Ah, childhood. When choices were easy (Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network?) and one’s biggest concerns were in the vein of running home fast enough from the elementary school to catch the ice cream truck and the 3:30 PM escapades of Arthur the aardvark on PBS. When your parents seemed to know everything there was to know about everything, and you saw the entire world from a foot or two lower to the ground.

My particular version of childhood involved a lot of sinking Titanic reenactments in my friend Reema’s above ground pool (we were very melodramatic children), reading at recess, strong lobbying for a family puppy acquisition, the collected cinematic works of John Hughes, my see-through purple Gameboy Color, and a gradual familiarization with anything having to do with horses. It also involved a lot of Saturday morning car rides into Queens and Chinatown, when we would visit my grandparents or cousins, grab dim sum, and inevitably stop by a Chinese bakery for some warm bread.

There were always the usual suspects…the pillowy soft butter buns, the sweet, crumbly pineapple buns, the vastly-appealing-to-Chinese-American-kids “hot dog” buns (my enchantment with this particular pastry has…ebbed over the years), and of course, the “cha siu bao,” or BBQ pork bun, which is filled with a savory, slightly sweet filling of Cantonese roast pork. This dim sum and Chinese bakery favorite is of course, the subject of today’s post.

Out of all the bakeries in and around Beijing–the Paris Baguette‘s, Bread Talk‘s, Holliland’s, and Wei Duo Mei‘s packing the city, no one seems to have this “quintessentially Chinatown” pastry. Until now!

You know, because we do.

These take some time, but are pretty easy to put together, especially if you can get the roast pork ready made from your local Chinese grocery store’s hot bar. If not, you can also easily make your own roast pork, with this fantasmagorical Chinese BBQ Pork (cha siu) recipe we posted a few days ago. In any case, the bread dough is fairly straightforward as well. It involves one crucial, dead simple step at the beginning, which involves making a quick five-minute roux/paste with flour, water, and milk. The paste, called a “tangzhong,” is then mixed with the rest of the dough ingredients, and you knead the heck out of it until it’s smooth. Easy.

Let’s get started.

For the buns:

  • 5 cups bread flour or all purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/3 cup milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • eggwash (1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of milk)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or red onion
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups diced Chinese roast pork (cha siu)

 

In a medium saucepan, mix 1/3 cup flour with 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup milk until the flour is dissolved. Put the pan over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture resembles a thick paste, about 3-5 minutes. If it looks like vanilla pudding, it’s too thin. If it looks kind of like really thick toothpaste, it’s just right. You can also measure the temperature with a thermometer, if you’re the Alton Brown type. It’s about right when it’s reached 149 degrees F/65 degrees C. Set aside.

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In a large mixing bowl, combine 5 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Mix it all together with your hands.

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Add the flour paste (aka the tangzhong), 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and the melted butter. Stir together to form a soft dough, and knead (by hand or with the dough hook attachment of your mixer) for 15-20 minutes. Because our KitchenAid didn’t make the journey from NJ to China, I did this all by hand–in front of the TV, so I wouldn’t get bored. It wasn’t really that bad.

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Form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for 1 hour.

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While that’s happening, make the filling. Chop up some onion, dice the pork into small cubes, and take out some chicken broth (or in our case, some Organic Better than Bullion mixed with some water).

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Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

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Add the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy.

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Stir and cook until it starts to bubble up.

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Add the chicken stock and flour. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring, for a couple minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the roast pork. Set aside to cool.

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After it’s risen, separate the dough into 16 equal pieces.

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Shape each piece into a small circle, where the center is slightly thicker than the edges. This prevents the top of the bun from being too thin and bursting open mid-bake. That would be bad.

Put a couple tablespoons of filling into each!

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Crimp them closed, making sure they’re tightly sealed. It’s a similar technique to making Shanghai soup dumplings. But no need to unnecessarily complicate things. Just make sure it’s closed, and closed tightly.

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Lay them out seam side down on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and let rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

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Brush with egg wash…

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And sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). The sesame seeds add a little aesthetic somethin’ extra, I think.

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Beeeeyoooteeeful!

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Put them in the oven and immediately turn the oven down from 400 degrees (about 200 degrees C) to 350 degrees (about 175 degrees). Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

And then don’t immediately grab one, bite into it, burn your tongue, and then almost drop it on the floor whilst nursing a second degree mouth burn. I, uh…let them cool off for a few minutes before not doing that.

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These are a joy to make and to eat. Whether they bring you back to your childhood, or are an entirely new experience, we hope you enjoy them. Post any questions or comments down below, where you’re guaranteed a pleasant and/or witty answer from one of us.

 

CHINESE BBQ PORK BUNS (Cha Siu Bao)

Prep Time: 2 hours, 35 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 16

CHINESE BBQ PORK BUNS (Cha Siu Bao)

Ingredients

FOR THE BUNS:
5 cups bread flour or all purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 eggs
4 tablespoons melted butter
eggwash (1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of milk)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
FOR THE FILLING:
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or red onion
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 ½ tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
¾ cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups diced Chinese roast pork (cha siu)

In a medium saucepan, mix 1/3 cup flour with 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup milk until the flour is dissolved. Put the pan over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture resembles a thick paste, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 5 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the flour paste (tangzhong), 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and melted butter. Stir together to form a soft dough, and knead (by hand or with the dough hook attachment of your mixer) for 15-20 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for 1 hour.

While that’s happening, make the meat filling. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy. Stir and cook until it starts to bubble up. Add the chicken stock and flour. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring, for a couple minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the roast pork. Set aside to cool.

After it has risen, separate the dough into 16 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a small circle, where the center is slightly thicker than the edges. Fill each with meat filling, and crimp them closed, making sure they’re tightly sealed. Lay them out seam side down on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and let rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees C)

Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Put them in the oven and immediately turn the oven down from 400 degrees (about 200 degrees C) to 350 degrees (about 175 degrees). Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

http://thewoksoflife.com/2014/02/chinese-bbq-pork-buns-cha-siu-bao/

 

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