Yum Bao: Chinese steamed buns meet Thai sweet pork

A most delicious project: Steamed bao stuffed with Thai sweet pork (muu waan).

A most delicious project: steamed bao stuffed with Thai sweet pork (muu waan).

It’s not often you can credit a success in the kitchen to an Olympic figure skater, but I most definitely owe Brian Boitano a huge thank you for these delightfully decadent pork buns.

The last time I made steamed buns, the filling was fantastic but the buns lacked the fluffy tenderness of the bao from my favorite Chinese restaurant. So I turned to the internet in search of a fairly uncomplicated yeasted steamed bun recipe and somehow landed on one attributed to Mr. Boitano, who apparently has his own cooking show.

While I nearly passed the recipe by for something, well, more authentic, its stellar reviews caught my eye. People seemed to love the recipe, praising the buns for their puffy, fluffy texture. In fact, while reading the comments in other bun recipes that I came across, I saw references to Boitano’s tasty buns (ha!) and was finally convinced to try them out.

Well, Boitano certainly deserves a gold medal for that recipe because it’s pretty awesome. The dough was a dream to work with, very pliable, and the texture was spot-on, light and fluffy even though my pleating was far from delicate. While I think the dough could have used a dash of salt, that’s the only criticism I have. When it came to the filling though, I wouldn’t change a thing — it was utter perfection.

Instead of Boitano’s recipe for pork ribs, I used some of the Thai sweet pork (muu waan) featured in my last post. The “pork candy” is amazing served over coconut rice and tossed into fried rice, so I had a suspicion it would be equally fabulous stuffed into a pillow-soft Chinese steamed bun. I was totally right.

While the process for these buns is a bit time-consuming, don’t let it dissuade you. These are everything your mouth has been wanting.

Making wuu maan (Thai sweet pork)

Making wuu maan (Thai sweet pork)

Getting started! The yeasted dough needs at least 40 minutes to rise so make sure to plan ahead.

Getting started! The yeasted dough needs at least 40 minutes to rise so make sure to plan ahead.

After rising, the dough is rolled into a log and then cut into 12 pieces. (The next time I make these, I'm going to cut it into 20 pieces -- these ended up being huge!)

The dough is then rolled into a log and cut into 12 pieces*.

Roll the pieces into balls

Roll the pieces into balls…

Flatten each ball and roll out into a 3 inch round. Pile the sweet pork in the center. (Add extra sweet soy or hoisin sauce if it seems too dry.)

Flatten each ball and roll out into a 3 inch round. Pile the sweet pork in the center. (Add extra sweet soy or hoisin sauce if it seems too dry.)

Fold up sides, pleating as best you can (clearly I am not an expert pleater!).

Fold up sides, pleating as best you can (clearly I am not an expert pleater!).

Pleated and ready for steaming.

Pleated and ready for steaming.

Once all the buns were ready, I set up my bamboo steamer and let them steam for about 12-14 minutes. * I’m glad I took Boitano’s advice and left lots of room between the buns because these guys got huge. Next time instead of cutting the dough into 12 pieces as recommended, I’ll make 20 small ones.*

Fresh from the steamer...

Fresh from the steamer…

Quite a handful!

Quite a handful!

I don’t know if I will ever try a different recipe for bao – these buns made my heart sing. So, thank you Brian Boitano. To show my appreciation, I will spread the word about your fabulous buns to everyone I know!

My husband with Brian Boitano at a food event in Portland in 2010.

My husband & Brian Boitano at a food event in Portland in 2010. According to my husband they drank wine together and talked about phallic shaped doughnuts. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

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20 thoughts on “Yum Bao: Chinese steamed buns meet Thai sweet pork

    • I’m always willing to cook savory in exchange for your sweets! But if that were to happen we’d both need Boitano because I’d OD on salted caramel. ๐Ÿ˜‰ These were really tasty — I was so happy they were just as delicious I imagined. My kitchen was a bit of a wreck but it was all worth it!

    • Oh yeah, I pretty much hummed it the whole time I wrote this post! =) And these were seriously the best pork buns ever. I know that the bun itself was a big part of the success but that sweet pork is ridiculously good.

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