Char siu bao was one of my favorite picks from the HK bakery my mom and I would go to every week when I was in elementary school. Recently, it's come up again in my life as a favorite of the friend group every time we go out to dimsum.

I don't buy much meat, so here we have a vegan version that uses tofu! Recipe cred to The Woks of Life.

+For the record, the baked bun is superior to the steamed version.


Ingredients

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For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 2.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • pepper to taste
  • 1.25 cup water
  • 2 tbsp flour

For the glaze:

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water

Methodology

Start with the dough since this will take some time to rise.

Add 1/2 cup of the warm water, all the yeast, and 1/3 cup of the bread flour to a bowl. Combine and set aside for 10-15 minutes until the yeast starts doing its thing and making things foamy.

While waiting for the yeast action, we'll prep the tofu.

Press the tofu dry with towels to dry out as much moisture as possible so it's more meaty.

Oops, people slipping in. That's my SO and me in the phone background taken at holiday party 2018. :)

Once dry, dice the tofu into small 1/2-inch cubes.

I found my tofu was still moist, so I started building a lasagna of tofu and paper towels to continue pulling out water.

It hurt my heart a little to use so many paper towels...I should invest in more kitchen towels. :(

Set this aside, and we'll return to the dough.

Add the coconut oil to the yeast mixture and combine until smooth.

Add in the remaining dough ingredients--water, bread flour, sugar, and salt. Knead for 10 minutes, and cover it with a damp towel/plastic and let rest and proof for 1 hour in a warm place.

Now, let's turn back to the filling.

Heat up a frying pan and add the oil, onion, and tofu and cook so the tofu develops some browning. Be careful not to break up the tofu because we want the final product to have clear meat chunks, not a mush.

Add the soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, and pepper to season.

Stir it all up, and then add the water and flour.

Let everything simmer until you have a thick sauce.

Keep it in the fridge to cool slightly and thicken more while waiting for the dough to finish proofing.

When the dough is ready,knead it a bit to punch out the air, and then divide it into 10 pieces. Cover these up with a damp towel so they don't dry out as you work with them one at a time.

Set up your station with flour for dusting your surface, the dough balls, and the filling.

Roll each dough ball into a disc, where the middle is thicker than the edges.

Add 2 tbsp of filling, and fold up the edges and pinch everything shut.

Place seam side down onto your baking sheet. Make sure to keep the unfinished dough balls and finished buns covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap so they don't dry out!

Let the buns sit for 10 minutes, and during this time, preheat the oven to 375F.

When the time has elapsed, combine the sugar & water to form a glaze to brush on top. Turn the oven town to 350F and bake the buns for 20-25 minutes.

Brush them with the glaze again when they come out of the oven.

Results

These were really tasty, but definitely time intensive.

I ended up with leftover filling that was really good over rice, so I'd definitely make that again as part of a mealprep. For the bun, you could taste a little bit of the coconut, so that was funky, but I think this is a really good alternative!

If I were to make again, I'd use the same filling, but use the dough using the tangzhong method from the HK Hot Dog Buns since I'm a bit coconut-averse.