Siopao asado


My New Year’s cooking resolution is to cook more Filipino food, specifically food that I grew up eating. The other week I was having a discussion with my 6-year-old, and told him I was cooking one of Grandma’s recipes. He was like, “oh, so you’re making Chinese food?” Um, nooooo.

I cook a lot, and I cook ‘fiesta’ food on special occasions (pancit, lumpia, leche flan), but aside from rice, I surprisingly don’t cook a whole lot of Filipino food on the regular. I plan on changing that this year: some old recipes and also, hopefully, some recipes I haven’t tried yet will make their way onto this site. I may have to rename it “Crispy Pata” to be accurate!

So in reference to our Chinese/Filipino discussion, I started the year by making siopao on New Year’s day. Siopao is basically a Filipino adaptation of the steamed Chinese char siu bao, but with a uniquely sweet/salty pork filling that is purely Filipino.

I was a bit disappointed with the recipe I ended up using for the dough, so if you have a dough recommendation, send it my way! I found this dough did not have the light, fluffy, slightly chewy quality of most Filipino siopao. (For example, I almost never see siopao that have cracks in it.)

The filling is my own because the Filipina ladies in my family would kill me if I published their top secret recipes. I guesstimated the ingredients, made it my own (I love pork belly so I used it here) and it came out incredibly close to the asado filling I grew up eating.

Siopao asado
Makes a dozen steamed buns

For the bun:
1 cup warm water (about 110F)
2-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (if you only have active dry yeast, make sure to proof it first)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:
2 pounds (1 kg) pork belly
1 cup chicken broth
1 small onion, diced (the size of a shallot)
3 tablespoons Filipino soy sauce (such as Datu Puti, if you don’t have it, a ‘superior’ soy sauce will work)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons sugar

  1. Preparing the filling: Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Combine the pork belly with the chicken broth in a baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 2 hours, or until the pork is very tender. Remove from oven and discard the broth (or set it aside for a different use).
  2. Raise oven temperature to 450 F (220 C). Place the pork back in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 30 minutes, fat side up. Remove and let the pork cool, then chop it into bite-size pieces.
  3. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce in a small bowl. Heat a wok over medium high. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, swirl it around, and add the onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the pork and the sauce. Heat through until the sauce has thickened a bit, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste if necessary. Remove to a bowl and let the filling cool.
  5. For the dough: Combine the water, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add the flour and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic and not sticky. I take it out of the mixer toward the end and put it on a floured surface to knead for a few minutes by hand.
  6. Grease the inside of a large bowl. Turn the dough into it and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.
  7. Remove the dough, sprinkle it with the baking powder and knead it until the baking powder is worked in. Separate into 12 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface. Cover again with a kitchen towel and let it rise for 30 minutes. While the dough is rising, cut 12 squares of parchment paper to go underneath each bun when it steams.
  8. When you are ready to fill the dough, roll the dough out or flatten with your hands and fill with 2 tablespoons of filling. Pinch the dough closed, trying not to get filling on the outside of the bun.
  9. Prepare a wok for steaming. Place the buns in the steaming basket for 15-20 minutes. (Do this in batches if necessary)
  10. Serve warm, or allow to cool, then wrap them in cling wrap and keep in the refrigerator.