My kids love cha siu bao, also known as BBQ pork steamed buns. It’s one of their favourite treats whenever we are in the mall and near the T & T Supermarket.
After learning how to make hand-rolled noodles in China – and successfully making them back at home – I felt empowered to try my hand at these delicious buns. I began searching for just the right recipe, all the while wondering how in the heck I’d figure out a steaming solution without an actual steamer or steamer insert for any of my large pots. (I knew that the little bamboo steamer in a small pot that I used for dumplings wouldn’t fit the bill for these buns!)
And then … while Mom and I were shopping at Costco … I saw exactly what I needed. Without hesitating, I bought it. It’s perfect because it’s a huge wok – something else I needed – with a steamer insert on top, complete with a lid.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Although my mom perhaps never endeavored to make Chinese steamed pork buns, I couldn’t resist roping her into this culinary adventure given her decades of experience in making all sorts of bread and pinching gazillions of little perogies!
Due to copyright restrictions, I cannot reproduce the recipes here that I used but I can provide the links. There were actually three different recipes involved:
1. One for the Chinese BBQ pork: www.finecooking.com/recipes/chinese-barbecued-roast-pork.aspx
2. One for the filling (for which you need the Chinese BBQ pork from #1: www.finecooking.com/recipes/steamed-pork-buns.aspx
3. One for the dough: www.userealbutter.com/2011/12/15/chinese-barbecue-pork-buns-recipe/ Note: make sure you scroll to the SECOND dough recipe discussed in this link. The author first tried the dough recipe from Fine Cooking (the source of the pork and filling recipes) but ultimately preferred this second dough recipe. Based on her description of the end result, I went with the second dough recipe too because it more closely resembles the buns we love.
At first it seems like a lot of work but it’s actually not too bad at all. You can make the pork and the filling a couple of days before you do the dough. And the dough itself comes together fast and so beautifully. It was seriously the nicest dough I’ve ever worked with.
Both Mom and I were bewildered as to how the buns in the link were pleated so beautifully at the top. Neither of us mastered that in this short exercise! But we did our best to gather the dough at the top, and although not pretty, it definitely worked.
I was so excited to try the buns after steaming. And guess what?! They were perfect! Mom and I instantly declared that these recipes were keepers. (Disclaimer: I’m sure a real chef would notice imperfections in the buns, LOL)
The kids loved them just as much. And Paul was even so impressed that he took a couple to share with his colleagues at work the next day – one of whom is a Chinese foodie!
All in all, it was a very successful cooking experience with my Ukrainian and Polish mom … a woman who never in a million years would have anticipated someday making Chinese steamed buns but who embraced the experience with an open mind and enthusiasm. In fact, that pretty much explains her approach to life in general which is pretty awesome in my opinion. Thanks, Mom, for everything!