Baked Char Siu Bao

(roast pork buns)

Happy Lunar New Year! I’m really excited to bring you this post today, albeit a bit later than usual. I got slammed with work yesterday. And by work, I mean that it was imperative that I go to a bar to eat wings, drink beer, and watch grown men in tight pants slam into each other while crowds booed or cheered. It was fun! Not only were there wings and beer, but tater tots, fried pickles, and mozzarella sticks made an appearance. Oh, and also Beyonce. All in all, a really great night. But of course, I am e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d today. No matter. We’re here now. Welcome, friends, to my second New Year celebration, but with, dare I say it, much, much, much better food. My kingdom for a Lunar New Year feast every year. My boy Donny Tsang is the genius behind these char siu bao – he got a bunch of my favorite bloggers and photographers together to make Chinese baked goods for the holiday this year, and I’m so happy that he did! I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to make these otherwise.

baked char siu bao

Chinese breads are super soft and pillowy, thanks to a little something called the “tangzhong method“. This method is a lot easier than it sounds. Basically, you’re making a roux. A really light roux, in fact, so you don’t even have to stand over the stove stirring anything for very long. I have no idea what the chemistry behind the magic really means, but what I do know is that every time I go to a Chinese bakery and try the bread, it’s always this soft, cloud-like texture that apparently uses this same technique. So, ye of little faith, go ahead and carry out that extra step if you dream of light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth bread. Seeing as how we just recently got back from China, I’m stoked that I can still eat these little pockets of deliciousness right in my very own home.

baked char siu bao

Sooooo yeah. I made char siu bao! Well, baked char siu bao. It’s typically steamed, but I don’t own a steamer, so I went for a more Westernized route. They were still so good, though. I would have eaten all of them if I hadn’t already planned to stuff myself full of Super Bowl food later on. It may seem like a lot of work to crank these suckers out, but it really wasn’t that bad, and plus, the recipe makes twice as much pork as you need for the buns, so you have leftovers to eat with eggs in the morning or to add to some veggies for weekday lunches. I was so pleased with how these turned out – golden, shiny tops that crack open to reveal soft, fluffy bread and slightly sweet, tender roasted pork. Put these on your to-do list for the weekend – it’s worth it.

baked char siu bao
Roastin’ some pork.

baked char siu bao
Makin’ the dough.

baked char siu bao
Whiskin’ some roux (are you guys sick of this yet?).

baked char siu bao
Let it proof.

baked char siu bao
That roast pork, though.

baked char siu bao
Proofed dough, ready to be rolled out.

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Let your buns rise one more time after you’ve stuffed them with the roasted pork.

baked char siu bao
Bake until golden and enjoy warm with a bit of honey.

baked char siu baobaked char siu baobaked char siu bao

Baked Char Siu Bao
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16 buns
Baked char siu bao are the Westernized version of my favorite dim sum treat: roast pork buns.
For the Char Siu Pork:
  • 3 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into large pieces
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon black bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon marmite (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • 1 3-inch knob of ginger, grated on a microplane or finely minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or finely minced
For the Char Siu Filling:
  • 1 pound of your roasted pork, diced into ¾-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the Roux (Tangzhong method):
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the Bao Dough:
  • ⅓ cup warm milk (about 115 degrees F)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For Finishing the Char Siu Bao:
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • sesame seeds, for garnish
  • honey, for garnish
  • chives, thinly sliced, for garnish
  1. First, roast your pork. Cut your boneless pork shoulder or butt into 5 or 6 pieces and place it in a sealable back or container. Whisk together all of your marinade ingredients, and pour it over the pork. Marinate for at least 3 hours, or as long as overnight. When ready, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F, place your pork in an oiled baking dish, cover with foil, and roast for 2½ to 3 hours, until the pork is very tender and shreds easily. Remove the pork from the oven, uncover, and let cool slightly. You will only need about ⅓ of your pork for the buns - the rest makes for great leftovers! Toss it with some roasted or stir-fried broccoli and you've got lunch for the rest of the week.
  2. To make your char siu filling, chop ⅓ of your roasted pork into small cubes and set it aside. Finely dice an onion, heat your vegetable oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk together your water, cornstarch, vinegar, hoisin sauce, sugar, black bean paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add your pork to the onion, and add your sauce to the pan. Stir to combine, and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has darkened and thickened - be careful not to burn the filling, as the sugar will quickly caramelize. When ready, remove the pork from the heat and set aside until ready to use.
  3. Now, make your dough, starting with the roux. In a small skillet, whisk together ½ cup of water with 2 tablespoons of flour. Heat to medium, and whisk constantly, until thickened. Do not let the roux darken, simply thicken it until it is the consistency of yogurt. Once thickened, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
  4. In the bowl of your mixer, whisk together the milk and the slightly cooled roux (it shouldn't be warmer than the milk). Add in your yeast and let foam for about 3 minutes. Add in your sugar, vanilla, and lightly beaten egg and gently mix together. Add in 1 cup of your flour and gently mix, then add in your butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing each tablespoon in before adding in the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, then switch to your dough hook and add in the remaining 2 cups of flour and 2 tablespoon of cornstarch. Knead for 5 minutes or so on medium-high speed, until the dough is soft and smooth. Remove from your mixer and knead a few times by hand before transferring to a large oiled bowl. Roll the dough around in the oiled bowl to coat it, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for 45 minutes or so, until doubled in size.
  5. Once doubled, punch the dough down and lightly knead a few times by hand on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out a bit, and divide into 16 evenly sized pieces. Spread out 16 muffin liners, then roll each ball of dough out into about a 4-inch circle. Place about 1-1/2 tablespoons of char siu filling into each round, then pinch the bao together. Place the bao seam-side-down in your muffin liner, and place into a muffin tin. Continue until you've filled all of your bao. Cover your muffin tins with plastic wrap and let the buns rise once more for 30 minutes or so, until puffed up nicely.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush your bao with your beaten egg, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes, then brush lightly with honey and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve warm. These will keep well for up to 5 days - just heat them up for 15-20 seconds in the microwave before serving. Enjoy!
Adapted From


13 Responses

  1. Oh man. These look amazing. Next you need to try to perfect the ones from Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan. They’re somewhere between Char Siu Bao and a biscuit.

  2. Ben says:

    looks great and major props for making this entirely from scratch, especially the char siu! i’ve seen baked char siu bao my whole life and i’m not sure they would be considered “westernized” (well, the cupcake tin is, but…) my google-fu is failing me at the moment on the historical question.

    have you tried the buns from mei li wah? there is always a line for them and they turn very often.

    • Sydney says:

      I guess I just figured they aren’t super authentic and they were baked in muffin tins, but yeah I think they were pretty close! I haven’t been to Mei Li Wah yet but I’m going to put it on my list! Thanks for the suggestion. There’s no such thing as too many buns.

  3. kero says:

    These are so cute!

  4. rindymae says:

    Awesomeness. I’m super impressed.

  5. Ryan says:

    Could I get away without using muffin wrappers?

    • Sydney says:

      Hi Ryan – I worry about them sticking to the inside of your muffin tins! You could butter the hell out of them, but I can’t speak to how well that will work.

  6. Ooooo, really interesting. I’m hosting an Asian-inspired dinner party in a couple weeks. I’m going to add these to the menu. Thx!!

  7. […] Baked Char Siu Bao from Crepes of Wrath […]

  8. Alexandra says:

    Holy char siu bao, Sydney. These are basically masterpieces.
    I don’t have the patience to make that dough and do all that individual bun-stuffing, but the pork, I can handle. Thanks for sharing! :)

  9. […] Sydney made these awesome baked char siu bao. […]

  10. Christopher Licata says:

    I am a 25 yr chef. These are the closest to Hong Kong Bao I have had. Outstanding work on your part. I would be proud to serve these at any event or to any friends or colleagues. On a different note, I omitted the marmite and throttled down on the garlic by 1/3 and ginger by 1/2. You can get the “roasty” flavor of the marmite by slow indorect BBQing the meat. Also try adding some scallions for a bright flavor – plays off nicely to the sweetness of the onion and hoisin.

  11. Queenie says:

    I grew up on the LES of NY near Chinatown – well, it’s considered Chinatown today but back in the 60s-early 80s it wasn’t. Anyway, every morning my husband and I would stop on Catharine St and buy a char siu bao and a cup of tea. We’d eat that for breakfast while we walked to Wall St for work. Always with the bao and hot tea. If you ask me, I’d say a good bao and a good cup of tea is the formula for the breakfast of champions! :)

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