Baked BBQ Pork Buns (叉烧包)
4 min read

Baked BBQ Pork Buns (叉烧包)

We are already halfway through July – and I’ve been thinking about ways that I can make myself feel “more productive” to get me through this annoying and trying time. I suppose applying to jobs is my job, considering it takes a lot of effort and time to rework my resume, write a cover letter, and actually apply (and most of the time fill in all that information AGAIN on the website because resume parsers are crap), but recently it has been feeling more and more soul-draining. And exercising, reading, doing crosswords, etc… hasn’t been enough to distract me. I know that not having a job doesn’t make me an inferior person. I know there are millions of other people right now who are also unemployed – whether because of COVID-19 or by choice. I know that because there are so many more people looking for a job this now makes my chances of landing a job even slimmer. So just by probability, most likely I won’t have a job before this year is over. It took me almost 9 months to get a job to begin with, and now the 9 month countdown begins again. And I have to be okay with that.

I have not found any desire to “create art” – which you would think, since I supposedly call myself an “artist,” I would find comfort in “creating art,” but no, I have no desire to draw or paint or photograph or edit. Instead, these are things that I have found comfort in: thinly slicing onions. Peeling and chopping garlic. Stirring together steel cut oats and peanut butter and honey. All that to say, I’ve realized that I can call cooking my “creative outlet” and although I do get tired of it sometimes, it’s a way to kill two birds with one stone. Maybe three. Feed myself and Jeremiah, release pent up job frustration, AND generate blog content! Win-win-win!

I was kindly gifted a packet of yeast for my birthday, and I had been thinking about what I wanted to make with this precious packet of yeast. I settled on BBQ pork buns, because I was sent the cookbook A Common Table for my birthday and was instantly enamored with it. The recipes, photos, writing… all so elegant, and simple! I also had bought several pounds of pork shoulder on a whim the last time I went grocery shopping, so it felt like a sign. Plus, I got to use my new Silpat, another birthday present! So I used basically all my birthday presents for this recipe. Thanks, friends.

A couple of notes on the recipe:

  • The enriched bread dough she has is quite similar to the King Arthur milk bread dough recipe, which I had used before, with a major difference of using very soft butter instead of melted butter. This made the kneading quite messy at the end, but the resulting buns had a sort of… squishy yet fluffy texture to it? Probably because there were pockets of butter that did not completely mix in, and melted and steamed inside the bun during cooking.
  • I am not good at kneading the dough to make it very smooth – or maybe I just don’t knead it long enough or hard enough.
  • My active dry yeast did not bloom as much as I expected it to, which was a little concerning. So my dough did not rise as much either, which made much smaller buns. I mean, it did rise a little bit – after I put it in the refrigerator for about 18 hours, instead of letting it rise on the counter. Maybe I should have waited even longer.
  • I was lazy and did not roll out the buns with a rolling pin and just used my hands. I probably could have gotten them bigger by using a rolling pin, but I stopped caring because I figured the lack of rise would make these buns not ideal anyways.
  • I also was super sloppy with the egg wash because again, by that point, I did not care. So the egg pooled around the bottom of the buns and cooked and some buns have little bits of baked egg around the bottom…
  • Interestingly, now I have char siu recipes suggested to me on YouTube because Big Brother Google sees everything. A recipe I watched roasted the pork on a wire rack (well, actually he uses two steamer racks, but I happen to have a wire rack so I would use that) and that sounds like a good idea for next time.

The pork itself was pretty good, but combining it with even more hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauce, etc for the filling pushed it to the next level. As I was filling the buns, I probably ate as much of the filling as I put in.

They’re small, and not very photogenic, but Jeremiah’s review validated my efforts: “They taste like… no wait, I don’t have to say ‘like.’ They are pork buns.”