Today in our travel through food segment, we’re going to Hong Kong. Meggan and I spent about 10 days in this buzzing city of over 7 million. Hong Kong offers about every type of cuisine ranging from ultra fine dining to street hawkers.
If we had to pick a food that represented our experience here, it would have to be the BBQ pork buns (Char Siu Bao). These can be found in Hong Kong’s many Dim Sum restaurants as well as little hole in the wall eateries just about everywhere. During the week, rarely a day went by when we didn’t consume one of these scruptious bites.
Basically, the pork buns are an ultra fluffy and spongy steamed white bread encapsulating slow roasted pork glazed in a hoisin BBQ sauce. They are just amazing. I wish we could figure out how to make the crazy jelly noodle fruit smoothy drinks of Hong Kong here at home. These drinks with the Char Siu Bao, would put us right back on the streets of Hong Kong.
The Recipe: Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)
Steamed Bun Dough (Bao)
- 1.5 tsp instant dry yeast
- 3/4 luke warm water
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3 cups flour
BBQ Filling (Char Siu)
- 1.5 pounds pork (we used pork belly, butt or shoulder also work)
- 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- .5 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
- 4 tbsp honey
- green onion to taste
Combine vinegar, soy, garlic, hoisin, 5 spice and honey into a small sauce pan. Heat slowly to dissolve honey and sugar, wait until the mixture reduces slightly. Transfer the sauce into a bowl and let cool. Marinate the pork in 1/2 of the sauce over night, reserve the rest for basting and the filling. Cook the pork “low and slow.” Since we had delicious pork belly, we cooked it at 325 F for about 3 hours turning and basting occasionally. At the very end, crank the oven up to 400 and baste one last time to crisp up the outside to add a little caramelized char.While meat is cooking/cooling make the dough. Combine water and yeast in a small bowl, let sit a few minutes then whisk in oil, set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine flour (reserve some to add as needed), sugar and baking powder. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon slowly stir working outwards from center until dough comes together. Add flour as necessary to form a sticky dough that will stick to your fingers slightly at first while you knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. Form dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl. Cover and let rise for about an hour.
When the dough is rising, chop the room temp pork into fine cubes combine with remaining bbq sauce and chopped green onion. The mixture should be coated, but not saucy.
Once the dough has risen, roll with hands and form a log shape. Divide dough into 10-12 equal portions. Form portions into a ball and flatten into a round shape just smaller than your palm. It helps to have flour on your hands to prevent the dough from sticking while forming the buns. Add a mound of pork filling into the center holding the dough in your left hand and pleat together with your right hand. Your left hand will turn the dough while pushing/guiding the filling into the bun with your thumb as right hand is pleating. This takes a bit of practice, but you’ll get it.Let the filled buns rise again for about 30-45 minutes on squares of parchment paper. Heat the steamer, we used a 2 level bamboo steamer we bought at an Asian market for $10, vegetable steamers also work. Place the buns on their parchment squares about 1 inch apart, steam for 15 minutes, do not open before. The buns taste great with Sriracha hot sauce, and a cucumber salad. Enjoy.