BAKED BARBCECUE PORK BUNS

Barbecued Pork Buns

Before I even knew what dim sum was, I was a fan of the pork bun.  Each week, after visiting clients near Clement Street in San Francisco, my Dad would arrive home with a bright pink box, packed tightly with a half a dozen of these delicious stuffed buns.  Salty, sweet and intensely savory, these hand-held delights quickly became a favorite snack of mine growing up; pop one in the microwave for about a minute, and I was ready to go.

These days, I treat pork buns with a bit more reverence, carefully wrapping them in foil before placing them in a warm toaster-oven so as not to disturb their delicate, fluffy texture.  As with most of the food I love, I’m a bit fanatical when it comes to finding the best specimen available, and living in the Bay Area, there are plenty of options to choose from.  That being said, there is something especially gratifying about baking and eating your own.  The best part? Using all-natural pork and skipping the red dye #40.

BAKED BARBECUE PORK BUNS

Adapted from The Dim Sum Book: Classic Recipes from the Chinese Teahouse, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

This is a fairly labor intensive recipe which is best made over the course of a couple of days.  If you can, roast the pork and make the filling one day, then prepare the dough and bake the buns the next.  You won’t need all of the char siu pork for the bun filling, but it keeps for a month in the freezer and also makes for a delicious filling in Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches.  Assembling the buns can be tricky and is definitely a task that requires patience and a bit of practice for good looking results.  Author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo recommends starting out by only filling the buns with 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture until you have the stuffing and pinching technique down.

CHAR SIU PORK

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 2 1/2 pounds lean pork butt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon blended whiskey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 small cake, wet preserved bean curd from a jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder

Method:

  1. Cut the pork into 1-inch thick strips.  Using a small knife, pierce the meat repeatedly at 1/2-inch intervals to help tenderize it.
  2. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to dissolve the bean curd and honey.  Place sliced and tenderized pork into a large, resealable plastic bag and pour the mixture over the top.  Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat, making sure to coat each piece well.  Refrigerate the pork for at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to broil.  Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and place the pork, along with it’s marinade, in a single layer along the bottom.
  4. Place the roasting pan on the center rack of the oven and roast for 30 to 50 minutes, turning and basting the meat every 5 minutes, until fully cooked.  If the sauce begins to dry out, add water to the pan.  To check for doneness, place an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of one of the pieces of pork.  It should register 160°.
  5. Allow the meat to cool and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.

BUN FILLING:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup char siu pork , cut into 1/2 inch, thinly sliced pieces
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 teaspoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons ketchup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 5 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk to combine the oyster sauce, dark soy, ketchup, sugar, white pepper, cornstarch and chicken stock.  Set aside.
  2. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat for 30-4o seconds.  Add peanut oil and heat until shimmering and just beginning to smoke slightly.  Add onions, turn the heat to low and cook until the onions are lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the sliced pork, raise the heat to high and stir-fry to combine with the onions.  Add white wine to deglaze the pan and mix well.
  4. Lower the heat again and add the reserved sauce mixture from the bowl.  Stir until the entire mixture thickens and turns a dark shade of brown, about 5 minutes.  Add sesame oil and mix well.
  5. Remove the pork mixture from the skillet and spread on a large plate to allow the mixture to quickly come to room temperature.  Refrigerate uncovered for 4 hours.

BUN DOUGH:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water (115°)
  • 2 cups high-gluten bread flour
  • 1/2 egg, beaten
  • 5 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water.  Place the bowl in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate, about 30-60 minutes. A brownish foam will have formed on top.
  2. Add the flour, egg and lard/shortening and stir continuously with your hand until a dough mass begins to form.
  3. Begin to gather the dough in the bowl, and when the mixture becomes cohesive, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface for kneading.
  4. Knead the dough for about 15 minutes, picking it up with a scraper and sprinkling the surface with more flour if it begins to stick.
  5. When the dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a large mixing bowl and cover with a lightly dampened towel.  Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it has tripled in size, about 2-3 hours.

ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE BUNS:

  1. Cut 12 squares of parchment paper, 3 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead several times.  Roll it out with your hands into a roll about 12 inches long.  Using a knife or a scraper, divide the dough into 12 1-inch pieces.  Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others under a damp kitchen towel.
  3. Roll each piece of dough into a ball, then, with fingers, press on the center of the sphere to create a dome and a well.
  4. Place 2 teaspoons of filling into the well, hold the bun in one hand, and, with the other, turn the bun while gathering the edges and pinching it closed.  Press firmly to seal.
  5. Place the completed bun, sealed-end-down on a square of parchment paper.  Repeat for the other buns.
  6. Place all of the completed buns on a cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart to allow for expansion.  Put the buns in a warm place to allow to rise for another 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Using a spray bottle, spray each bun lightly with warm water and then brush each with beaten egg.
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through baking to promote even browning.  When the buns are golden brown, remove them from the oven and serve immediately. 

The buns can be frozen after baking. To reheat, defrost and bring to room temperature.  Cover with foil and place in a 350° oven for 10 15 minutes or until hot.

Makes 12 buns

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    • Gary
    • November 9th, 2009

    Thanks for bringing me one of these treasures. The flavor was wonderful , it made a great breakfast today. Way better than most Clement St bakeries.

  1. You brought me back to my own childhood memories of the barbecue pork bun! Mine were from across the bay in Oakland, but now I’ll have to give this a try… your photo looks delicious. Thanks for posting!

    • dookie
    • December 12th, 2009

    Is it possible to just buy roasted pork chopped from the store and somehow make the filling and put those two together in the bun?

    or even simplier… just use the roasted pork and put that into the bun?

  2. dookie – If you live next to an Asian market that makes their own char siu by all means skip ahead to the second step, making the bun filling. If you use plain roasted pork it will still be delicious, but keep in mind it won’t have that same authentic flavor profile. Let me know how it goes.

    Mike

    • James Morales
    • May 2nd, 2010

    YAY! I’ve got a new recipie 2 try. THANK U!

    • Janet Hill
    • February 6th, 2011

    This recipe turned out great, as good as the best ones I’ve had in restaurants. I did end up with a lot of extra filling, which I’ll keep in mind in the future.

    I was skeptical of the high amount of oil in the dough, much more than I’ve ever used in a bread dough, but it came out really tender and flaky. I used my sourdough starter instead of the yeast, which was also successful.

    I also substituted some Chinese sausage for part of the pork (1/3), which I liked.

    It was a multi day project if you were making the BBQ pork, but worth while for a special occasion. If you have access to already prepared BBQ pork that would shorten the process.

  1. March 5th, 2010
  2. April 18th, 2010