Steamed red pork buns (Char-siu Bao)

by | Oct 31, 2019 | Food and cooking, Lifestyle

Steamed red pork buns (Char-siu Bao)

by | Oct 31, 2019 | Food and cooking, Lifestyle

Hey all!

It is THAT time of year when the pace picks up, and we are all scrambling to meet life’s expectations – attend end of year recitals, ballet concerts, Christmas parties, do Christmas gift shopping, attend birthday parties, plan to get the tree up, continuing working as always (and in fact pick up MORE hours than usual) and somehow try to fit in a little bit of time for our own mental health.

This weekend we had the 40th birthday party of one of my oldest and dearest friends and Miss G’s first piano concert. We also met friends over fish and chips and still managed to make it to Saturday morning sports/activities. I am constantly exhausted, but I know it’s only getting busier from here.

I did manage to set aside a day to try a recipe that has been saved in my “favourites” for ages. I used the recipe from “Recipe Tin Eats” as a base recipe (find the recipe here: ) but true to form, I changed it quite a lot.

The recipe for the bun DOUGH I did as specified, but the buns ended up both a little yellowish and not as fluffy as I would like. This was a constant gripe of my mum’s back in the day when I was a kid and she used to make these for us from scratch. I am working on the recipe, and recently acquired some special flour apparently “made for bao” – so we’ll give that a go to see if it is any better.

The recipe for the bao filling I changed… I have popped it below and estimated as best I could for quantities etc given that the way I work is to taste a little, then add a shake of this and a glug of that.

Chinese Char-Siu Bao



  • 1 tsp active dry yeast powder
  • 1/4 cup / 65 ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp white sugar


  • 1/2 cup /125 ml warm water
  • 4 tbsp /70g white sugar
  • 2 cups / 300g plain flour (all purpose)
  • 1 cup / 155g cornflour / cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup / 65 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (to soften the onion and coriander stems in)
  • 2 chopped spring onions
  • 2 small bunches of coriander – dinfely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce 
  • 3-4 tbsp honey
  • 2-3 tsp (actually I have no idea but I use a lot) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 capful of Shao Tsing cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, microplaned
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce 
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp cornflour dissolved in a little bit of tap water (to thicken sauce)
  • 1 kg pork belly, first boiled for 15 min then chopped finely
  • Red food colouring – optional (about 10 drops)



  • Yeast Activation: Place yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl. Mix, then set aside for 10 minutes until it becomes foamy.
  • Place flour, cornflour and sugar in a bowl. Mix briefly to combine.
  • Add yeast mixture, oil and water. Mix/knead (by hand – I don’t have a MixMaster) for 3 minutes until a smooth ball of dough forms. It should be soft and elastic, not so sticky it gets stuck all over your hands. Adjust with a touch of flour/water if required to get the dough consistency right.
  • Cover with cling wrap and place in a warm dry place for 2 hours until it doubles in volume. I preheat my oven to 100 degrees for 10 min then turn it completely off – then use this. Meanwhile, make Filling.
  • Remove cling wrap, scatter over baking powder. Return to stand mixer and mix on low for 2 minutes.
  • Turn dough out onto work surface, sprinkle with flour. Knead lightly to form a smooth round disc.
  • See photos in gallery for bun folding method


  • Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add spring onion and chopped coriander stems and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the chopped pork belly
  • Add sugar, soy sauce, oyster and hoisin sauce, honey, sesame oil and water. Add the Shao Tsing cooking wine and red food colouring (optional) last. Mix.
  • While stirring and heating/simmering on low, slowly pour cornflour mixture in. Mix until smooth.
  • Cook until sauce is thickened, it won’t take long. Set aside to cool .

Then you MAKE YOUR BUNS and steam them for about 12-15 minutes.

Serve them HOT!

I am going to try this all again with the new flour (dad found it for me at the Chinese grocery store, but they only had the wholemeal variety) and I will let you know how I go. I may not knead again for a further 3 min like I did last time either to see if the bread ends up fluffier.

Please let me know and post me some pics if you try this recipe!!

Until next time, keep cooking!!

xxDr Megs

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About Dr Megs

About Dr Megs

Megan is a Brisbane and Ipswich-based paediatrician in public and private practice, and mum to two small children. You can usually find her working hard in private practice at Paeds in a Pod North Lakes and Greenslopes, and in public practice at Ipswich Hospital.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is written for the purpose of providing GENERAL advice about common children's health topics (and of course recipes). It is NOT a substitute for a proper medical assessment and examination by a qualified physician. If your child is unwell, seek medical and attention and advice in person.