I grew up with this kind of food, but since it was available everywhere, I never approached the subject of actually making it from scratch. Having moved to Italy, I had no choice but to slowly bridge the gap between dreaming and making it happen.
I started making my own Asian delicacies at home, and these steamed pork buns were among the snacks I had to learn. Reading many recipes, plus practice and failure, gave way to these beautiful, pillowy pork buns. Failures make you understand better how recipes work, and they make you avoid what you did wrong in previous trials.
This batch of buns is my victory after a few attempts to perfect them. I changed the kind of yeast from dry to fresh, the kind of flour and the method of making the dough rise (I prefer making it rise in the oven at a very low temperature). What didn't work for me can actually work for others, but from my experience, this recipe is a keeper.
So don't wait — make your own siopao at home. One bite of these soft, pillowy steamed buns filled with delicious pork, and you will be completely hooked.
In a medium-large saucepan with canola oil over medium heat, sauté the garlic and onion until they are fragrant, then add the pork. Cook until the pork changes color, about three minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for one hour on low heat. If the sauce is drying up, add some water. Add the cornstarch mixture, and then turn off the heat when the sauce is slightly thick. Adjust the taste.
Using two forks, shred the meat, then let it cool down.
In a small bowl or glass, mix the lukewarm water with the yeast, and then add the sugar. Leave it for at least five minutes. To a mixer or a medium-large bowl, add the 3-1/2 cups of flour, salt, oil and the yeast mixture. Mix until you have a ball of elastic dough.
Transfer the dough to a floured wooden board, and knead it for a while. If the dough is too sticky, gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour until you can work it without it sticking to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball, then put it in a bowl (you can use the same bowl you mixed it in). Cover with plastic wrap.
Let it rise for a couple of hours in a warm place or in an oven heated to 95 to 100 degrees F for 30 minutes. The dough should rise.
Transfer the dough to the floured wooden board, and knead it again. Divide the dough into equal in halves.
Then divide it into four, then into eight and then into 16 equal parts.
Work on each piece of dough by shaping it into a ball and then flattening it with a small rolling pin.
At the center, put about a tablespoon of filling, and then gather the edges to close it.
Twist the top tightly to secure it well. Place the bun on a small, square piece of parchment paper, and steam it in a hot steamer for 15 minutes. Leave space between each bun, because they should become larger while cooking. Work in batches. They are best eaten when warm.
Prep time: 30 minutes | Inactive time: 2 hours | Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes | Total time: 3 hours 45 minutes
For the filling
For the dough
For the filling
For the dough
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