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Karen Gordon: If you haven’t tried char siu bao, you’re in for a real treat

Opinion: Unlike the traditional char siu bao, these Asian fusion buns are filled with southern-inspired pulled pork that has been slow-cooked with flavourful Asian spices.

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If you haven’t tried char siu bao, also called roast pork buns, you’re in for a real treat. Unlike the traditional char siu bao, these Asian-fusion buns are filled with southern-inspired pulled pork that has been slow-cooked with flavourful Asian spices. The aroma of Chinese five-spice powder, combined with ginger, garlic and sesame oil, imparts a deliciously heady flavour to this dish.

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I love this recipe because once I’m done making my bao buns, I’m able to serve the leftover Asian pulled pork in a variety of ways, over several meals. They include southern-style on a bun, topped with coleslaw, sliced cucumbers, sweet onions, scallions, fresh cilantro and sriracha; in tacos with shredded cabbage, grated carrots, picked onions, fresh cilantro and teriyaki aioli. Or when I’m particularly lazy, over a bed of rice with steamed veggies on the side.

These baked bao buns make excellent lunches and snacks. The combination of a sweet, slightly sticky, pillowy-soft roll filled with savory pulled pork is so addictive. While one bun each is about the right serving size for a snack, from experience, I’ve found that everyone wants more than their fair share.

Baked Asian Pulled Pork Buns.
Baked Asian Pulled Pork Buns. Photo by Karen Gordon

Baked Asian Pulled Pork Buns

Asian-style pulled pork:

3 lbs (1.5 kg) pork shoulder, cut into 4-5 large chunks

2 tsp (10 mL) Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp (5 mL) white pepper

3 tbsp (45 mL) light soy sauce

2 tbsp (30 mL) dark soy sauce

1 tbsp (15 mL) honey

2 tbsp (30 mL) oyster sauce

1/4 cup (60 mL) hoisin sauce

2 tbsp (30 mL) Chinese cooking wine

3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh ginger, grated

2 tbsp (30 mL) garlic, minced

1-2 tsp (5-10 mL) sesame oil

Combine Chinese 5-spice powder and white pepper. Rub pork shoulder with this mixture and place the pork in 6 quarts slow cooker.

In a separate bowl, whisk the light and dark soy sauce, honey, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, Chinese cooking wine, ginger and garlic. Pour over the pork, replace the lid, and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

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Once the pork is fork-tender, using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork shoulder from the slow cooker to a medium-size mixing bowl.

Using a spoon, skim the fat off the top of the cooking liquid. Discard the fat. Using two forks, shred the pork. Return the shredded pork to the cooking liquid. Stir to combine. Heat on high until pulled pork mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Set aside until needed.


2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp (30 mL) light soy sauce

1 tbsp (15 mL) dark soy sauce

2 tbsp (30 mL) oyster sauce

1/4 cup (60 mL) chicken stock

1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch

1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar

2 cups (500 mL) Asian style pulled pork, drained

Add oil to a skillet. Heat on medium high until hot. Add the onions and garlic. Sauté until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, add the light and dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, chicken stock and cornstarch. Whisk to combine.

Add the drained pulled pork to the onion mixture. Stir to combine. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan, continue stirring to prevent lumps. Bring mixture to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes to combine flavours, then remove from heat. Set aside to cool.

Bao buns:

1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream, heated to 110 F

2/3 cup (160 mL) milk, heated to 110 F

1 tbsp (15 mL) instant active yeast

1 large egg

1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar

3 1/2 cups (420 g) all-purpose flour

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1 1/4 tsp (6 mL) sea salt

Black and white sesame seeds

Simple syrup

1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar

1 tbsp (15 mL) water

Add the cream, milk and yeast to a stand mixer outfitted with a dough-hook attachment. Allow yeast to bloom for 2-3 minutes then add the egg, sugar, flour and salt. Mix on low until the mixture forms a shaggy dough. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. Note that dough will be soft and sticky.

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled mixing bowl. Turn the dough over to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm spot to rise for 60 minutes or until doubled in size. Don’t over proof.

Remove the dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a circle where the edges are slightly thinner than the middle. The circle should measure about 4-5 inches in diameter.

Place a rounded tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough, taking care not to get any of the filling on the edges as it will make sealing difficult. Then using your fingers, gather and pinch the dough to seal, creating a small ball. Place the ball seam side down, 3 inches apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Cover the buns with a piece of parchment paper and a clean tea towel over top. Allow the buns to rise at room temperature for 60 minutes. Do not overproof.

At the half-hour mark, preheat oven to 375 F.

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Gently brush the buns with egg wash, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the buns are golden brown.

While buns are baking, mix granulated sugar with water. Set aside.

Remove the buns from the oven and immediately brush them with the simple syrup. Allow buns to cool and dry. Serve buns warm or at room temperature. Enjoy.

Teriyaki aioli for Asian-style pulled pork tacos

1/2 cup (150 g) mayonnaise

2 tbsp (30 mL) teriyaki sauce, store-bought

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) fresh ginger, grated

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) garlic, minced

1 tsp (5 mL) fresh lemon juice

Whisk ingredients together to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until needed.

Karen Gordon is a food blogger from North Vancouver who shares her recipe creations online at and on Instagram at @karen.t.ology

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