Dim Sum Recipe #8: Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

The number 8 is a lucky one in Chinese culture.  It’s used to indicate fortune, prosperity, and success.  This is a good thing for me, because after much trial and error, I’m happy to bring you lucky Dim Sum Recipe #8 in my series on the highly coveted Chinese tea lunch…Steamed BBQ Pork Buns!  For the longest time I wasn’t successful at making Chinese steamed buns.  My steamed buns would often end up speckled, dimpled, or lopsided…just not right.  With success finally comes the recognizable dim sum treat we know as Char Siu Bao–fluffy buns stuffed with a slightly salty, slightly sweet pork filling that’s always a crowd favorite.

What I aimed to create in a recipe for Steamed BBQ Pork Buns was a supple bun dough where I could easily make baos in 2 ways–one with a perfectly smooth top and the other the traditional way, pleated and pinched with an open top for venting.  This bun dough, based on my recipe for Chinese Fold-Over Buns, easily adapts to either shape and is extremely versatile. You can use it as a base for both sweet and savory fillings, and even enjoy the buns made with it plain.  I have many more ideas and riffs on using this bun dough, so trust me, you definitely haven’t heard the last of it!

The filling I use here is the same filling I use for my Baked BBQ Pork Buns, the buns with a golden, honey-lacquered top that’s sticky to the touch.  One thing I prefer to do for the steamed version of these buns is processing the BBQ pork through a food processor instead of dicing it into cubes.  While high-gluten bread flour is used to make baked buns heartier and chewier, low-gluten Hong Kong flour is used to make steamed buns delicate and airy.  Since the texture of steamed bread is more tender than that of the baked variety, loosening up the texture of the meat to match the bread’s tenderness makes each bite lighter and more harmonious.

I could really use some help with my pleating.  I’ve mentioned in my Ha Gao post that pleating really isn’t my forte.  Luckily, with these Char Siu Bao, poor pleating doesn’t matter. If you want a neater look to your buns, just flip the baos over to reveal a smooth top. Anyhow, steamed pork buns really should be eaten while they are still warm and fresh out of the steamer.  If you are like me and can’t get into a good pleating groove, no worries!  You and your friends will be munching on the steamy pockets before anyone will even notice any of those perfect imperfections.

At Chinese restaurants you will commonly find steamed buns with a square of parchment attached underneath to prevent each bun from sticking to the steamer.  I like to steam my buns in a bamboo steamer lined with one large round of parchment, perforated and cut to the dimensions of the steamer.  Place the baos in colorful cupcake liners immediately after steaming for a pretty and modern look.  The liners will still adhere to the buns but won’t warp as they would if they were cooked with the buns in the bamboo steamer.

If you are looking for a delicious tea to enjoy with these buns, please check out my post on Steven Smith Teamaker’s Spring Harvest blend.  It’s a Chinese Mao Feng green tea that’s fresh and slightly sweet, just like these Steamed Char Siu Bao are!  The two make a delicious pairing, and are perfect served as a light springtime afternoon snack.

Dim Sum Recipe #8:  Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

Makes 16 small buns. 


1 batch of Chinese Steamed Bun Dough

1 full recipe of Char Siu Bao Filling


stand mixer with mixing bowl and hook attachment

large whisk

large proofing bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

rolling-pin or scale

parchment, to line steamer

food processor (optional)

large frying pan or wok (for making char siu filling)

large plate


1.)  Make 1 batch of Chinese Bun Dough (aka dough for Chinese Fold-Over Buns).  While dough is going through first proofing, make the Char Siu Bao Filling.

2.)  Make 1 full recipe of Char Siu Bao Filling.  If you prefer, process the store-bought/prepared BBQ pork in a food processor until you get a shredded-like texture to the meat, then proceed with Char Siu Bao Filling recipe.  If not, just dice the pork into 1/4 inch cubes and proceed with the filling recipe.  I’ve omitted the chives here as a like a completely reddish looking filling.  You can add chives into the filling if you prefer.  After cooking, place the filling on a large plate and cover with plastic wrap.  Set it aside to cool to room temperature.

3.)  When the first proofing is complete, cut the dough into 16 equal pieces.  You can just eyeball this or use a scale for extra accuracy.

4.)  Form each of the 16 portions of dough into balls, then roll each ball into a 3.5″ flat round. Place 1 Tbsp of the cooled char siu filling in the center of each round, then pleat the edges of the dough round and pinch to seal the top of the bun (see below).  Set finished buns into a parchment lined bamboo steamer (or large plate) about 2″ apart, then cover with plastic wrap and allow the buns about 15 minutes to proof again.  Preferably, proof the buns in a warm, draft free place.

5.)  Meanwhile, fill wok or stockpot with 3-4″ of water.  Set water on high heat and let it come to a full boil.  After the 15 minutes of proofing have elapsed, place the steamers in/on top of the wok/stockpot and cook on high heat for 8 minutes, or until the buns are puffy, fluffy, and risen.

Spring Vegetable Tartine

Tartine, or French open-faced sandwiches, are some of the most beautiful bites around.  I often make traditional tea sandwiches with fillings like veggie cream cheese in between 2 slices of soft bread, but after a trip to the market this weekend I was inspired to show off some of this season’s freshest bounty with these Spring Vegetable Tartine.

While piling bunches of bright hot pink radishes into my cart, some very beautiful little quail eggs caught my eye.  I never tried quail eggs before, so I was intrigued.  I wondered if their speckled coloring might mean that they were strange or unpleasant tasting.  Sure enough, after some experimentation at home both frying one egg sunny side up and boiling another, I realized that quail eggs taste the same as regular eggs do, perhaps even milder. They are basically the cuter, miniaturized version of regular eggs!

Quail eggs are beautifully and naturally blemished.  Their rustic appeal makes them look almost ornamental, perfect for making spring decorations and centerpieces.  They make me think of pastel colored birds, twiggy nests, and sweet ambient chirping…all of the lovely indications that spring has sprung!

If you are wanting to make egg salad or scrambled eggs, don’t waste your extra pennies on quail eggs.  You want to use these when you are trying to showcase the egg’s delicate flavor and petit size.

I hard-boiled and halved my quail eggs so that I could use them as the main embellishment for my tartine.  Just a bit of simple protein to balance out all the fresh, clean veggie flavors in the sandwiches.  Sprinkle the cut egg with a bit of bright red cayenne pepper or smoked paprika for an extra pop of color and flavor.

These tartine are ideal for Easter Sunday Brunch or a spring-themed afternoon tea. Although they are delicious served without bacon for vegetarians, a light scattering of the savory bits helps to balance out the sweet ricotta and carrots.  Crunchy, creamy, salty, and sweet, these sandwiches allow the best of springtime ingredients to shine.

Tartine can be eaten with your hands like you would a topped cracker, or with a fork and knife.  If your guests prefer the latter, serve them with some Springtime Carrot Cutlery, which make a simple and colorful addition to an Easter-themed table.  Either way, I’m sure your guests will find these lovely open-faced sandwiches irresistible!

Spring Vegetable Tartine

Makes about 12- 5″ tartine.


1- 15 oz container of part-skim ricotta

6 Tbsp grated carrots, blotted with paper towel to remove excess moisture

6 Tbsp finely chopped celery, blotted with paper towel to remove excess moisture

2 green onions finely sliced

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp hot sauce

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1 loaf french bread, sliced 1/2″ thick

6 quail eggs

5-6 radishes, very thinly sliced

1 green onion sliced thinly, for garnishing

crumbled bacon bits, for garnishing (about 5 slices, cooked until crisp)

cayenne pepper or smoked paprika


small pot

slotted spoon

small bowl

mixing bowl



1.)  Hard boil the quail eggs.  Place them in a small pot with water to cover by 1″.  Bring the water to full rolling boil and continue to boil for 1 minute.  Turn off heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the warm water.  Place them into a small bowl filled with cold water and set aside to allow eggs to cool completely.

2.)  Mix together ricotta, carrots, celery, green onions, lemon juice, olive oil, hot sauce, sugar, black pepper, and salt.

3.)  Peel the cooled eggs.  This is easier when done under water.  Cut the eggs in half using a sharp knife.

4.)  Toast the bread slices, then top each slice with about 2 Tbsp of the veggie ricotta mixture.  Place thinly sliced radishes, sliced green onion, and bacon bits atop the ricotta tartine.  Top each tartine off with a hard-boiled egg half, then sprinkle it with a pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika to finish.  Happy Spring!  Enjoy!

BLTea Sandwiches

For me, everything is more enjoyable when eaten in miniature.  I think this is because foods served in smaller portions somehow inspire me to slow down, relish, and taste more thoughtfully.  Ideally, these foods are also beautiful to look at, adding to that satisfaction factor.

The treat that I’ve miniaturized this week are these scrumptious BLTea Sandwiches.  These cuties make the most delicious treat for a cheerful afternoon tea, a classy appetizer for an elegant dinner party, or even just a simple and yummy mid-day snack.

BLT sandwiches are often made with sliced bread…like a Pain Di Mie, the same type ideally used for crustless tea sandwiches.  So just when it’s obvious and typical to use one kind of bread, it’s the time switch things up.  My Mini Burger Buns are the perfect swap out here–beautiful, easy-to-make, and very delicious!

Although these buns are perfect for sliders, they also give my BLTea Sandwiches a sophisticated look that’s presentable and inviting.  The bread is made from an Asian water-roux based dough–slightly chewy with a texture that stands up well to any flavorful filling.  Here, salty slices of Applewood smoked bacon, ripe tomato, and crisp lettuce stack up to make adorable tea sandwiches with simple, straight-forward flavor.

My suggestion is to bake the Mini Buns earlier on the day you plan on serving them as the texture of the buns is most light and chewy when served at its freshest.  And don’t forget the sesame seeds!  They add a bit of rustic charm to the buns, and some nutty flavor too. It’s also a good idea to slice and toast the buns in some oil or butter right before assembling.

Consider these BLTea Sandwiches the ideal starter for your next get together.  These munching hors d’oeuvres are sure to be the most enticing tea food offering on the table–even the manliest of men will find these delightful tea sandwiches hard to resist!

BLTea Sandwiches

Makes 10 sandwiches.  


10 pieces of cooked/crispy Applewood smoked bacon

3-4 medium size vine-ripened tomatoes

4 large pieces of iceberg or other lettuce

1/4 cup mayo

10 Mini Burger Buns

olive oil or butter for toasting buns


large pan for toasting buns

spreader for mayo

serrated knife to slice buns

paper towels to blot tomatoes

10 toothpicks

large platter for serving


1.)  Slice buns in half horizontally.  Place pan on med heat, then lightly drizzle the pan with olive oil or coat the pan lightly with butter.  Place the sliced buns, cut side down, on the pan for a few minutes until the buns are lightly toasted.  Remove buns from the pan and place on a large plate.

2.)  Lightly spread the toasted surface of each bun with mayo.  Slice the tomatoes about 1/4″ thick, then place them on paper towels for a few minutes to blot out any excess liquid.  Place tomato and torn lettuce on the bottom pieces of mayo-coated bread.  Break one bacon piece into 2 or 3 equal pieces, then place on top of lettuce.  Place top bun on and insert toothpick so that it pierces through the center of the sandwich.

3.)  Place tea sandwiches on a large platter and serve at room temperature.

Turkey Cranberry Tea Sandwiches

Are you in need of a break after all the Thanksgiving Day festivities?  Turkey Cranberry Tea Sandwiches are a simple, elegant way to savor the last of your Turkey Day leftovers.  Only a few simple ingredients here, but these tea sandwiches are satisfying, savory, and sweet!

Although I took the lazy route of using some store-bought roasted turkey lunch meat myself, feel free to use regular roasted turkey to make these tea sandwiches, just make sure to slice the meat as thinly as possible.

Another key ingredient of this recipe is a good-quality orange marmalade.  Some marmalades are pretty sweet and others are on the bitter side.  When I have marmalade on toast by itself I prefer to use the sweet kind (like Smucker’s), but for this recipe I think a slightly bitter marmalade (like Bonne Maman) gives the sandwich a more unique and balanced flavor.

There are many types of tea that will pair well with these sandwiches, but as fall comes to a close I’m drinking up as much of Celestial Seasoning’s Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea as I can.  Not a fancy or expensive tea by any means, but totally delicious and caffeine-free!

Take a well-deserved break after all that cooking and shopping and treat yourself to some of these finger sandwiches today.  With a cup of good tea, you’ll be refocused and recharged to start thinking about all that cooking and shopping that will be coming around the corner as the year comes to a close in December!

Turkey Cranberry Tea Sandwiches

Makes 12 tea sandwiches.


8 slices whole wheat bread, frozen

16 pieces of very thinly sliced turkey

1 package Neuchâtel Cheese (low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature)

3 Tbsp orange marmalade

¼ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

pinch of salt and pepper


large serrated knife


1.)  In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, marmalade, cranberries, salt and pepper together.

2.)  Remove bread from freezer and place the slices on a large work surface.

3.)  Spread cream cheese mixture on each of 8 bread pieces evenly, making sure to cover the entire front surface of each piece.

4.)  Place 4 slices of turkey on each of 4 pieces of bread.  Top with the other 4 slices of bread, press down slightly, and cut off crusts using serrated knife.

5.)  Cut each crustless sandwich into 3 equal pieces lenthwise and enjoy!