Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daring to do it: Cha Sui and Cha Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Cha Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Cha Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

I will be honest with you. When I first saw this challenge I was not impressed. Ok, I was impressed, I mean, this is something I would never have thought to make in a home kitchen. I guess it is more that I wasn't enthused. This is not really a Kosher/vegetarian dish. Traditionally, cha sui is pork. When Hubby asked what the challenge was, I said "barbecue pork buns." For a long time there I pretty much put it out of my mind, and figured I would just sit this one out. But I finally got to the point when I was about to go away for a week, and not come back until posting day. It was literally a case of do the challenge tonight or not do it at all. And when push came to shove, I didn't want to sit it out. And I am SO glad that I didn't! This was super yummy, and I am already trying to narrow down the possibilities for fillings when I make these again!
I started with the bun dough. This is a sweet yeasted dough, which didn't scare me, as I work with yeast pretty regularly. I was dismayed, though, with how my yeast-warm water-sugar combination looked after 15 minutes. Not frothy, foamy, or active looking at all. I was all of a sudden back to thinking that I wasn't destined to do this challenge... I stuck with it, though, and kept moving forward. Instead of using all A.P. flour, I substituted 1/4 whole wheat flour. Then I used the mixer to kneed. I had to add a lot more flour to get a good working consistency to my dough, but I eventually got there. Into a greased bowl, time to rise.
Next it was time to work on the filling. Generally speaking, the filling wasn't too strange - marinated protein sauteed with green onions and various sauce-making ingredients. (Yes, this is very much an over-simplification. Check out Sara's actual, informative, detailed recipe here...) After I did the measuring (and improvising, based on what ingredients I did and did not have on hand), I let Little Girl mix the marinade. The did a great job, and spilled a lot less than I would have! This was then poured over the tofu and left to marinate for not nearly long enough. (The flavor was good, but it would have been better if I had planned ahead and let it sit for the recommended time!)
I cooked the tofu in the oven for about 15 minutes, then followed the written directions for the pork filling Sara had given.
Filling done, it was time to work the dough. After more than five hours of rising time, my dough ball looked like this:
Not nearly as impressive as I would have thought, but, again, I stuck to it and continued. The dough was divided into 12 balls which were rolled out into disks. One disk, though, was commandeered by Little Girl to "work with." It became a snake, a turtle, a necklace... and eventually small baked (unfilled) rolls for her to eat, or not, as she saw fit. The filling was spooned into the disks which were then closed around it. (Hubby could not figure out how I had gotten the filling inside the buns... I probably shouldn't let him see this post and let him continue thinking that I am just that good!)
As I don't have a steamer basket, I baked my buns. I did not use the egg wash on them, even though the recipe called for it. They still developed an amazing golden brown color. And despite my concerns about the yeast, the buns were fluffy and light, so it all worked out for the best.
All of us around the table loved these "pork" buns. I was so glad that I finally decided to participate, and they were totally worth it. I am definitely going to make these again - both with the given (if somewhat altered) recipe and with yet to be determined fillings of a less traditional style!
Thank you so much, Sara, for teaching me something so new, and for being so supportive and encouraging. This was a wonderful challenge, and I highly recommend that you check out the versions created by my fellow Daring Cooks!


  1. I'm glad that you didn't sit this one out. I'll bet yours were super yummy. I love the flexibility of this method. Just about anything could act as a filling. YUM!

  2. It's great that you figured out a way to make this one work for you.
    It seems like the options for fillings are endless!

  3. My yeast mixture didn't get foamy either and I know it wasn't the yeast, as it was a brandnew, fresh container. So maybe we just weren't destined for foamy yeast}:P

    Great job, nonethe less!

  4. My yeast mixture didn't get very foamy either and I was worried too, but the buns grew enormously in the steamer! Marinated tofu sounds like a great filling, and I think lots of vegetables would be tasty too. Glad you decided to participate!