Steamed Pork Buns

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Hi hi hi hi hi and happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Last night I discovered the r/NoSleep thread on Reddit and because of it am currently running on a few hours of shut eye. This story about a man’s experience working in the Queen’s Guard kept me up into the wee hours of the early morning (maybe I’m just a whimp?). Read at your own risk!

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In other random news, I finally finished Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I may have shed a few tears while reading… which is rare, because I don’t cry too often from books. Then again, if you mentioned this to Roy he’d bring up the time he found me lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, crying silently. At first, he’d thought someone had died, but then realized I was hugging a book (Me Before You – if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for). Okay, maybe I am a huge book cry baby but did you SEE the photo at the end of Chapter 33??! Plus, Louie Zamperini’s life story is so unbelievable and amazing and everyone should know about it.

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And now, on to the reason why you’re most likely reading this post: BAO BUNS!! — which literally translates to bun buns in english. I know it’s wrong, but that’s just what I like to call it because I am probably the least Chinese, Chinese person ever and it sounds really cute.

One of my faaaavorite things to eat at Chinese restaurants is always the big, fluffy steamed buns that you stuff with hoisin sauce and duck. For Super Bowl Sunday this year, Roy and I will be spending it with some of our friends from Hawaii who also live in LA. I figured, why not replace the duck with kalua pig (pulled pork), because who doesn’t like Kalua Pig? No one, obviously. So we’re bringing a big tupperware full of steamed buns, slices of cucumber, green onion, hoisin sauce, and another tupperware filled with lots of steamy, juicy, tender pulled pork for a little DIY Steamed Pork Buns station.

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My KitchenAid broke last week and I had to return it and get a replacement. That left me to knead the dough by hand, which I suppose was a good arm workout. But if you have a KitchenAid, use it!

These buns aren’t hard to make from scratch, but there are some key things to remember when making them. Make sure your yeast is activated. Mixing in a bit of sugar to the water before adding the yeast will help to feed it as it activates. Make sure to give the yeast time to foam up. Set it aside for roughly around 10 minutes. Also, make sure to knead the dough completely. It will be done when it feels elastic and smooth, yet still soft. It took me roughly 10 minutes to get to this stage. Lastly, whatever you do, do not add any more flour than 4 and 1/4 cups. The dough will feel a little sticky at first but you really don’t need to dusk your work surface or hands with any extra flour. Adding too much flour will cause the dough to get tough.

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Steamed Pork Buns:

Notes:
+ I didn’t want to spend $8 on a box of dry milk powder at the supermarket, so used a splash of whole milk instead. You can also eliminate the milk all together. Or, I was told that replacing the water in the recipe with whole milk makes the buns taste richer.
+ Make sure the yeast foams after sitting for approx. 10 minutes, otherwise the dough won’t rise.
+ For more help, check out this video on how to knead the dough and roll out the buns.

For the pulled pork:
3 lbs of pork shoulder
salt
1 can of chicken broth

For the buns:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/4 cups bread flour
6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder, rounded
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
splash of milk
vegetable oil

Assembly:
hoisin sauce
green onions
cucumbers

1. The night before, rub a few tablespoons of salt onto the pork shoulder. Throw it in the slow cooker, along with enough chicken broth + water till the meat is fully submerged. Cook on the lowest heat setting for around 8 hours. In the morning, break up the cooked pork into chunks. Keep the slow cooker warm and cook for a few more hours until the pork is tender.
2. Fill a cup with warm water (not too hot though, to be exact stay under 120 degrees F). Mix in a tablespoon of the sugar till dissolved. Add in the yeast and lightly whisk. Set the cup aside for 10 minutes, allowing the yeast to activate. It will be frothy when ready.
3. In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, remaining sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix together lightly. When activated, pour in the yeast mixture and mix gently till liquid is somewhat absorbed. Add in the vegetable shortening and splash of milk. Mix lightly, then begin kneading.
4. After 10-13 minutes (if using a stand mixer this should only take 8-10 minutes), the dough should feel elastic and smooth but still soft. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise for around 1 hour, until it doubles in size.
5. In the meantime, cut out 50 squares of parchment paper, about 4×4 inches. Fill a wok with a few cups of water and set on the stove.
6. Remove the dough from the bowl and roll into a long cylinder, about 12 inches width. Cut the cylinder in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half widthwise, then cut that half into five pieces. Half each of the five pieces. Roll into a ball and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Repeat the process with the other dough cylinders.
7. Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball into an oval shape. Brush vegetable oil on one side of the dough. Place a chopstick in the center of the oval. Fold over to create a clam like shape, place on a square of parchment paper and remove the chopstick. Let the folded dough rise for another 30-45 minutes before steaming.
8. Heat the water in the wok till boiling, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Place the steamer basket inside the wok (without water touching it) and steam for about 10 minutes. Repeat until all the buns are steamed.
9. Serve warm with hoisin sauce spread inside the bun, two slices of cucumber, your kalua pig/pulled pork, and a sprinkling of green onions. Add some Sriracha if you want a little spice!

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About Courtney C.

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  • This looks amazing, I love steamed buns and this looks like such a great way to serve them. I have me before you and I haven’t read it yet… Now I know what I have to do tonight!

    • Thank you, Sherri! There are so many ways to serve up steamed buns, but pulled pork or pork belly is my fave 🙂
      YES, read it! You may need to a keep a box of tissues near at some point…

  • these look fantastic!! i might take it up as my next project 🙂

    r/nosleep is amazing!! i was really obsessed with it for a while and i ended up buying the book penpal on amazon (a compilation of a very popular nosleep poster) and it was SO good! i highly recommend it. also me before you, i feel you!!! that book was like, holy hell a lot of emotions. i am definitely going to have to check out unbroken!

    • Hi Karishma! Thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely be checking out that book on Amazon! I 100% recommend it, it’s a lot different than a fiction book but I loved it, it was such an eyeopener!

  • Wow…this is everything I want in my life right now. I’m not joking. Wow.

    -Kelsey
    http://www.alittlerosemaryandtime.com

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kelsey! It’s pretty easy to do, you should definitely whip some up and enjoy fresh steamed pork buns 🙂

  • just want to tell you that i love your website! thanks for all the recipes provided i have already bookmarked some that i am going to try 🙂

    • Aw so lovely to hear that! Good luck 🙂