I CAN clearly remember the first time I had a steamed pork bun or char sui bao.
I was at uni and like most students, was pretty poor.
I decided to treat myself to dinner because I had a late class but with only a few dollars to my name, there wasn't much on offer.
There was a really nice noodle shop on campus but my budget wouldn't allow for a main meal so I got a collection of little dim sum type morsels - steam dim sims, spring rolls etc - including a delicious steamed pork bun.
The bun itself was dense but also fluffy, and a little bit sweet.
The filling was shredded pork with the classic Chinese flavours, mixing sweet and savoury but perfectly balanced.
Since then I have also had some not so great versions where the pork has been dry or the bun too thick.
This was my first attempt and while the bun construction left a little to be desired, they tasted amazing.
Most recipes call for the pork to be barbequed first, then basted in the sauce, or marinated in the sauce and then barbequed.
But I decided to let the pork marinate for a couple of hours and then braise it.
I did it this way because I have a lifelong fear of dry pork - I think I was fed one too many dry pork chops while growing up - and this method should keep the pork moist.
Most dough recipes called for yeast but I decided to leave the yeast out.
I just didn't want the yeast taste over powering that subtle sweetness.
But losing the yeast means losing some of the elasticity and makes the dough harder to work.
I was really happy with the end result taste wise, but a little yeast might have helped with the overall look of the buns at the end.
Steamed Pork Buns
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups plain flour, plus extra
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup lard
400g pork belly, cut into 10cm strips, skin removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp sugar
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 cup of Chinese rice wine
1 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs hoisin sauce
2 tbs oyster sauce
1 tsp five spice powder
¼ cup water
Sift flour, sugar and baking powder into bowl.
Add lard, using your fingers to mix it through until there are no lumps.
Add the water a ¼ cup at time, bringing the flour together so it forms a dough.
Turn it out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll into a ball, cover and set aside.
Combine all of the filling ingredients (except water) in a bowl, cover and let sit for at least 2 hours.
To cook: Place the pork with all of the sauce into a pan over a medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, add water and cover. Cook over low-medium heat for about an hour, until tender.
Cut the strips into small pieces - the smaller they are, the easier it is to assemble.
Divide the dough into eight pieces. Roll each out into a circle shape so it is about 5mm thick.
Holding the dough round in your hand, take a spoon of the pork and put it in centre.
Pleat the edges of the dough, all of the way around until bringing them together in the middle to seal.
Place each bun on a small piece of baking paper. Place on top layer of a bamboo steamer, over a pan of boiling water. Cover and steam for about 20 minutes.
To serve the next day: store in air tight container in fridge and microwave for 30 seconds when you are ready to eat.
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