Southern Pulled Pork Buns (Bao)

By • April 1, 2011 16 Comments

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Author Notes: (photo courtesy of

I've always been a huge fan of char siu bao (roast pork buns) from Chinese food restaurants, but bringing the frozen version home just doesn't do it for me, and using the bottled char siu sauce is overwhelmingly sweet. So instead, I make the dough at home, slowly braised some pork Southern-style in my Dutch oven, steam the dumplings in my rice cooker, and get an even better product. I could eat twenty of these in one sitting...

Makes 12 large buns


  • 3/4 cup water (room temperature)
  • 1/2 packet instant dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (approximate)
  1. Combine the yeast and the water in a small bowl and set it aside to grow. After a few minutes, blend in the oil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the baking powder, flour, and sugar. Make a deep well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly stir it all together until all the flour has been incorporated, and it gains the consistency of soft playdough. (Add a little more water if it needs to be stickier.) Use your hands to shape the dough into a ball. Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, until the dough is slightly springy to the touch and stops sticking to your fingers.
  3. Place the ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic. Put it in a warm dry place to rise until it has doubled, about 30 minutes.

Pulled Pork Filling

  • 3-4 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Place the pork in a deep casserole pan, and cover it with the Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar, turning it to thoroughly coat with your hands. Place the pork in a large Dutch oven, and pour the apple juice down the sides of the pot (NOT on the meat). Cover the pot tightly.
  3. Place the pot in the oven, and turn the heat down to 225°F. (Make sure you do this right away--the oven needs to be warmed up, but this is a slow cooking recipe.) Roast the pork without opening the oven door for about 4 1/2 hours. No need to check on it at any point--you'll know it's ready when the meat pulls apart easily.
  4. Remove the meat to a deep platter and thoroughly shred it. Add the salt into the juices left in the Dutch oven, stirring well to blend the sweet and savory flavors. Return the shredded meat to the juices and let cool thoroughly. (This can--and should--be done the day before making the buns, so that you don't have to wait too long once your dough has thoroughly risen.)
  5. Make the buns: Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each one into a cup in your hands (imagine you're making an individually-sized pie.)
  6. Place a few spoonfuls of the pork into the middle of the dough round, making sure none dribbles on the outsides of the dough (or else it will not stay sealed while steaming.) Fold up the edges of the dough around the filling and squeeze slightly to seal. Place each finished bun on a small square of parchment paper. Once all the buns are assembled, set aside in a warm place and let rise for a half hour. (If you have too much pork filling for your allotted dough...nope, this has never been a problem for me. Extra pulled pork!)
  7. Preheat a steamer basket with water beneath it (I like using the attachment that came with my rice cooker) and lightly oil it. Place as many buns as you can fit in the steamer, then cover and let cook for 10-12 minutes each, until they are plump and moist.
  8. Enjoy!

More Great Recipes: Pork|Appetizers|Hors d'oeuvres|Snacks

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