I have made steamed Asian meat buns before. The first one I made was a barbecue chicken version here and then a black bean chicken version here. They were fantastic but they were not exactly like the buns I used to get in downtown Toronto and I really wanted to taste those flavours again. My favourite were the barbecue pork buns, so sweet and delicious. Made with real Asian barbecue pork, the kind that is bright red and absolutely yummy, only found in real Chinatowns.
There was an episode of Martha that was on years ago where a woman demonstrated not only how you make real Chinese barbecue pork but those same buns I have been craving ever since I left Toronto 15 years ago. As I still have no idea what wet cake preserved bean curd is, I had to just roast my tenderloin in the oven with the spices she used in the recipe and added some barbecue sauce to it.
Unfortunately it did not taste anything like authentic Asian barbecue pork but the sauce for the pork buns made up for it. It was perfect! I substituted the tapioca starch with cornstarch but everything else was the same. This recipe takes some time because you have to let the meat marinate in the sauce before using it as filling.
This dough only uses baking powder as a leavener which I thought was unusual but I was not going to stray from the recipe. It is a sweet dough (which I love!) and wow, is it ever dry here, I had to add way more milk and oil and even some water to the dough to make it come together. I kneaded it for only eight minutes, that is all I had energy for and I let it rest. Next time I will just make this in my breadmaker but I wanted the real hands-on experience of making these buns from scratch.
I divided the dough up into 16 servings and rolled the dough into a ball, then used my fingers to spread it out as far as I could without the dough breaking. I put in about 1 tbsp of filling in the middle and then pulled the dough over the filling, stretching it as I went, then pinched it all together:
I steamed four buns at a time in a bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper, giving them some space to grow.
Unlike the yeast ones I made previously, these did not get much bigger in size but the flavour?! I was over-the-moon excited by the taste. It was very, VERY close to the buns I used to get at Yung Sing on Baldwin in downtown Toronto with my family. The dough was soft and sweet and the filling crazy delicious. I know the dough looks raw from the outside but as you can see from the photo above, it is fully cooked and delicious.
Yes, it was a lot of work to make these. It took lots of steps, time and effort but it was totally worth it. I am glad I only made these a few at a time because once they were made, they were eaten. This recipe fed me all weekend. Once the filling and dough were made, it was no big deal to put the two together and steam when I was hungry.
Not something I would make every day but once in a while? Absolutely!