Monday, September 12, 2011

Steamed Pork Buns

After making the Barbecue Chicken Pau last week, I got hooked on making and eating homemade steamed buns. Moreover, I wanted to have another go at pleating the buns, and so I found a few bun-wrapping videos on youtube, which I watched a few times over trying to picture it in my head when I make them later.

I decided to try making steamed pork buns this time, which in my hometown back in Malaysia, we call them "Dai Pau", meaning Big Buns! Those are my favourite ones, filled with tender and tasty sliced pork (not minced). I always had to be careful when handling and eating them, first chewing off a small portion of the "skin" of the bun, then slowly tipping the bun so that the "juices" or "broth"flows into my mouth. Any spillage on the plate would be quickly mopped up with the bun. It was so delicious!

I had a packet of Purple Orchid brand Special Bun Flour (which is a high quality wheat flour apparently) which I could use, and all I needed was the perfect recipe. It was by chance that I stumbled upon Momofuku's Steamed Buns recipe, by David Chang of course. I was ecstatic! I had been looking for recipes for Kong Bak Pau (steamed buns filled with stewed pork) and I finally found it! I decided to use his recipe to make both steamd pork buns (ie. Dai Pau) and Kong Bak Pau. Anyway, I had a large portion of pork belly in the freezer which I could apportion between making the pork bun filling and the stewed pork.

I made the pork filling by slicing the pork. I chose not to use minced pork as I wasn't sure if it would turn out like a giant meatball instead, and anyway, the one back in my hometown uses sliced pork, the way I like it! As for the stewed pork, I made a simple version since I only had 500g of pork for it, plus it was pretty late in the afternoon (almost evening) and I wanted to make sure dinner would be ready on the table by half past six, before the children (and G) got restless.

The recipe for the buns themselves makes 50 small bite-sized buns, so next time, I might make them double the size just like the ones sold in Malaysia and Singapore. I must say, this recipe produces the perfect buns, not only for Kong Bak Pau, but also for steamed pork buns. The bun itself is soft, moist and not too thick or bready, just how I like it. I've also improved on the bun-pleating, which actually comes quite naturally if you try not to overthink it and let your fingers to the "walking".

Here is the recipe for Momofuku's steamed buns:

Momofuku's Steamed Buns recipe
Adapted from the June 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp active dry yeast
1½ cups water, at room temperature
4½ cups bread flour (I used Purple Orchid brand Special Bun Flour)
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp non-fat dry milk powder
1 tbsp kosher salt (or substitute with 2 tsp regular or sea salt)
Rounded ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening at room temperature, plus more for shaping the buns, as needed
Some sesame seeds


  1. Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda and fat and mix on the lowest speed possible, just above a stir, for 8-10 minutes. The dough should gather together into a neat, not-too-tacky ball on the hook. When it does, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Put it in a turned-off oven with a pilot light or other warmish place and let rise until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
  2. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or a knife, divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total. They should be about the size of a ping-pong ball and weigh about 25gm. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the armada of little dough balls with a draping of plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut out fifty 10cm squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.
  4. Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 10cm-long oval. Sprinkle one side with a few sesame seeds. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Stick it back under the plastic wrap (or a dry kitchen towel) and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rest for 30-45 minutes: they will rise a little.
  5. Set up a steamer on the stove. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment. You can use the buns immediately (reheat them for a minute or so in the steamer if necessary) or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a stovetop steamer for 2-3 minutes, until puffy, soft and warmed all the way through. 

Here is the recipe for the steamed pork buns ("Dai Pau") that I made:

Steamed Pork Buns
(enough for half the portion of dough in the bun recipe above, so double the portion of filling if you want to use up all the dough for making these steamed pork buns)

Ingredients for pork filling (combine and refrigerate for 1 hour):

300g pork belly/shoulder, rind removed, thinly sliced and roughly chopped with a cleaver
1 cabbage leaf, steamed until tender, water squeezed out, then chopped coarsely
2 tbsp sliced scallions
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1 tsp sesame oil
Pinch of salt and dash of pepper
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp water

3 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters


Using the steamed bun dough prepared above, after step 1 (ie. after dough has risen for 90 minutes), take half the portion of the dough (and leave the other half for making plain steamed buns if you like). Divide the dough into half, and divide each half into 6 so that you get 12 pieces. Roll them into rounds, cover with a cloth and let them rest for half an hour. Prepare 12 pieces of parchment paper about 3inch x 3inch.

Take the dough and flatten them into a disc, making sure the edges are thinner than the centre. Place pork filling and a piece of egg in the centre, then bring up the edges and pleat them all around to seal tightly. Place on the cut-out piece of parchment paper and put aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Then cover the buns again with a cloth and let them rest for 30-45 minutes. Prepare a steamer with boiling water and 2 tbsp vinegar in the meantime.

When the buns are ready to be steamed, place them in the steamer with some space between them to expand. Steam for 15-20 minutes until cooked. Serve immediately with some Sriracha chilli sauce if desired.