Barbercued Pork Buns- Char Siu Bao/Bánh Bao nhân Xá Xiú

Vietnamese food

     One of my family friends, a main cook and co-owner of a Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant in town, passed away a few days ago unexpectedly at 58-year old.  I just hope that he got all of his recipes down for his family in writing.  If not, it will be extremely difficult for whoever runs his kitchen again to maintain his legacy.  

     This sweet dough use both yeast and baking powder for leavening. One of certified food scientist, Jessica Gavin, stated that baking powder is used as stabilizer.  A reader of the Fresh Load stated the chef of a day baking seminar stressed that baking powder is needed to build a strong foundation inside for pork filling in Chinese Pork Bun. I decrease the amount of baking powder in Jessica’s (1 Tbs/15 ml) to 1 tsp/5 ml and the bun still soft and spongy enough. 
     Traditionally these buns are steamed but they can be baked.  Bleached all purpose flour will make whiter buns but unbleached flour can be used.  The filling needs to be cool completely at room temperature before using.  With the same dough, you can also make plain steamed buns too.
1/2 lb Char xiu, cut into 1/4 inch cubes, about 2 cups 
1 Tbs dark soy sauce
1 Tbs oyster sauce
2 Tbs ketchup
5 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
4 Tbs corn starch
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion,  cut into 1/4 inch cubes, about 1/2 cup
1 Tbs Shaoxing, Chinese rice wine
2 Tbs peanut or vegetable oil
1½ tsp sesame oil

Place corn starch in a medium bowl, add water into the bowl slowly while whisking/stirring.  Add dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup, sugar, and black pepper.   Heating oil in a large skillet/saute pan over medium high heat.  Stir in onion until light brown and fragrant.  Stir in pork.  Add rice wine around the edge of the pan, stir until wine evaporated.  Stir in liquid mixture until thicken.  Stir in sesame oil.  Remove from heat.  Let it cool completely at room temperature. 

Dough: make 24 small buns.

2¼ tsp active dry yeast or quick rise yeast
1 Tbs sugar
1/4 cup warm water 105-110 oF
4 cups bleached or unbleached all-purpose flour (#stir flour with a spoon, then spoon flour into a cup and level.
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder (double acting aluminum free)
2 Tbs peanut/vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk, warm 105-110 oF
24 3-inch squares waxed or parchment paper.  Use parchment paper for baking buns.
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 Tbs milk for baking buns

  1. Warm 1/4 cup water in microwave 30 seconds; stir in 1 Tbs sugar; recheck temperature; sprinkle yeast over; wait 2-3 minutes then stir to dissolve.  Let stand on the counter until foaming about 10 minutes.
  2. Place flour into a large bowl  (or mixing bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook fitted), sugar, and baking powder. Stir briefly to blend all dry ingredients together, then make a well in the center.  Warm milk in microwave for 1 minutes; stir in oil; check temperature of milk and oil mixture; slowly pour yeast and milk mixture in the center.  Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or spatula until dough hold together.  Knead by hand on a slightly floured surface (or at #2 speed of Kitchen aid/KA) until smooth and elastic about 10 minutes. The dough will be firm and not sticky which will be cleaned from all sides of the bowl if kneading by KA.  Place dough in an air tight container and let rise in a warm place 1-1.5 hours until double in bulk.
  3. Prepare pork filling and set aside to cool. Divide into 24 portions about 1 tablespoon each.
  4. On a slightly flour surface, knead the dough for 1 minute and shape the dough in a log roll about 2-inch diameter.  Divide dough into 24 equal pieces with a knife or hand about 40 g each.  Roll each piece into a small ball, put the rest back to the container, covered. Then pat flat, roll each piece into a 4-inch circle.  Place one circle of dough in the palm of your hand. Place 1 Tbs pork filling in the center.  Pleat edges of circle :  lift sides over filling and twist together securely and firmly at top.  Place it top (sealed side) up or down on a parchment square, covered with a kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.  See how a master does it at Fine Cooking.  Let the dough rest at a warm place until light and fluffy about 30 minutes to 1 hours.  
  5. For steaming buns:  arrange buns in a steamer 1 inch apart,  cover steamer and place it over boiling water.  Steam 12-15 minutes on high heat.  Do not open cover until done-the top will be smooth and glazed.  Break one to check it should be free of raw dough taste, light and soft.  If a flat lid steamer is used, wrap lit with a kitchen towel to prevent steam dripping down onto the buns. Serve warm or let buns cool on a wire rack, store in air tight container /freeze bags in fridge or freeze.  Thaw in bag over nigh in the fridge and warm up 10 minutes in steamer ore a few minutes in microwave.  It is only take 30 second  to warm a cool bun in my microwave.
  6. For baking:  place buns 2 inch apart on a baking tray, cover and let it rise in a warm place until light and fluffy about 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Spray the tops with warm water and bake in preheat oven 350 oF until golden brown about 15 minutes  Remove from oven, brush top with egg yolk wash.  Put it back 5 more minutes.  Serve warm or cool down and store as steamed buns.

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