Monday, April 06, 2009

Recipe - Sio Pao (pork-filled steamed buns)

This Filipino street food snack common in Asia is also known as Salapao (Thailand), Baozi (China), Momo (Tibet), Nikuman (Japan), Bánh bao (Viet Nam), Manapua (Hawaii), and probably other things in other places. The primary difference from Peirogi, Ravioli, Chinese steamed (or pan-fried) dumplings (aka pot-stickers) and the like is that Sio Pao uses leavened flour, giving the finished product a more bready texture.

Sio Pau

Makes 1 dozen buns.


  • 1 16oz package Bot Banh Bao flour. It should say "Steamed Buns" somewhere on the label. If you can't find it or order it online, I believe you can substitute one pound of all-purpose flour (or farina/semolina flour) and add one package of active dry yeast.
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 c fresh milk
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • flour
  • 2 tbsp warm water
  • cupcake papers
  • (optional) 2 tbsp vinegar


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 large onion, chopped fairly fine
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • cooking spray or 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • (optional) 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preparing the dough:

  • Add the sugar and milk to a bowl, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Gradually add the flour (and yeast if you're using that) to the bowl, stirring all the while.
  • Knead the dough about 20 minutes.
  • Add the oil.
  • Knead another 10 minutes, making sure to get all of the oil into the dough.
  • Leave the dough to rest in the bowl, covered with a damp cloth, for at least a half hour.

Preparing the filling:

  • Mix the cornstarch, paprika, nutmeg, brown sugar, chili powder, and (optional) cayenne pepper in a small bowl so it can be added all at once later.
  • Grease a frying pan with the oil (or spray it with cooking spray).
  • Add the onlion and garlic, and fry at medium heat, stirring and turning constantly until the onions turn translucent and soft.
  • Add the ground pork and continue to fry, breaking up the pork with the edge of your spatula as you go, turning and stirring until all of the pork appears a greyish color (cooked with no pink showing).
  • Add the soy sauce, and then immediately the dry mixture from the small bowl.
  • Stir until well mixed.
  • Taste. If the filling isn't spicy enough, you may want to add more cayenne pepper.
  • Divide into twelve equal portions (about 2 tbsp each) and set aside.

Making the buns:

  • Put a tablespoon of flour and two tablespoons of warm water in a small clean bowl and mix to form a thin paste.
  • Fill your steamer with water and put it on high heat. Add the vinegar if you want the buns to be especially white.
  • Divide the dough into twelve equal portions and put all but one back in the bowl and cover.
  • Scatter a pinch of flour on a flat surface.
  • Put the dough piece on top of the flour and mash it down with the palm of your hand to make a disk.
  • Roll the dough with a rolling pin, making sure to turn the dough as you go (or roll in different directions) so that the dough retains a roughly circular shape. When you're done the dough should be about five inches across.
  • Dip a finger in the flour paste and run it around the outside edge of the dough. The paste will act as a glue to help seal the bun together.
  • Pick up the dough and lay it across the palm of your hand.
  • Spoon one portion of the filling into the center of the dough.
  • Use the hand not holding the dough to bring up the sides of it from all directions, then pinch the top of it together to seal the bun. Make sure there are no holes.
  • Turn the bun over so the folded side is down, and put it in one of the cupcake papers.
  • Continue making buns until you have enough to fill your steamer's basket without deforming each other as they expand. My steamer basket holds six, your results may vary.
  • Take the basket out of the (now boiling) steamer and put your buns in it.
  • Put the basket back in the steamer and steam, covered, for ten minutes. While it's steaming, continue to make buns.
  • Take the cover off the steamer and shake the condensation off it.
  • Put the basket back in the steamer and steam, covered, for ten minutes.
  • Take the buns out (I use a serving spoon as they're too hot to touch)
  • Continue making and steaming batches of buns until done.

These are best eaten while still hot. However, they can be frozen and re-steamed (or microwaved) later.

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