When I was growing up in the Philippines, siopao was one of my favourite food. It is a steamed bun usually filled with meat. My favourite filling was the asado pork filling. The siopao from an old restaurant called Ma Mon Luk was legendary. It is different from the rest in taste and texture. It was huge but, as was the tradition, was always eaten with a bowl of noodle soup or siomai (dumplings) soup. I know it's crazy but that's how it is done.
Here in London, the pao I like is the char siu pao (steamed buns with Chinese barbecue pork filling) from the dim sum restaurants. It is soft and fluffy and actually cracked at the top with the char siu peeping through. This can also be bought from the Chinese supermarket and just re-steamed at home.
I am usually lazy to make this at home but since I had some leftover char siu, I thought of making pao. I have yet to crack the code on how to make the Ma Mon Luk siopao filling so this has to do for now. I used a standard yeast dough recipe for the bun. Surprisingly, it turned out like Ma Mon Luk siopao in looks and taste. How lucky is that?
Ingredients for the dough:
1 1/2 c. warm water
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
4 1/2-5 c. plain flour
6 tbsps. oil
1 1/2 tsps. salt
Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (don't add the full amount of flour at once; you may not need all of it). Mix well to form a medium soft dough. Knead with an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment or by hand until very smooth and elastic.
Transfer to an oiled mixing bowl, roll the dough to coat with oil, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until double in bulk.
Stretch the dough into a flat, circular shape. Put a heaping tablespoonful of filling in the middle then draw the edges towards the middle while crimping.
Lay on a piece of paper (I used flattened cupcake cases) and leave to rest until again until double in size. Be patient when leaving your dough to rise. Properly risen dough will result to fluffy and light buns.
Steam on high heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
For the Char Siu Filling:
3 c. of diced char siu pork (recipe here)
1 1/4 c. water
2 1/2 tbsps. sherry
5 tbsps. brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 1/2 tsps. sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsps. corn flour plus 2 tbsps. water
Put the diced char siu and the water in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the sherry, sugar and oyster sauce. Simmer for five minutes. Mix the corn flour with the water and add to the pan while stirring to thicken the sauce. Add the sesame oil. Simmer for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, leave to cool at room temperature, then refrigerate to cool and set. Use to fill the buns.
Note: You can also use asado filling by following this asado recipe. Just chop the cooked pork, add some sauce and thicken with corn flour slurry.
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