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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Siopao Asado

Kumain ka po na?
Hello, all! These gorgeous siopaos lit up my Instagram the other day, and a few of my friends have asked me for my method on how to make them. I want to jump right into the recipe, but first I'd like to give a quick note on Filipino Siopao versus Cantonese Char Siu Bao:

Char siu bao and siopao are quite similar because siopao is the indigenized version of this Cantonese classic. The Philippines were a mecca of trans-oceanic cultures coming together, so it's certainly no surprise that dishes are shared between them. Most Filipinos love siopao, and why shouldn't they? They're a hot pocket full of delicious meat with a dough that doesn't flake. It's soft, squishy, keeps hot for a long time, and oh-so-pretty. I learned how to make Charsiu Bao in culinary school, and have since made my own version of siopao. I like the Chinese-style bun dough better than the one you might find in a siopao recipe online, just because the end texture feels a little nicer, in my humble opinion.

Chinese-style Asado
yields a good portion of meat for dinner, and plenty for your siopao
  • 2 lb pork butt
    • You can make this with chicken as well!
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 oz honey
  • 2 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/4 c dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 c tuba vinegar
  • 1/2 c banana ketchup
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 c stock
    • Veggie, pork, chicken, or whatever you have!
  • 1 c water

Bun Dough
yields enough for 6 large buns/bao
  • 224 g all-purpose flour
  • 4 g yeast
  • 135 g warm water, 
  • 100 g sugar
  • 15 g lard or shortening
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder mixed with 1 tsp water

Siopao Filling
  • 3/4 c Asado, shredded
  • Sesame or peanut oil to coat the pan
  • 2 oz carrot, brunoise
    • The tiniest dice you can manage
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c stock
    • Chicken, beef, or vegetable!
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp banana ketchup

Take the protein of your choice and cut it into large cubes, about 2" pieces. In a large bowl, whisk together the banana ketchup, cracked peppercorns, spice powder, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and honey. Toss the meat pieces in the mixture and cover; marinate for 2 hours or overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Use a large, cast-iron pot and add just enough canola oil to coat, and heat on a medium-high flame. When the oil is nice and hot, add in your marinated meat pieces and sear for 2 minutes. Add your water and stock to the bowl with the marinade, give it a stir, and dump in that gorgeous liquid to your pot. Add in the carrot, celery, and bell pepper along with the garlic. Bring to a boil and pop in the oven for 3 hours. 

When it comes out of the oven, a fair portion of the liquid will have cooked off. You can now remove the meat from the juices and turn the pot on to a low flame. Fish out the aromatic veggies from the broth and discard. On your cutting board, shred the meat with a pair of chopsticks or some forks. Add the meat back into the pot and simmer down until saucy and delicious. As I'm sure you can tell, this will be more than enough to make buns aplenty, but I assure you that this Asado is good enough to eat on its own as a wonderful entree! I suggest having it with some coconut rice or in some tortillas with lime juice. This is a savory delight, so please have something deliciously tangy with it, such as pickled vegetables. 

To make the siopao filling, take the Asado that's now cooled from last night and sautee it with a little oil, the carrot, and scallion. Add the flour, and cook for one minute to get rid of that raw flour taste. Add the remaining ingredients and cook down until it has a thick consistency that is still saucy. Remove from the pan and let cool to at least room temperature.

To make the bun dough, simply combine the yeast, half the sugar, flour, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer and stir until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes before adding the remaining sugar and lard and turning the machine on to mix for another 10 minutes. Turn out into a lightly oiled container and allow to proof for 1 1/2 hours or until the mixture has doubled in size. When it has, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch it out and roll it out until it's about an inch in thickness. Spread the mixture of the baking powder and water over, and fold the dough over to encapsulate it. Roll out, then fold again, and knead by hand until it's quite satiny in feeling. This shouldn't take more than ten or eleven turns. Pop it back into your oiled container and let it sit for another 30-40 minutes.

Take your dough and roll it into a log. Cut it in half, and then cut each half into thirds, leaving you with six lumps of dough to make your bao. Cover the lumps with a clean tea towel and work each lump of dough with a rolling pin, one at a time. I could tell you how to roll yours, but I am frankly so bad at it that I think it's best if I leave you with a video on how this awesome person does theirs.

I always try to pleat mine, but sometimes my pleats don't work out, or I accidentally roll out my dough too thin on the bottom. That's okay! Just flip the bao over and steam them upside-down. No matter how you fill and seal your siopao, it's okay - it's going to taste good, so don't put too much pressure on yourself if you mess up one or two. Either way, fill and fold all six of your buns with that delicious filling you've made, and let them rest on the counter while you get your steamer ready, about 20 minutes.

My steamer is a little worse for wear since I've had it for 10+ years!

A note on steamers: If you have a metal steamer, they will do just fine in the dishwasher. If you have a bamboo steamer, like me, you should never ever put them in the dishwasher. Wash them by hand with soap and hot water, and then treat with a little oil each time you use them. Respect and care for your tools and they will repay you tenfold. Please keep in mind that a wok is usually what's used to make a steamer work, so make sure you have one of those as well. I think a good steamer is an essential thing in a person's kitchen, so you might want to make an investment in your future healthier self and get one. You can buy them online, of course, but it's probably safer and cheaper to just head on over to the local Asian store in your town and pick one up. I assure you they've been wearing masks and gloves since far before this Covid19 nonsense all happened, and I personally feel better shopping there versus the American grocery stores near me, but that's another blog post.

I steam mine with a bamboo steamer that I purchased at the local Asian grocery store. Always make sure that you oil your steamers with canola or sesame oil before you begin, and line your baskets with either paper or cabbage leaves. My cabbage isn't big enough, yet, but I have a lot of spinach in my victory garden, so I used that. (What's a victory garden? Find out here!)

Steam your siopao in the wok steamer for 8-10 minutes, and for the love of all that is holy: do not open the lid for anything. You're going to want a nice, steady simmer to keep that steam going. As long as the water level is good, you're in the clear!

These siopaos are delicious afternoon snacks, a great lunch, or just a delicious dinner. My husband and I ate all six of these together, and that filled us up for the rest of the night! You can make siopao with things other than Asado filling, using the bun dough to help stretch any saucy leftovers you might have. I hope you enjoy them, and please feel free to bug me with any questions you might have along the way!

Happy cooking and happy eating!

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