Steamed Pork Buns


Emma Alter Photo
Emma Alter

Difficulty Level Easy to moderate

Whenever we make a trip down to Toronto's original Chinatown, my husband always makes a beeline for the Chinese bakery that makes his favourite pork buns. He's not alone. The store has been there for some 40-odd years and there is always a lineup out the door. I like pork buns as much as the next person, but I'm always a bit suspicious of the alarming red colour of the meat. When I was looking up recipes for this, I came across a number that said to add red food colouring to the marinade.

We've talked about food colouring and food additives in the past on Planet Green, and it seems to me that this is something that you just don't need to ingest. There is no question that the pork inside buns isn't going to look the same as what you get at the Chinese takeaway, but in this case, I think that's a good thing.

You have to make the meat filling, then the dough for the buns and then the filling, but don't let the three parts to this recipe put you off making it. It really is quite easy and it makes a lot of fabulous buns. I cut the recipe in half and we will get two meals out of it. Like all yeast doughs, it just takes a bit of time and organization. You can make all three components in advance and then just assemble the buns when you are ready. I started with a recipe from one cookbook and then found another one I liked better while the pork was marinating, so I just mashed the two recipes together, and it worked pretty well.


Barbecued Pork
1 lb pork fillet or pork loin cut into 1 1/2" slices
2 tsp sesame paste
1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tsp Shaoxing wine or sherry
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/4 sugar
1 clove minced garlic
Basic Dough
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups warm water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little more
2 tbsp peanut or safflower oil, plus a little more for greasing the bowl
2 tsp baking powder
Pork Filling
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp cornstarch
(for 24 buns)


  1. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and add the yeast. Mix lightly, and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Place the flour in a mixing bowl, and add the yeast mixture and the oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients to a rough dough. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. If it is very sticky, knead in 1/4 cup additional flour. The dough should be soft. Lightly grease a bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, and turn it so that all sides of the dough are coated. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rise for 4 hours in a warm area, free from drafts.
  3. Uncover the dough, punch it down and turn in out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough, and make a well in the centre. Place the baking powder in the well, and gather up the edges around the baking powder to enclose it. Pinch the edges to seal. Lightly knead the dough to incorporate the baking powder evenly. If necessary, you can cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
  4. Cut the pork from the barbecue recipe into a dice.
  5. Heat a wok add everything but the 4 tbsp of water and cornstarch. Heat until boiling. Mix the 4 tbsp of water and cornstarch in a small bowl and add to the sauce, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps. Cook until the sauce is very thick. Add the diced pork , toss lightly to coat with the sauce and remove from heat. Allow to cool completely.
  6. Cut the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface form each half into a long snakelike roll about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Cut each roll into 12 pieces. With a cut edge down use your fingers to flatten each piece into a 3 inch circle. The edges should be thinner than the centre. Place a tablespoon of the pork mixture in the centre of the dough. Gather the edges of the dough together at the top and give it a slight twist to enclose the filling. Place the finished buns about 1 inch apart in a bamboo steamer lined with waxed paper that is punched with small holes. Let the buns rise for 15 minutes, covered.
  7. Fill a pot with water and bring to the boil. Place the covered bamboo steamer over the boiling pot and steam over high heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the buns are puffed and springy. To reheat, steam the buns for 10 minutes over high heat.
This recipe appears in: Chinese
You Might Also Like
Pasta Niçoise

Anyone can cook. Take this to heart the next time you embark of trying to cook authentic French cuisine. Read our recipes to find out everything you need to know.

Spinach and Mushroom Risotto

Learn how to properly prepare Italian cuisine by following our easy-to-understand recipes that walk you step-by-step through the process.

search recipes
Don't Miss