I'm not too familiar with all the variations of char siu. I went with a recipe that I liked but it's fairly dissimilar from the restaurants in my area, for example.

You don't need to use pork either. I'm planning to fry up some diced chicken and eggplant for my next set of bao. Should be good (and if/when it is, I'll post about it).

Char Siu Pork [printable recipe]

  • 1 lb pork roast, trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 1/4″ slices of ginger, sliced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder

Combine all ingredients and marinate roast overnight in a sealed container.

Set a rack inside a roasting pan or rimmed sheet pan. Preheat oven to 400F and boil some water in a kettle. Rest pork on the rack and pour boiling water into the pan so the meat will stay moist. (You do not want the pork to sit IN the water, just ABOVE the water.)

Roast the pork for 15 minutes at 400F, then flip the roast over and reduce to 350F. Continue to roast, turning every 15 minutes and basting with the remaining marinade until cooked through. (Check with a meat thermometer.)

I sliced mine into inch-thick slices and roasted for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool and proceed to making the filling.

Char Siu Bao Filling [printable recipe]

  • 1 1/4 cups Char Siu, diced
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp chili garlic paste
  • 3 green onions
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed

Saute the garlic for a minute or two over medium heat in a bit of oil. Combine everything in a small bowl and set aside.

Bao Dough [printable recipe]

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (105F to 110F)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch salt

Proof the yeast: Combine yeast, sugar and water in a mixing bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Knead the dough: Add dry ingredients and knead for 5 - 10 minutes (by hand or by stand mixer) until the dough pulls together and becomes shiny and tight. Remove to an oiled bowl and let rest for 15 minutes, covered.

Raw Char Siu Bao

Char Siu Bao [printable recipe]

  • 1 recipe Bao Dough
  • 1 recipe Char Siu Filling

Prepare the buns: Portion the dough into 16 pieces. Flatten each piece into a disc and put about 1/2 tbsp of filling (or so) in the center. Pinch the edges together so it forms a nice, smooth ball. Let them rest for 10 minutes on some parchment paper.

Steam: Arrange the buns with space in between on some parchment paper or cabbage leaves in a covered steamer. (Mine is bamboo, as you can see.) Steam the buns for 8 - 10 minutes.

Serve: Serve them hot and fresh or allow them to cool completely then store in a ziptop bag in the fridge (or freezer). If you freeze them, reheat by steaming for 5 - 8 minutes. Buns are good hot or cold.


  1. As you can see from the picture, I forgot to put some parchment or cabbage leaves down. (Okay, I didn't have any cabbage leaves, but I could have used a collard leaf.) These little puppies stick! I've a lot of scrubbing to do to get these steamers clean again. So don't make my mistake, okay?