I’m in love with pork buns, especially the baked kind. I’ve been known to go out of my way just to stop at Asian bakeries to pick up varieties of their soft lovely buns..and there’s always at least two pork buns in the bag when I leave. There’s one in my town now, and I have to steer clear or else I’ll be buying bags of assorted buns several times a week, resulting in one big bun, one in which I sit on.
How to Make Char Siu Bao, also known as Chinese BBQ Pork Buns
Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles ! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!
Mmmm, Char Siu Bao, also known as BBQ pork buns. Char Siu pork and I go way back – well. way back two years ago. I was actually going to recycle that photo of my Char Siu pork into this post, but once I made it again, I decided to get at least one shot to show I actually did make it again. It’s a beautiful thing. Ever pick the pieces of it out of your fried rice to eat individually?
So I’ve made Char Siu pork before, and Char Siu Bao before – steamed and baked – with great success. I knew this was a challenge I couldn’t miss, not only because I’ve had great success with it, but because Char Siu Bao aka BBQ pork buns have gone up $1.25 since I last walked out of the local Asian bakery mentioned above.
On a whim, I decided to do something a little different with the Char Siu pork buns this time. I gussied them up a bit with some Chinese characters for Love, Strength, Peace and Harmony. I mixed matcha powder with a little egg yolk, painted the characters on the pork buns, let them dry, then egg washed and baked after rising. After two pork buns, I nixed LOVE.
The Chinese character for LOVE has too many lines and details for such a small area. It looked like scribble scrabble, so I let it fly solo. The LOVE is in the buns, baby.
As I painted each character on top of the pork buns, a memory came stompin’ back, with clunky high-heels.
A few years ago, I decided to completely redo the breakfast nook at my parent’s house. Every time I was over there, I could hear the strains of 80’s synthesizers when we sat in that room. It was far past out-of-date – it was Boy George in long braided, mu mu drag. George Michael doing the jitterbug in day-glo, fingerless gloves, out-of-date.
I pulled up every tile of the black and white checkerboard floor, stripped as much of the bright blue paint off the walls (I know, sounds tacky, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t tacky in the 80’s), then sanded off the rest, sealing cracks and holes with compounds and putties, (add more sanding) and finally rolling and brushing on two coats of an Arabian sand color I thought was perfect.
I took down two doors, sanding off the burnished, worn stain, then sanding again, staining and shellac – finishing them off with shiny, bright new doorknobs. It was tough work for one
girl , umm..person..and I still have no idea how I managed it, but within a month, it was completed. I bought a pot rack and hung their pots and pans between the nook and the kitchen, then stood back and admired what I’d done. Trading Spaces? Pffft. Eat your hearts out, bitches.
Hmm, one problem though, it needed art, a few paintings to tie it all up. Maybe one by me to sort of sign my work on the room. Yeah, that sounded cool..really cool. I was cool for once in my life, I think.
I found a bunch of old acrylic paints and brushes in their basement (I used to draw and paint a bit – well, a lot), but no canvas, and it was too late to go out and get one. I walked around the house looking for something – anything..I needed to paint at that moment. I needed to put my final seal on the room before reveal day.
Out of the corner of my eye, there it sat, one of those vertical, ‘three in a row’ mallard prints that nobody, outside of Grizzly hunter man living in a log cabin, puts up on display (or so I thought). I pried open the wires holding everything together since I planned on using the back of this canvas for my painting. I was confused as to why there were so many layers to get to the canvas, and why was this cheap print numbered and signed? Was someone actually proud of painted mallards on a canvas set in ugly dark green cardboard frames?
I finally got to the back of the canvas, pulled it out, and started painting a kaleidoscope of colors to fit in, but ‘pop’ in the room. I’d already decided I was going to paint the black Chinese characters for Love, Health and Happiness on top of these colors because they’re so beautiful. After hiding it to dry for several hours, I came back and painstakingly painted on each character – using some computer print-outs as a reference. It turned out beautiful, and once it was fully dry, I put it back into the frame, minus the dark green cardboard cut-outs.
I hung it in the perfect place and beamed at my resourcefulness. Turning a cheap, factory-made mallard painting into something beautiful! I couldn’t wait for them to see!
They loved the room – I was thrilled. They also loved my painting. After several compliments, my father asked..
“Where did you get the frame for it? I was given a numbered, signed painting by (insert name of famous mallard artist whose name escapes me at this moment) a few weeks ago as a gift for the holidays, in a frame very similar to that..it’s very expensive.”
Update: I know who it is now but absolutely refuse to name him in fear he will see this post via Google and read how I completely annihilated his work thinking it was cheap, worthless and ugly. Shudder.
I felt faint.
He saw my eyes and his face took a turn for the worse. His smile stretched into something between a grimace and a glower, almost as if someone had painted it on with a fine brush, in one deft stroke, not once slipping off track. In fact, I’d never seen it stretch that wide.
“You didn’t take that painting out of the frame, did you? If you did, show me where everything is so we can put it all back together, we’ll get another nice frame for your painting, ok?” He said with faux, hopeful cheer.
Now I’m going to throw up.
He saw my face turn a light shade of green. He knew.
I’m not going to get into details outside of some yelling and “Do you have any idea how much that painting is worth now and will be worth in several years??” “Do you have any idea how rare it is? Only 5 exist!” exclamations.
To this day, my painting sits in a box in my parent’s basement, never seeing the light of day, err..room, again. He didn’t need to be reminded of it during his morning coffee for the rest of his life.
I get it.
OK..back to the pork buns! This was a good recipe and the dough was absolutely wonderful to work with. However, I made a few small changes. When I saw the recipe for the pork filling, I didn’t think there would be enough sauce to really moisten the pork inside the buns, so I doubled it. Turns out I was right, as some mentioned the pork filling being dry after it was baked and/or steamed.
Second change – I wanted a lot of filling in the pork buns, like the ones I get at my local bakery, so I made 9 pork buns instead of 12 pork buns, no 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon amount here, just what I call a heap, or whatever amount I can fit onto the dough-round and seal without leaking or tearing.
I like big buns and I cannot lie…
Third change – I let the pork buns rise for an hour before baking. This recipe eliminated a rise, for a thinner shell of bread. I like a little bready fluff around my pork filling. I also baked them at 350 F for 15 minutes, instead of 200 F for 15 minutes.
Finally, I sprinkled the top of the pork buns, without the characters, with a little bit of Maldon flake sea salt.
Final result, big, fat, fluffy pork buns with lots of saucy, tender. perfectly spiced pork filling. It really doesn’t get any better than that as far as BBQ pork buns go.
I’m also submitting the pork buns to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.