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.

Manapua (Char Siu Bao)

(BBQ Pork Buns)

August 22: National Bao Day

Wow for “Bao”! The animated short film from Pixar won an Oscar in February 2019, the first for a female and Asian creator Domee Shi. The cute, little movie is about a Chinese empty-nester mom who misses her son so much that she dreams that the baozi (bun) she makes is actually her boy. Watch an edited version of the Academy Award-winning film below:

Islander’s Mommy used to make bao for the family, too, with shredded shoyu (soy sauce) chicken or different savory fillings. Her Filipino version is called siopao, derived from the Chinese char siu bao, which is typically filled with an auspiciously red-colored chopped barbecued pork. In Hawaii, this ‘ono (delicious) bao is known as manapua.

Now that Mommy is an empty-nester herself and nearing her eighties, she rarely makes them anymore and simply buys a few manapua from the trucks, bakeries or grocery stores on Oahu for herself and Daddy.

But Islander wanted to learn and continue the tradition and make fresh, homemade manapua as it has become a special ritual for her and her ‘ohana (family) to stay connected to each other and their culture. It may be a little time-consuming to make these little dumpling buns, but it gives everyone some time to “talk story” and spend quality time together.

Take inspiration from “Bao”, the Oscar movie, and make memories—and manapua/siopao/bao—for a delicious snack, especially on National Bao Day!


(Adapted from “Dim Sum Made Easy” by Lucille Liang)

For the dough

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder (added after the first rise)

For the char siu (barbecue pork) filling

  • ½ – ¾ pound Chinese-style barbecue roast pork, chopped finely
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tapioca flour/starch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • red food coloring (optional)


Make the buns by placing the flour in a large mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over the stove until warm. Remove from the stovetop. Stir in the sugar to dissolve.

Stir in the yeast mixture into the milk mixture. Slowly pour everything over the flour and mix well. Knead to form a soft dough. Cover with a damp cotton towel or cloth. Let the dough rise in a warm place for two or more hours until it is doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the pork filling by chopping it finely into tiny squares. Set aside. Pour water into a small saucepan and place it on the stovetop. Mix in the flour and tapioca starch.

Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Heat on medium and stir until thickened.

Add the chopped pork and mix well. Stir in some red food coloring. Remove from the stovetop and let the filling cool. Cut out two-inch squares of wax paper. Lightly oil it. Set aside.

Place the risen dough on a clean, lightly floured surface. Punch down and fold in the baking powder, kneading for another 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and softer. Sprinkle occasionally with flour to prevent from sticking. Roll out the dough into a long sausage shape about 1½ inch thick.

Divide and cut into 20 pieces. Roll into a ball. Flatten the ball into discs with a rolling pin.

Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the middle. Gather up the edges, twist and seal the bottoms. Place seam-side down onto a greased wax paper square. Continue assembling the other buns and place on a baking sheet.

Cover the buns with a damp cotton towel or cloth. Let them rise for another half hour. In a lightly greased steamer, place the buns a few inches apart. Cover and steam above boiling water for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the lid of the steamer and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve hot.


  • We tried making the traditional twisty tops like the one in the “Bao” Pixar animated short film but prefer the smooth rounded shape instead (it is also what we are most used to but still tastes ‘ono).
  • We made our char siu barbecued pork filling the day ahead of assembling the manapua. Refrigerating the filling allows it to be less “wet” and is easier to scoop into the flattened dough.
  • The filling used in the “Bao” movie is seasoned ground pork and scallions instead of chopped char siu. Here is the link to Domee Shi’s mom’s recipe.
  • We used both a bamboo and stovetop steamer but prefer the former as the wood absorbs more moisture and won’t drip some condensation water on the smooth manapua tops when lifting the lids.
  • Steam and cool all the manapua. IF there are any leftovers, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze in a zipper top bag. Re-steam for 15-20 minutes. Steaming instead of microwaving keeps the buns soft.
  • There are different kinds of manapua with various sweet or savory fillings. The buns may be steamed or baked—and even fried! But each dough is different for steaming, baking and frying.