HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Cha Siu Bao Recipe?

  • d

I'm at my wits end. I've been trying to make cha siu bao (Chinese roast pork buns) for years -- YEARS! -- but have never managed to have any luck with the dough. I've tried every recipe I could get my hands on (Blonder, Yan, Wei Chun, etc.), but I have never managed to get that snow white, light, fluffy effect. One thing, though: I don't believe in recipes that specify anything other than cake flour. If anyone has a recipe -- not some piece of ridiculous internet flotsam, but a genuine recipe that produces restaurant grade results -- I would be immensely grateful to have it. General pointers are also welcome. Many thanks.

David A.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I used the Blonder recipe from her Dim Sum book last weekend and had no problems with the Bao dough. The wheat dumplings were another story. What kind of problems are you having?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Thanks for getting back to me. What kind of problems am I having? I figure I've had them all. Most times I get a shellacky, shiny veneer on the outside of the bun; sometimes the bun turns an off yellow and has a funny smell (I think this is to do with a Baking Soda mis-reaction); sometimes it's just a bit heavy. What do you think?

      Best,
      David

      1. re: David A.

        How shellacked a look are we talking? I've eaten a ton of steamed buns, and they've always come slightly shiny on the outside.

        The funny smell & off-yellow colour, I've been told since I was young, was cured by putting some white vinaigre in the steaming water. I don't know if there's any truth to this, but my mother's buns never comes out yellow or smelling funny.

        In any case, per your original question, my mother has always used a mix - 3 bells brand or something. I remember something about her saying that she has never used a recipe she liked and liked the mix, but that was when I was 10 or so, and my ability to care then was nonexistent. The mix's proportions, though, sounds an awful lot like the combo that Irwin Koval posted below. I remember lots of sugar and oil getting on my little hands.

        1. re: David A.

          If you're using cake flour there is no need to use Baking soda. Baking soda is used to block the gluten from forming in AP flour. I believe you do use baking powder to achieve the light fluffy effect.

      2. David: I have a recipe for you to enjoy. It's from one of the finest authentic tested Chinese Cookboods. "Five Treasures of Chinese Cuisine" written by Flora L. Chang and Graynell M. Fuchs in Honolulu, Hawaii 1978. There may be copies available. If you find one buy it. This is a definitive book, developed by through hands on testing. I was fortunate to be friendly with the authors and enjoyed trying many of the dishes. The recipe for filled steamer buns, was utilized in one of Honolulu's first restaurant's making "Cha Siu Bao". Hope it works for you. BUNS: 1/4 cup oil, 10 cups flour, 3 pks. yeast, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 cup water. Mix yeast with 1/2 cup warm water. Add this plus 1 cup more water to the flour, sugar and salt and knead until dough is soft and springy.[you may want to start with only 1/2 cup water] Let the dough rise after kneading until double in bulk. Kknead again slightly and seperate into 4 balls. Take each ball and roll into rope about 1 1/2 inch thick. Break or cut off pices of dough the size of a egg. Roll into round shape, using a towel, making the center thicker then the edges. Holding the dough in one hand, put about 1 tbs filling in the center and fold over two sides of the dough. Turning the bun in your hand, pinch the dough together. At the finish you will have a rounded shape with a point of dough at the top. Flatten this down and put the bun with this pointed part down on a wet cloth in your steamer. Steam about 10 minutes over rapidly boiling water. The buns will rise and have a glossy exterior when done. FILLING: 1 Pound Char Sieu Pork 1/2 diced fine other 1/2 minced, [chinese style with some fat],1 large stalk spring onion, minced. 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp red food coloring, 1/4 cup sugar, 6 tbs flour. Mix filling ingredients and let stand in refrigerator one hour before using to allow time to stiffen. NOTE: Be careful when making buns not to get the dough too thin or you will have problems removing them from the steamer and they will not rise properly. Other fillings may be subsituted but this is the traditional Bao filling. I generally don't write complete recipies, but appreciate your need. If you try this recipe please post and let us know the results. There are certainly many receipes available, but this one works, while addressing problems.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Irwin Koval

          A couple of side points:

          The baking skills of Cantonese chefs are some of the most underrated and least discussed topics of Chinese cooking.

          Whether you prefer the baked or steamed varieties of chao siu bao, these delights aren't that easy to make at home. I have tried; I have failed.

          Some recipes call for a tablespoon of oyster sauce in the filling. Others omit the food coloring. The filling can be thickened (for a lighter touch) with the time honored solution of cornstarch or tapioca flour. In San Francisco, onion seems to be added to the baked variety and omitted in the steamed variety.

          Since you are in Seattle, try Mon Hei Bakery down in the ID. The coconut bun is special.

          1. re: grumpy

            Coconut bun as in the "chicken tail"? I like Sweet & Fresh better.....

          2. re: Irwin Koval

            I like this book too, there is a very cheap copy for sale on Abe right now.
            http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookD...

          3. I know you want to make it from scratch, but I know of a cheating secret: you know those pop-open tubes of biscuit dough that cost like 50 cents at the supermarket? You can use those for char siu bao and also for Vietnamese banh bao, when steamed they come out really nicely, fluffy, airy and slightly spongy just like the ones made by dim sum chefs who have had years of training. Kudos to you for trying to make them from scratch, you're brave, dim sum making is really hard!

            1 Reply
            1. re: luckyfatima

              I remember my mom using those to make steamed buns with red bean paste as a kid! Brings back memories. We used Pillsbury country style biscuits. They're a good substitute, but will have a slight tang compared to the homemade ones.

            2. there was a recipe in this month's Gourmet for steamed pork buns by David _____, the chef of momofuku noodle bar...have you seen it?

              1. Does anyone know where I can get frozen Char Siu Bao? I would like to order some online if possible. The local supermarket carried them but they have been since taken off of the shelf.

                1 Reply
                1. re: firetruckie

                  firer truckie: my Safeway dropped a fairly decent and cheap version (dang) Teeter's has a much pricier version. and the one decent Asian market in town closed.

                  your geography?

                2. I've made these for years. In 20 years,I have never had one come out "yellow".
                  I have two recipes. One "simple method" involves cake flour, shortening and vinegar, the other, yeast and AP. Both are very good. I don't get "airy though", these are springy with just the right amount of sugar to them and with chew. Love them.

                  1. hi David,

                    I've been trying to been testing recipes for bao. The best one so far is by martha stewart. It consist of all purpose flour, baking powder, milk, and oil.

                    I don't like receipes that call for yeast.

                    the ingredients are mixed and the mix is kneaded. the preportions are about the same as for baked biscuits.

                    after kneading the dough rests for an hour to allow the glueten (activated during kneading to relax)

                    Measure accurately and follow the directions.

                    Kalan

                    1. I have tried four or five different bao recipes. None are like the restaurant dough that is
                      very white and puffy. I thought even bisquit would work but did not. I finally gave up and a
                      Chinese friend in the restaurant business said just buy the mix at a chinese store and
                      make them that way. Finally, what the restaurants use. It is Vietnamese and called Saigon dia bao fen. The mix has no yeast unlike most of the recipes out there. Just baking soda!! I am a serious baker making nearly everything from scatch but sometimes you just have to give in to get the taste you want.
                      Hazel

                      1. I found some yummy frozen bao at Safeway. They are Safeway Select frozen 8 in a bag for about $7. I don't cook, so these made me very happy. Enjoy!

                        1. I just made some of these with a mix for the dough. Perfect! The brand is Ba Chuong Vang (D&D Gold Product). One tip about steaming so they do not stick to the steamer is to cover the steamer with a lettuce leaf, steam it, and then lay the Bao on it. These were delicious. I'm going to experiment with different fillings. Note: the ingredients in the mix do not include yeast, but baking soda.

                          1. i'm only 8 years late to this one, but figured i'd give it a shot.

                            david: Andrea Nguyen's book Asian Dumplings will serve you well. her recipes for both steamed and baked buns come out beautifully. the steamed are white, fluffy, airy, and perfect. the baked dough is simultaneously moist, chewy, tender, flakey, sturdy, and glazed. it's a wonderful book, and her bao recipes are the easy highlight. she DOES use AP flour, and yeast, but also include baking powder, which keeps the dough doubly airy and light. she gives the OK to bleached, and recommends Gold Medal. I followed her recommendations, and the recipe, and i was immensely pleased.

                            i dont have the time to type up the whole deal, but i strongly advise you (and everybody else) go gets a copy of her book! one caveat: i had serious issues with her tapioca starch-based dumpling wrappers, as well as the recipe for soup dumplings. both, however, are a high art form as far as i'm concerned, so i didn't feel too bad. the rest of the book is foolproof. coming from a fool.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: iprobeattoomuch

                              Thanks for recommending Andrea Nguyen's book. I read through the online preview at amazon.com and it looks like just what I've needed.

                              I'm working on baked Hum Bao right now and then have wontons planned, but never really realized what an uphill battle the Hum Bao were going to be between the dough, the pork, and the filling.

                              I've got two competing batches of Char Siu pork marinating this morning, after yesterday's attempt at dough for baking instead of steaming from a web recipe resulted in an oil-laden disk at the bottom of the rising bowl.

                              Then there's the whole issue of whether I should just settle for what looks to be much easier—Pork Belly buns, that I never even knew existed before reading Chow. All I know so far is that I'm going to be eating a lot of pork this month!

                              If anyone has any success stories to share, I'd love to hear them.

                              1. re: RelishPDX

                                I'm not sure if you've picked up Andrea Nguyens book yet, but if you are even remotely competent with baking, you will have great success with her dough for buns, steamed, baked, and pan fried.