Chinese food is one of our family favorites. These pork steamed buns are soft, pillowy with a delicious pork and red cabbage filling.
Now that we’ve gotten over our Thanksgiving coma (delicious, delicious coma), we decided we’d like some quite different food. When I (Bernard) was in Mongolia and Taiwan, I used to eat pork steamed buns all the time. They’re not really fast food, but you don’t need a plate at all (if they’re not burning hot).
Sometimes they’re made with a sweet custard filling, which then turns them into a dessert. But we wanted some real food, and roasting the pork slowly makes the meat nice and juicy. The steaming makes the bread very soft, and if you do it just right, it all just melts in your mouth.
These Chinese pork steamed buns do require a bit of waiting time, but most of that time is inactive (either waiting for the pork to roast or the dough to rise). These also require a steamer, and I think it would be nearly impossible to do pork steamed buns without the steamed part.
Chinese Pork Steamed Buns
PREPARATION TIME: 30 minutes
BAKING TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes – 2 hours 15 min
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 45 minutes – 2 hours 45 minutes
Makes 6 – 12 servings
What do you need?
For the filling:
- 500 g pork shoulder or other pork meat, cut into large slices
- 1 cup hoisin sauce (or a mixture of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and honey or brown sugar)
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 bunch of scallions, thinly siced
For the buns:
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1.5 cups of bread flour
- 1.5 cups of cake flour
- 1.5 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup warm milk
- 1 tablespoon oil
How do you make it?
For the filling:
First, we’ll need to make the pork filling. If you’ve bought the pork shoulder or another more or less fatty pork meat, then you are a good person who cares for their family.
Now, preheat the oven. You have a choice here: to either roast it slow for 2 hours at 120°C (and then you’ll have pulled pork) or you can roast it at 180°C for about 45 min – 1 hour and then slice it up thinly.
If you’ve decided to go for the healthy-but-obviously dry meat, then, really, nothing can save you. Lean pork meat (and all lean meat) is best once it comes out of the oven. You don’t need resting time because there’s no big increase in juiciness. Because we’re going to steam them as well, it’s not really recommended to use lean meat. But, it’s still fine. I won’t judge you. A lot.
Pour the hoisin sauce over the raw pork. I couldn’t find any hoisin sauce, so I made my go-to Chinese sauce, which is 3 soy sauce to 2 oyster sauce to 1 sesame seed oil to 1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar (I usually also add a bit of rice wine vinegar too). If you have that, you’ll have something close to hoisin. Here you can multiply each by 2 tablespoons, so that at the end you have 6 tbsp soy, 4 tbsp oyster, 2 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp honey or brown sugar. You can marinate it in the fridge for an hour or so, or if you have no time, just pop it into the oven.
For the buns:
In a small bowl, add together the warm water and yeast and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes until it’s creamy. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda and sugar. When the yeast mixture is ready, make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour it into the center, along with the warm milk and oil.
Mix the dough by hand until it becomes one sticky mass. Pour some flour on a working surface and roll the dough out. The dough will be quite soft and you’ll need to work it only until it becomes smooth. One thing I like to do is to let the dough rest for about 5 minutes while I wash out the large bowl (I’ll use the same bowl to let the dough rise). After resting, I knead it again for a minute or two, until it is smooth.
Lightly oil the bowl, and turn the dough over into it. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel, and let it rise until doubled, about an hour.
Both the dough and the pork should be done around the same time, unless you’re making pulled pork. Remove the pork from the oven and let it cool. Once cooled, shred it or slice it and mix it with the cabbage and scallions. If it is dry, mix in more of the hoisin sauce or the 3:2:1 mixture. It shouldn’t be soaking wet, but it should be moist.
Pull the dough into a long rope and cut it into 12 equal parts. Roll out each part out to about 10 cm (4 inches), making sure to make the outside thinner and the inside thicker. Put 1-2 tablespoons of the pork mixture into the center, fold the dough up and twist it (my folding/twisting skills are not so great). Let it sit on a cookie sheet or plate while you get your steamer ready.
Put the buns into at least 2 levels (maybe more if you’ve made them bigger) and steam the buns for about 15 minutes. They will be done and hot, so carefully remove them, and then eat.