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Steamed Buns with BBQ Filling

Homemade BBQ Pork Steamed Buns

I love yum cha/dim sum (and have always heard the terms used fairly interchangeably). I love how the food arrives so fresh and piping hot at your tableside, where you can pick and cheese what you want to eat. My favorite is definately the steamed buns (bau) filled with barbeque pork . I have not had any sort of yum cha in some time and, in fact, have had great difficulty even finding a dim sum restaurant that I like, so it seemed as though my only alternative was to try making these at home.

Before anyone tells me that these aren’t traditional, something which is immediately apparent because my buns are gathered at the bottom and not the top, I already know. Frankly, I don’t even think it is important that a dish be called “traditional” at all; the taste is the most important part of any dish, whether traditional, original or inspired by something else. I used Maki’s recipe, from i was really just very hungry, and she mentioned that these are the Japanese style of the traditional pork bun. They were absolutely fantastic. Not only was I surprised that I was able to steam them so successfully myself, they were some of the best buns I’ve had in a very long time. The dough was easy to make and a dream to handle. I used bleached all purpose flour to ensure that my buns were really white, but unbleached will give you the same textural results. They were light, soft and fluffy, with a nice bit of chew. You can see in the photo above that I left one unfilled to give you a better idea of the crumb/texture of the bun. This project also gave me a chance to use my bamboo steamer, which has been sitting unused in my cupboard for some time now, too.

For the filling, I made two types: one with pork and one using a vegetarian meat. Instead of going to all the trouble of making some sort of barbeque, I just used a favorite bottled sauce with a few additions and stirred it into my meat. Whether you do or do not like bottled sauce, you certainly can’t beat it for convenience. I am looking forward to trying these buns with other fillings, like chicken and perhaps a sweet custard. The leftovers make a great lunch. You can either freeze them or store them in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for a day. Leave the plastic on and “steam” them for a 30-60 seconds in the microwave for a quick meal.

Steamed Buns with BBQ filling
(from i was really just very hungry)

1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (110F)

3 cups ap flour (bleached, if possible)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup warm milk

1 tbsp shortening, melted

1/2 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl, combine yeast and 1/4 cup water. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Add 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, water, milk, shortening and baking powder and stir well. Add remaining flour gradually until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a large ziploc bag to rise (or a bowl, covered with plastic wrap) until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Cut 12 3-inch squares of parchment paper.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten. Divide dough into 12 pieces (I made 15 because my steamer is on the small side). Keeping the unused pieces of dough covered with a dish towel, flatten a piece of dough into a circle with the center slightly thicker than the outside (approx 4-5 inches in diameter, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly without measuring). Place about 2 tbsp filling in the center of the dough and close the dough around the filling (recipe below), pinching to seal. Place seam-side down on a square of parchment and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with all dough. Cover baking sheet with a clean dish towel and let rise for 15-20 minutes.

Steam buns for 18-20 minutes, in batches if necessary, until springy to the touch. Serve hot.

Makes 12 buns.

BBQ Filling

1 1/2 cups shredded pork (or chicken)

1/2 cup bbq sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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  • Amy
    January 17, 2006

    I’ve always liked those best too. Yours look fabulous!

  • Nicole
    January 17, 2006

    Definitely one of my favorites too. Since there’s no great places for dim sum in our area, we’ve taken to buying these “cha sui bao” frozen from our Chinese grocery store and steaming them in our rice cooker. Not totally the same but still yummy.

  • Rainey
    January 17, 2006

    God I love those little dumplings! My kids are all crazy about them too. I’ve never made them, tho. We always head down to little Tokyo for them at the little snack shops.

  • Zarah Maria
    January 17, 2006

    I have one of those unused bamboo steamers too… Now it can be put to good use, these look delish!

  • Tokyoastrogirl
    January 17, 2006


    These are beautiful! I can’t wait to try it with various fillings. When I lived in Tokyo, 7 Eleven would have all different kinds. In Japanese you call them “niku man” which means meat bread, literally. But the creative folks at 7 Eleven had Pizza-man, Taco-man, Curry-man, etc. Sounds weird, but they were all fantastic. The Curry ones not only have a curry-meat filling but the dough would contain a bit of curry powder which made them yellow. Anyway, thanks for the idea and recipe.

  • Julie
    January 17, 2006

    I’m so excited to try this recipe. It’s my favorite to get at dim sum, and yours look so good!

  • Clare Eats
    January 17, 2006

    I love these babie! YUM
    good job. I think you normally use hoi sin sauce to get the bbq flavour 🙂

  • Eric
    January 17, 2006

    Here, in the Philippines, and in China, we would call this sio pao, and the bbq filling is called asado.

    They look great, by the way.

  • Jessica
    January 17, 2006

    Yum! Yum cha and dim sum are indeed the same thing. Yum cha is Cantonese for “______ tea.” (Because tea is served at the meal.) Dim sum is Mandarin for “touch the heart.” I’ve made my own roast pork, if you ever want to give it a try.

  • Sara
    January 17, 2006

    Wooo! Glad to see this recipe. Scott and I used to buy these all the time in Chinatown, but now we live too far away. Thanks

  • 羽翼
    January 17, 2006

    Yum Cha is actually “drinking tea” because chinese like to drink chinese tea when eating these dim sum. The “Char Shao Bao” you made looks delicious..

  • Sabrina
    January 18, 2006

    I’ve been looking for this recipe forever! I’ve actually tried to make this when I was about 13… from my head. Terrible rubbery things. This entry made my day! 🙂

    January 18, 2006

    hi! your sio pao looks great. I did this a year ago and mine didn’t turn out so great. Some even went on a brownish color but now that you’ve posted it… I’ll try again. Ãœ

  • Cathy
    January 19, 2006

    I’ve been thinking about getting a bamboo steamer and wok for quite some time – you’ve given me yet another reason to do so. They look delicious Nik!

  • ~~my~~
    January 20, 2006

    wow, i love sio pao!! BTW, do you cook the meat or just mixed then place filling in buns?

  • Nic
    January 20, 2006

    Hi ~~my~~. The meat is already cooked, since I used leftovers. You need to cook the meat before using it as a filling.

  • Leannia
    March 28, 2006

    i just made these using the dough recipe from “i was just really hungry” but instead of the delicious chinese bbq pork i used a sweet and savory chicken filling and also hard boiled egg quarters in each. they came out great!! the best luck i have ever had for making these buns has been with the recipe that you used as well:)

  • Janka
    September 26, 2010

    I am so surprised. I have never seen these savoury. In Slovakia we make them with sweet filling – thick marmelade (plum being my favourite), Nutella or fresh fruit (plums, strawberries, apricots ) and serve them with melted butter, sprinkled with sweetened cocoa powder or grounded poppy seeds and icing sugar.
    Next time my mum makes them, I´ll try and make some of them savoury 🙂

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