Homemade barbecue pork buns, rigged for Mexico

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August 4, 2010Recipes4 Comments

Some of my fellow bloggers have opined recently about the lack of good Asian food here in Mexico City. It’s true: if you want good Asian food, with a few exceptions, you’re pretty much going to have to make it yourself.

Alice recently came back from a trip to the States, where she ate homemade barbecue pork buns (known as char siu bao) at her mom’s house every day. She was dying for more, but they’re not easy to find here. So she decided to make her own.

She called me and mentioned she was doing this, so I invited myself over to hang out and take pictures. I don’t know much about buns, but I do know a good photo-and-cooking opportunity when I see one.

Making homemade pork buns is an intensive process. Most recipes on the Internet call for marinating sections of pork butt roast overnight, and then baking or grilling the meat for about an hour. You chop the meat and add onions, spices and sugar to create a gooey, sweet-and-savory filling. And then you make your dough and roll out your buns.

If you’re one person, it’s enough to keep you on your feet for most of the afternoon.

Alice had gathered as many of the authentic ingredients as she could, but she’d bought pork loin instead of pork butt or belly, because neither of us knew how to say “pork butt” or “pork belly” in Spanish. She also left out the maltose that’s traditionally called for in the filling, and red food coloring.

I arrived just after she’d taken the meat out of the oven — right on time to help with the chopping.

We sipped wine (L.A. Cetto Fume Blanc) while we finished the filling. And then came the moment of truth: stuffing and folding the buns.

Alice shaped them expertly, rolling out a ball and flattening it with her palms. She pulled up the sides of the dough, and then tugged on the little triangular pockets that had sagged to the side, twisting the top lightly to seal it closed.

Her buns looked plump and cute. I had no idea what I was doing, so mine looked like misshapen alien heads. (That’s one of hers below, on the right.)

Here’s a quick slideshow of Alice rolling and shaping her buns:

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By the time the buns came out of the steamer, all fluffy and round and white, I was so hungry, I wanted to devour all of them. I ate two before I even knew what I was doing. The dough tasted like the best, softest white bread — like someone had gathered a dozen pieces of Bimbo, without the crust, and molded them into a ball.

If you’re interested in making your own buns — it’s a fun way to spend a girls’ afternoon, I must say — I’m including Alice’s bun dough recipe, which comes from her family. Her char siu recipe was adapted from What’s4Eats, while the filling recipe came from Rasa Maylasia.

Char Siu Bao
(dough for barbecued pork buns)

1. Mix 2 teaspoons yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 1/3 cups water, and 1 cup flour. Let bubble.
2. Mix 2 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 cups flour
3: Add ingredients from step one to step two. Knead and let rise for about an hour.

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4 Responses to “Homemade barbecue pork buns, rigged for Mexico”
  1. Leah Flinn

    Looks delicious! Making me hungry.

  2. Don Cuevas

    OMG, we used to make these often, back in the ’70s.

    I would select a fattier cut of pork, or even consider using carnitas surtida plus the appropriate seasonings to approximate char siu.

    sldc

  3. alice

    thanks for posting. mommy will be happy to know the tradition lives on … even in mexico.

  4. Ian

    Mmmm…..I’ve got a recipe from The Mandarin in SF for Chinese BBQ pork that would work great with these buns. Star anise or 5 spice powder would also probably work well in the marinade, tho not sure how available either would be down there.

    And, BTW, pork butt=pork shoulder. Fatty, well marbled, usually available boneless and what I usually use for carnitas.

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