My first home made Char Siew Bao

The packet of flour sat in our pantry cupboard for the longest time ever. I didn’t even bother to read the instructions on the pack. In the last 16 months, work had consumed so much of my time and life. If not for recent events, I will not have stopped and think about who & what is important in my life. Sometimes it takes a certain incident to make one wake up to realisation.

I dusted the packet of flour and thought to myself. How hard can it be?  I turned to the instructions at the back and started laughing. Loudly. Mister thought I’ve gone a little mad.The instructions were simple and easy to follow. I waited so long to attempt to make char siew bao (char siu pao) because I thought it was too hard? Fear – the downfall of most failures. How true!

I feel a little guilty sharing this recipe. The flour used is pre-mixed. Packed in California? And distributed in Australia? Plus the filling is BBQ pork that I bought from Golden Harvest, Cantonese restaurant in Footscray.

Pre-mixed flour

Pre-mixed flour

Golden Harvest BBQ pork

Golden Harvest BBQ pork

Ingredient:

(Makes 6 – 8 depending how small or big you like your bun to be!)

  • 220 grams pre-mixed flour (20 grams for dusting)
  • 1 medium box of BBQ pork (1/2 for consumption while kneading the dough and make sure you get more fatty bits)
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped or minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 11/2 tbsp of oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp of light soya sauce
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp of corn flour
  • 150ml water or stock
  • 1/2 tsp of white vinegar
  • 1tsp cooking oil
  • 6 pieces of baking paper cut into squares for the bun
Kneading dough

Kneading dough

Dough

Dough

Method (Filling):

  1. Consume the leaner portion and keep chop up the fatty pork into little pieces (Make about 2 cups of chopped meat)
  2. Heat up a little oil in the pan and drop in the minced garlic & the chopped BBQ pork
  3. Add the oyster sauce, soya sauce and sugar. Stir and mix well
  4. Mix the cornstarch in the water or stock and pour it into the pan
  5. Once it is all starchy and has a nice glaze, turn off the heat and fill it aside
6 little doughs

6 little doughs

Method (Dough):

  1. Stir the sugar into the milk until all sugar is dissolved
  2. Add the liquid into the flour and I used the mixer to churn it into a dough
  3. Dust the work top with flour and start kneading for about 15-20 mins. Keep dusting and kneading
  4. After 20mins of kneading, add 1 tsp of cooking oil to the dough and knead for another 10 mins
  5. Rest the dough covered for at least 30mins
  6. Dough will rise about double in size
  7. Cut the dough into 6 even pieces. They are about an inch square
Rolled dough

Rolled dough

Char siew filling

Char siew filling

Method (Steam):

  1. Knead the dough a little before rolling it out to about 21/2 inch disc
  2. Place about 1 1/2 tbsp of filling onto the centre of the disc
  3. Stretch & pinch the 4 corners together and close up the gap and give it a little pinch or twirl at the top to encase the filling
  4. Boil the water and add the vinegar in the water so that the bao will be super white in colour (tip)
  5. Place the bao on the cut out paper and place it in the bamboo steamer (or just steamer). Place a cloth between the cover and the steamer so that the condensation does not get to the bao and make them soggy (tip)
  6. Steam for 10mins, open it up and steam openly for another couple of minutes
  7. EAT when it is piping hot!
Pre-steamed bao in basket

Pre-steamed bao in basket

It was a pleasant surprise when I lifted the cover. I didn’t expect them to look like a bao (bun). I guess I still had it in my mind that it is still too hard and how can I make bao at home? It is something we eat during yum cha or as breakfast or afternoon snack in Asia. They looked like real bao.

Char siew bao or Char siu pao

Char siew bao or Char siu pao

How it taste? It did taste like a bao but it can be better. The balance of the meat and the seasoning was right but it needed a tad more sauce. The next time I do it, I will make the filling from scratch. Add more fatty pork and sauce. Semi-freeze it so it is easier to fill the dough.

It isn’t the perfect char siew bao but it gave me a new perspective and drive. I have certainly renewed my love for food and the continuing quest for more knowledge. I’ve met amazing and smart people along the way. And thankful for all the passionate readers.

What have you found hidden in your pantry and wondered why you looked past it?