Baked Bao (with Char Siu Filling)

August 22: National Bao Day

In a previous post, we blogged about steamed char siu bao (also known as manapua in Hawaii). Islander’s brother, Kahuna, prefers the baked version so we are featuring the recipe here for National Bao Day. He thought that the steamed bao could just be baked but the dough is different, although both can be fried as well.

When he came to visit and stay with us during spring break, Islander had pre-made the filling and roux the day before he arrived and prepped the dough in the morning so it could rise while they were out enjoying the day together. By the afternoon, they assembled the bao, then took their power naps (!) during the second rise. They baked the whole batch for dinner and everything was ready when Highlander came home from work. Only a few leftovers remained, which Kahuna packed for the plane as a souvenir/snack.

The process to make baked bao looks long and laborious. But when making manapua (and memories) with loved ones, it is definitely quality time spent together and everyone enjoys the fruits of their labor. So bake some bao for National Bao Day.


(Adapted from China Sichuan Food)

For the char siu filling

  • 2 cups char siu, diced finely
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


Chop up the char siu into tiny squares. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, mix the water with the cornstarch. Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce.

Stir in the hoisin sauce and sugar until smooth and thickened. Add the char siu and mix well. Set aside to cool (or transfer to a bowl, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight until ready to use).

For the roux

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons water


In a small saucepan, combine the flour with water. Keep stirring over low heat until the mixture is thickened. Place the roux in a cup, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before making the dough.

For the dough

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 ½ tablespoons butter, room temperature

For the egg wash and topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • toasted sesame seeds


Before making the dough, make sure that the roux is at room temperature for half an hour and is mixed well. In a stand mixer using the dough hook, place the roux, milk, sugar and salt.

Then add the bread flour, cake flour and yeast. Knead the dough at slow speed for 10 minutes.

Ad the butter and continue kneading on medium speed for another 10 minutes until the butter is well incorporated. Transfer the dough to a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cool oven until the dough is doubled in size (depending on the weather, this might take between 2-5 hours).

Remove the dough onto a clean, floured surface. Roll and cut into 8-12 pieces (depending on size preference). Take one portion of the dough and roll out into a disc.

Scoop 1-3 tablespoons of the char siu filling (depending on the prefered dough size) into the middle of the disc. Gather the edges and twist to seal. Turn into over and place on lightly greased baking sheet at least two inches apart.

Repeat the process for the other bao. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let rise for another hour or until the dough has doubled in size again. Make the egg wash by beating the egg with water. Brush on top of the bao.

Sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then serve on a tray.


  • Refrigerate leftover bao in a closed container. They are best reheated in the oven for a few minutes rather than in the microwave to retain a softer texture.
  • See our steamed manapua recipe here.