Steamed Pork Buns (Siopao)

Bao, bau, baozi, pao, pau, humbow, salapao - they are strange words, aren't they? They are the different aliases of the steamed pork bun that I grew up calling siopao. Since the Philippine cuisine has big influences from Chinese, Malay and Spanish cuisines, this pork bun arrived to the country when the Chinese arrived. It is one of the important dishes that had been permanently embedded to the Filipino food culture. It's comfort food that found another home in the country. 

Siopao, as it is locally known can be found everywhere. You can find them in small food stalls along the streets, in markets, Chinese and some traditional Filipino restaurants. It is considered as a snack and eaten like how you would eat a burger. Consider it like an Asian version of the Western burger. 

The buns is made with flour, yeast and water then steamed. It is very soft and really good. In fact, it's my favorite part in the siopao. The meat filling varies but what's popular is the salty and lightly sweet pork stuffing called asado. But of course, you can put any stuffing you want. What I made is influenced by the asado but still different from it.

Coming up with the right recipe of the bread part came in stages of trials and errors. Initially, I used the dried powder yeast and another kind of flour but it didn't rise so much. When I changed the flour to doppio zero (double zero, 00), and the yeast to the fresh one plus the rising inside the oven at a very low temperature, the bread rose and it came out pillowy soft, just like how I wanted it to be. So based on that, I am sharing the recipe of the one that had a successful result. I hope it will be successful for you too.

Steamed Pork Buns (Siopao)
Yields 16
For the filling

  • Canola oil (or any mild-tasting oil)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 400 grams pork shoulder, cut into big slices
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with a few tablespoons water
For the dough
  • 1 (0.9-ounce or 25-gram) block fresh yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water (not too hot or too cold)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour or flour 00
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or any mild-tasting oil
For the filling
1. In a medium-large saucepan with canola oil over medium heat, sauté the garlic and onion until they are fragrant, and then add the pork. Cook until the pork changes color, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for 1 hour on low heat. If the sauce is drying up, add some water.
3. Add the cornstarch mixture, and then turn off the heat when the sauce is slightly thick. Adjust the taste.
4. Using 2 forks, shred the meat, and then let it cool down.

For the dough
1. In a small bowl or glass, mix the lukewarm water with the yeast, and then add the sugar. Leave it for at least 5 minutes.
2. To a mixer or a medium-large bowl, add the 3-1/2 cups of flour, salt, oil and the yeast mixture. Mix until you have a ball of elastic dough.
3. Transfer the dough to a floured wooden board, and knead it for a while. If the dough is too sticky, gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour until you can work it without it sticking to your hands.
4. Shape the dough into a ball, then put it in a bowl (you can use the same bowl you mixed it in). Cover with plastic wrap.
5. Let it rise for a couple of hours in a warm place or in an oven heated to 35°C for 30 minutes. The dough should rise.
6. Transfer the dough to the floured wooden board, and knead it again. Divide the dough equally into 2, then 4, then 8 and then 16 pieces.
7. Work on each piece of dough by shaping it into a ball and then flattening it with a small rolling pin.
8. At the center, put about a tablespoon of filling, and then gather the edges to close it. Twist the top tightly to secure it well.
9. Place the bun on a small, square piece of parchment paper, and steam it in a hot steamer for 15 minutes. Leave space between each bun because they should become bigger while cooking. Work in batches. They are best eaten when warm.
10. The buns can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. To reheat, warm them up in a steamer.

For step-by-step photos and the full recipe of this Steamed Pork Buns (Siopao), you can also get it at She Knows, a site where I create recipes. For more of my recipes, check out my Profile Page there. Enjoy your week! 

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