The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough Cha Siu Bao 叉燒麵包

Benito's picture

Sourdough Cha Siu Bao 叉燒麵包

My first time making buns and also first time making filled buns. Most Asian people will have fond memories of these types of buns from their childhood, I certainly do.  I still crave these on a regular basis but seldom get to Chinatown to have one.  I decided that I would do a mashup and adapt two recipes, one for a Tangzhong bun and the other for the bbq pork filling and combine them to make these.  I wasn’t able to find a decent sourdough cha siu bao recipe.

I decided to use Maurizio’s soft sourdough rolls recipe and the Omnivores cookbook bbq pork filling recipe and general formula.  However, I will say that following the baking proceedure from the Omnivore website led me astray.  Their baking temperature was 350ºF and was a brief 12-15 mins.  At twenty minutes they were far from done so I had to extend the baking for probably close to 40 mins.  Next time I would bake as I have written below.


Overnight sweet levain build  76ºF 12 hours to peak.  This was way too long, the levain was way past peak at this time.  I assume that Maurizio found that his levain was slow to ferment because of the sugar, I would change the ratio to do an overnight in the future.


Take butter out of fridge before bed.


Prepare Tangzhong first step next morning and allow to cool.

Mix room temperature butter 69 g with 69 g AP flour.  Set aside.  This makes incorporating the butter much quicker.


Mix in a mixer until well developed gluten

131 g water

All Levain

54 g Bread flour 

Use 223 g AP flour (69 g of flour used to mix with butter) so total AP flour as in chart 

All Tangzhong

8 g salt

28 g sugar 


Then add butter AP flour mix until dough nice and strong.


At 76ºF bulk ferment the dough until almost doubled in size about 3.5 hours, dough should be smooth and puffy.  Do 3 sets of coil folds at 30 mins intervals.


Will be chilling the dough at the end of bulk to make it easier to shape.

Make the Filling 


Filling Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 clove garlic , grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 heaping cup (180 g / 6.5 oz) homemade char siu , diced (or store-bought char siu) 1.5 cups is better 


  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • Egg wash



  • While the dough is resting, combine all the filling ingredients in a small pot except for the diced char siu. Mix until the cornstarch is dissolved fully.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, so you can draw a line on the bottom of the pot with a spatula, about 1 minute. Take the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool off. Once cooled, add the diced char siu and mix until it is evenly distributed.

Place dough in fridge for 15 mins chill to allow easier divide and shape after bulk fermentation is complete.  The longer it is chilled the longer it will take to come back up to temperature to complete final proof.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces rolling each into tight ball, cover with a towel until used.



Shape the buns

  • One piece at a time, pull and pinch the edges of the dough to the top until the dough is round. Flip the piece so that the pinched part of the dough is on the work surface. Place your palm and fingers over the ball forming a domed cage, move the dough in small circular motions while applying light pressure to seal it.
  • Once all the pieces are formed, you can begin filling them. One at a time, use your palm to flatten the ball, then gently spread the edges until the dough has a 4 to 5” (10 to 13 cm) diameter. You should keep the center a bit thicker than the edges so the buns will be shaped evenly once wrapped.
  • Place a tablespoon of filling in the center. Gather the edges over the filling and pinch them together to seal it on top. Flip over the bun and roll it in the same circular motion as before to seal, but be gentle so the filling doesn’t tear through the dough. (If a piece of pork starts to poke out or looks like it’s about to you can pinch the dough over the trouble area and smooth it out with your finger.)
  • Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking tray, at least 1” (2.5 cm) apart, and cover them with plastic wrap or in a plastic bag. Let the buns rise until they’re fully proofed, judge proof by finger poke test.   At 72-74ºF 2.5 hours to fully proof longer if dough was cold retarded.


Prepare egg wash 

Beat one egg with a bit of milk.



  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. 
  • Gently brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the top of each bun. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds to garnish, if using.
  • Bake for 20 minutes rotating halfway through.  Then decrease the temperature to 350ºF and bake until rich brown colour.
  • Let the buns rest until slightly cooled. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store and reheat


  • Once the buns have fully cooled, you can place them in a large ziplock bag. It’s OK to leave the buns at room temperature for a day. Store them in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat the refrigerated buns, heat them in a microwave or a 350°F (176°C) oven until warmed throughout. For frozen buns, reheat them in a 350°F (176°C) oven without thawing until warmed throughout, 10 minutes or so.


Benito's picture

Now that I have eaten three, yes three, I can see that my shaping needs to be adjusted.  In order to have a nice amount of bread around the filling you leave the center of the circle of dough thicker than the edges.  However, from this photo below you can see I over did the thinner edges leaving too little bread on the bottom of the bun.  Considering this, I did do well and only had one leak any filling, so there is that!  The pork filling is so delicious and exactly I was hoping for.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Amazing Benny, I've long wanted to make something like this (and in Russia we have a big tradition of "little pies" too - the same concept, but very different traditional fillings and flavours), and yours look stunningly beautiful.

Benito's picture

Thank you Ilya, since the CB was to bake something outside your usual I decided it was time to finally bake these household favorites.  Glad I made them, we ate half tonight and will have the other half tomorrow for dinner.  I will definitely make these again and see if changes to the baking improve the bun part of it a bit.

Looking forward to see what you bake next.


Floydm's picture

These look great. Well done.

Benito's picture

Thank you very much Floyd, I now know what to work on for my next bake of this.  I was also thinking of adding an egg to the dough as well, decisions decisions.


Kistida's picture

Usually when I make charsiu they never last long enough to be in buns! I’ve gotta try these one day. :)

- Christi

Benito's picture

Thank you Christi, do you make your own bbq pork? I didn’t make my own bbq pork.  If I make this again, I’d also perhaps add an egg to this dough recipe to make it a bit more enriched.


Kistida's picture

Charsiu or even Chinese pork jerky are fun to make at home, although they take time. You can adjust and control what you want in the meat. :)

I do have a yeasted tz recipe that I’ve used for coconut buns. I figure I could use the same dough or modify it to an sd version for charsiu buns too. 

Benito's picture

Totally you could use that dough recipe.  Would you mind sharing your recipe for the cha siu?


Kistida's picture

Here you go, enjoy!

Pre-marinade (optional)

  • 800g to 1kg boneless chicken breast or thigh/pork tenderloins/shoulder/collarbeck
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt/buttermilk 


  • 2-3 tbsp sesame seed oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1” ginger, minced or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 30ml (1/8 cup) Kikkoman light soy sauce 
  • 43g (2 tbsp) honey or maltose
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) Shaoxing wine 
  • 2 tbsp (1/8 cup) hoisin sauce 
  • 2 cubes red bean curd + 1 tbsp its liquid
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/8 tsp paprika/chili powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp red food colouring (optional) 

Tenderize meat with yogurt or buttermilk for about 1-3 hours. Drain, shake the excess off and proceed with char siu marinade. 

In a small mixing bowl, mash the red bean curd and its liquid until there are no more big chunks. Then add this and the marinade ingredients into a saucepan and heat on medium heat while stirring until the marinade sauce begins to boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Keep half of the marinade for basting/brushing. 

Transfer marinade to a large bowl. Place meat pieces into sauce and coat each piece. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 24 hours.
Preheat oven for medium heat, 300°F (150°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper/foil and lightly grease a rack.
Remove pieces of chicken/pork from marinade and let excess drip off. Place on prepared baking sheet (I use a Nordicware oven bacon rack).
Brush with marinade and bake for about 1 hour 15-30 minutes.  

Cook the leftover  and reserved marinade. When it begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

Baste/brush with *cooked marinade every 20-30 minutes while turning pieces of meat.   

Continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 165-175°F (74-79°C) chicken pieces; 145-160°F (60-71°C) for pork.  

Towards the last 15 minutes, set the oven to broil before brushing with basting sauce, then broil 5-10 minutes each side after glazing (about 10-20 minutes broiling time). 

When the meat is done (with caramelised bits), remove from oven, rest it for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Then, slice and serve. 

For additional sauce (for dipping charsiew), reheat the basting sauce to a gentle boil for 1-2 minutes before use.  

*Cook and reduce marinade for basting

Pour the leftover marinade through a strainer into a saucepan. If this is insufficient, add the reserved marinade as well.  

Cook it on medium heat until it reduces to about 1/4 of its original volume, about 10 minutes.

Glaze the meat with the reduced marinade every 20 minutes. 

High heat bake:

Bake the chicken at 180°C/350°F skin-side up for 30 minutes (20 minutes for skinless chicken/pork). Flip the pieces and bake for another 10 minutes. Before returning skin-side up and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.  

Allow the meat to rest 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.  

Adapted from these sites:

Benito's picture

That’s awesome, thank you Christi.  I’ve copied that for future use.


loaflove's picture

Hi Kristi.  Can you show a picture of the red bean curd?  I think i  know what it is but not 100% sure.  Tiny dense cubes in jars with liquid? very pungent? 

Kistida's picture

.. but they’re in a thick soupy red sauce. I get them from here:

hope this helps. :) (I tried attaching a photo of it, it was huge on the page)

loaflove's picture

Thanks!  I've had the non red version of it as a kid.  Brings back memories.  Besides salty it's hard to describe the flavor. Lots of umami .  I was trying to remember what it is called in chinese.  with help from my sister, it's "foo yue"

Kistida's picture

I’ve no clue how to pronounce it nor read the label (a banana here!). But it makes the charsiu smell and taste amazing.