Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 oz active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in 1/2 cup water, water reserved
1 1/2 cup char siu
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
12 4-5 inch wide wax paper squares


You need to make the char siu the night before you want to make the char siu bao.
For the dough:
In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the milk and water. Sprinkle in the yeast and allow to sit 10 minutes. Mix in the remaining sugar, 2 cups of flour and the salt. Mix until the dough is no longer sticky, adding additional flour as needed. Place dough on a floured service and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile….
To prepare the filling:
Chop the rehydrated mushrooms, reserving the liquid. In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil saute the mushrooms with the ginger, garlic, and green onions. Add the mushroom liquid, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, cornstarch and sugar. Stir until the sauce thickens. Stir in char siu. Allow to cool.
Back to the dough:
Punch the dough down, roll it into a cylinder. Cut it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Then roll each ball into a circle about 4-6 inches in diameter. Place 1 tablespoon (or slightly more) of filling into the center of the circle. Pull the edges of the circle up over the filling, pinch in the center to seal. Place the buns seam side down on a waxed paper (or parchment, we used waxed paper, but I think parchment would work just as well, if not better) lined cookie sheet
and repeat for each circle, leave a 2 inch space between each bun. Cover and let rise until puffy and light. Bring water to boil in wok or saucepan. Place buns (still on waxed paper squares) in a bamboo steamer. Place over water and steam* about 15 minutes or until glossy and smooth.
Serve immediately.
Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers. Leftover char siu bao can be reheated in the microwave (for about 2 minutes) with great success.
Note: leftover char siu is good hot or cold. Add it to wonton soup, use it in egg rolls, serve over fried rice.
*No steamer? Just brush the tops with egg yolk and bake for about 18-25 minutes in 350 degree oven.
My thoughts:
Unfortunately, there no real dim sum restaurants in Baltimore, so we rarely have the opportunity to indulge in some of our favorite treats. What are char siu bao lovers to do? Make your own! Which is exactly what my husband did this weekend. It is time consuming (I was a char siu bao widow for hours) but well worth the effort. They were amazing! While the thrill of pointing out what you want on a cart was missing, the taste was dead-on. The best part of making your own is being able to put as much or as little pork in each bun as you want and being able to tweak the recipe. The recipe Matt came up with is tailored to our tastes: more ginger and lime was added, the ketchup (which I loathe) that is often a part of recipes for char siu was entirely eliminated in favor of golden syrup. Despite the finagling of the ingredients the flavor is near identical to that of the char siu we’ve had at various Chinatown establishments. Beyond delicious and well worth the work.


  1. So cool! Any suggestions on how to turn your recipe from steamed pork buns to baked pork buns?

  2. It’s easy! Just brush the tops with egg yolk and bake for about 18-50 minutes in 350 oven.

  3. I’ve always wanted to try some of those steamed buns, but I never have. We don’t have a wide variety of dim sum places out here in Denver either. Guess I’ll have to make them myself too. They look great!

  4. I’ve never tasted this, but it sounds interesting. You know, there is a certain satisfaction in spending part of your weekend making (and eating) something you cannot buy in your area. I think my husband and I need to do that soon. Thanks for the idea.

  5. that’s beautiful. i can never tire of eating these here in singapore. thanks for the recipe!

  6. Goodness…what a great idea! I’m always wary of getting pork buns from chinatown here…too sketchy for me (or I’m a wimp *shrug*)

  7. Very impressive!

  8. I really need to get a bamboo steamer! These sound great!

  9. i like those so much! i have never tried to make them though…they have a place in pike place market in seattle that makes them really well, and we just go there when we have a hum bow craving!

  10. This sounds so interesting. I bet it was good!

  11. I just came across this blog and I was quite excited to see a recipe for pork buns at the top of the page! My boyfriend and I eat these all the time but we buy them frozen.
    We both like the pork and scallion kinds over the bbq pork though. Any ideas on how to make that sort of filling? I was thinking of using the filling from your “pork and ginger dumplings” with a few modifications.

  12. We make our own at home too, even despite having better Dim Sum options here in DC. I love yours though. They are much more authentic and the key is really the night before. Your look absolutely beautiful!

  13. I miss easy access to dim sum!

    Obviously you’re making the best of it. These look delicious.

  14. Oh I love these at dim sum.

  15. This looks amazing. One of my favourite things on the dim sum trolley.


  16. Oh my goodness! I love these things so so much!

  17. One questions, what exactly is golden syrup? Could I substitute honey or corn sryup?

  18. Golden syrup is inverted sugar syrup. It is often found near pancake syrup or with British foods. Light corn syrup could be substituted, but I wouldn’t use honey, as it has too strong of a taste.

  19. Thank you sooooo much for this recipe! I have been craving these ever since I got back from Seattle a few months ago. There is this awesome Vietnamese bakery by the Farmer’s Market who makes these.

    Also, Inland Empire (the David Lynch film) opens at the Charles in B’more on March 12th. (In case you didn’t make the Silver Spring showing…)

  20. I made them last night. I have to admit that I used your hated ketchup b/c I couldn’t find golden syrup, but they turned out really well! We had the leftovers for our snowed-in luncheon today! Thanks a bunch!

  21. I have dough for these resting prior to assembly, and they are looking promising. But surely you don’t really mean bake 18-50 minutes @350? Isn’t it more like 18-20? …maybe 25…?

    Anyway, thx for the recipe. I’ve been craving them for weeks!

  22. KitchenMage- 18-25 does sound right. I personally haven’t baked them, only steamed, I was taking the advice of a friend with those instructions.

  23. I made humbow using your dough recipe and combined it with the BBQ pork recipe from an old DimSum cookbook that I had purchased over 20 yrs ago in Seattle by Rhoda Yee. Her pork has rehydrated onions rather than mushrooms and more sauce – was also excellent. My goal is too to recreate those humbows at the Pike Place Market or at House of Hong in Seattle. I now live in Memphis where BBQ exists but not the dim sum. Thanks for the great website.

  24. These sounds great, and it looks like I can achieve that fluffy bun-ness with this recipe. However, I’m not that big of a fan of mushrooms. Any suggestions on another filling? Or how to alter the recipe to do without the mushrooms? Maybe just add more meat?

  25. To change the recipe to eliminate the mushrooms, just leave them out and use 1/2 cup plain water instead of the mushroom soaked water. They don’t add much volumne so I don’t think you’d need to add more meat.