• Barbecue pork belly steamed buns (bao) (China Squirrel)Source: China Squirrel

This is a modern take on the classic yum cha snack - char siu bao or barbecue pork steamed bun. This version has all the caramel, five-spice and soy sauce flavours of traditional char sui but it's served in an open steamed bun.






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (283 votes)


Steamed buns

  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 185 ml (¾ cup) lukewarm water
  • 300 g (2 cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, for brushing 


Barbecued pork belly

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing (Chinese rice) wine
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp cooking caramel (karamel masakan) (see Note)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 cubes red fermented bean curd, crushed, with at least 2 tbsp liquor (see Note)
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp five spice powder
  • 60 g (⅓ cup lightly packed) soft brown sugar
  • 500 g pork belly, rind on, cut into 6–8 cm thick strips
  • 1 cm piece ginger, crushed
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick 


Pickled carrots

  • 2 large carrots, julienned
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125 ml (½ cup) rice vinegar
  • 125 ml (½ cup) white vinegar
  • 110 g (½ cup) white sugar 


To serve

  • 1 bunch perilla (shiso) leaves (see Note)
  • 1 long, red chilli, seeds removed (if hot) and thinly sliced

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Proving time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Marinating time: 1 hour

For the steamed buns, dissolve the yeast into 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm water and set aside for 5 minutes.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt and mix well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Slowly add the yeast mixture into the well and mix until the flour becomes clumpy. Add the remaining 60 ml (¼ cup) lukewarm water - you may not need to add all the water – until you can form a ball of dough. Turn out and knead on a lightly floured surface for 10–15 minutes or the dough is smooth.

Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 hour).

Cut the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Using a rolling pin, flatten each portion into a rough oval shape. Brush half of the oval with the oil, then fold over the other half. Place the dough onto a square of baking paper that is slightly larger in size than the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough. Leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.

Place the buns and its baking paper, in batches if necessary, in a large bamboo steamer and steam for 12 minutes. Serve immediately. 

For the barbecued pork belly, combine all the ingredients, except the pork belly, ginger, star anise and cinnamon, and mix well to make a marinade. Place the pork belly in a bowl, pour over the marinade, stir to coat well and marinate for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the pork belly on a wire rack in a roasting tray, reserving the marinade, and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the pork belly, baste with the marinade and turn over. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes.

Remove the pork belly and place on a cooling rack or chopping board. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

While the pork is resting, place the excess marinade in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the ginger, star anise and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Transfer the sauce to a bowl to serve.

When the pork has fully rested, cut into slices of desired thickness and serve.

For the pickled carrots, combine the carrot and salt and leave let sit for 15 minutes.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegars and sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool, then pour over the carrot. Pickle for at least 1 hour before serving.

To assemble the pork buns, open the steamed bun in half and layer with perilla leaves, pickled carrots, 3–4 pieces of pork belly, some barbecue sauce and 1 – 2 slices of chilli. 


Cook's notes

• Cooking caramel and red fermented beancurd are available from Chinese grocers.

• Perilla (shiso) is available from Asian grocers and select greengrocers.


Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel


This recipe is from The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.

This recipe has been edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the series.