This pork bun filling is made with succulently tender bits of pork slowly braised in classic Chinese pork BBQ ingredients. It is rich, thick and has a good balance of sweet and salty. A perfect filling for steamed buns (pao/bao/ Filipino siopao/ cuapao) and baked buns.
Pork bun filling
Ahh…I’ve dreamt of making this for the longest longest time! Finally, I can now make one of my favorite childhood snack at home. And I’m so excited to share it with you.
This pork bun filling is inspired by the siopao pork asado I grew up eating in the Philippines. Yes, it has a Spanish name but it is a mainly Filipino-Chinese dish use as a filling for siopao/ cha siu bao.
In other parts of the world, this is recognized as braised char siu/char siew. But what we are making today is a much simpler version of it.
This recipe only involves braising the meat, no roasting or baking. It uses star anise as its spice but no five-spice powder. It is sweet with just the right amount of saltiness.
What you need
To make this pork bun filling, you will need the following ingredients:
- Pork – use pork butt/shoulder combined with pork belly for added fat i.e. FLAVOR.
- Onion and Garlic – minced so it will blend well with the pork.
- Star Anise – This is a classic ingredient Asian ingredient that adds flavor and aroma to braised dishes.
- Sugar – use brown if you have it. Substitute with white sugar if that’s all you have.
- Soy Sauce – use regular soy sauce. not light nor dark.
- Hoisin Sauce – the main key ingredient of Chinese pork BBQ/pork asado. I’m afraid there’s no other substitute for this.
- Oyster Sauce – adds depth of flavor.
- Water – you will need enough liquid to cook the pork until meltingly tender.
- Cornstarch Slurry – thickens the sauce which makes it easier to use as a filling.
How to make it
And here’s how to make it. It takes more than 1 hour to make it, start to finish, but the effort is only around 10 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Tips on how to make a delicious pork bun filling
- Slice the pork into 1/2 inch thick. This size makes the meat easier to stuff in the dough.
- Before adding the water, cook the pork with the onions and garlic and seasonings like oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and sugar to deepen the flavor.
- Braise it slowly until meltingly tender with the lid on. Taste test the texture of pork at 50 minutes and continue cooking until you get the desired tenderness. I like mine really tender, so it took around 1 hour and 15 minutes to finish the cooking.
- Remember the sauce gets saltier as the sauce reduces i.e. water evaporates. Do a taste test before adding more seasoning/ sugar BEFORE the pork finishes cooking.
Where can you use this pork bun filling?
This pork filling is perfect for steamed buns such as pao/bao, Filipino siopao, and cuapao. You can also use it for baked buns like pandesal or classic bread rolls. Check out my Baked Pork buns recipe!
Here are a few notes on how to use it:
- A compact cold filling is easier to handle and divide into small portions. So once the pork is done, let it cool. Transfer to an airtight container then put in the fridge to set for 6 to 24 hours.
- Scoop the filling using a measuring spoon then place onto the center of the ready-made dough. Use about 1 tbsp of it for a 50g to 60g dough. Use a 1 tsp to 1 1/2 tsp for smaller doughs.
- Do not overfill your dough. An over-filled dough will end up bursting as the dough is cooking/baking.
- Seal the dough tightly to prevent the filling from oozing out.
To make the Pork Bun Sauce/Asado Sauce (optional)
Scoop cooked pork to a heat-proof container and leave about 1/2 cup of the mixture. Add 1/4 water and let the sauce further thicken. Scoop the liquid and strain with a mesh. Set aside and serve with the pork bun.
Combine the strained meat bits and pork to the rest of the mixture.
And that is it! I will be posting baked buns and steamed buns recipes in the blog soon and will use this as the filling. Please watch this space.
Shelf life and storage
This pork filling can last in the fridge for 3 to 5 days and up to 1 month in the freezer. Store in an air-tight container.
Love Asian flavors? Try these recipes!
- Salmon Teriyaki Fried Rice
- Thai Basil Beef Zucchini Stir-fry
- Quick and Easy Beef Stir-fry
- Sweet and Sour Whole Fish
- Misua Soup with Sesame Pork Meatballs
- Sweet and Sour Chicken with Pineapple
- Pork Fried Rice
- Quick and Easy Korean Beef Bulgogi
- Filipino Lumpia (Fried Spring Rolls)
- Sweet and Sour Whole Fish
- Ground Pork and Green Bean Stir fry
- Brown Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage
Pork Bun Filling (for steamed and baked buns)
- 600 grams / 1.3 lbs pork (use a combination of pork butt/shoulder and pork belly)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 small onion (minced)
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 ½ tbsp brown sugar (or white)
- 1 pc chicken bouillon
- 2 cups water (add more as needed)
- 1 pc star anise
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ⅓ cup water
- Place pork in a freezer-safe container. Freeze for 30mins to 1 hour. Once it's firm enough, slice into 1/2 inch thick using a sharp knife.
- Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onions. Saute until fragrant and translucent. Add the slices of pork. Continue cooking until no longer in pink.
- Add hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Simmer for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add water, chicken bouillon and star anise. Cover with lid and let it boil.
- Lower the heat down and cook until pork is succulently tender about 30 to 45 minutes. Taste the sauce. Add sugar as needed.
- Stir in cornstarch slurry, simmer until sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Scoop out extra liquid about 1/2 cup for the bun sauce and transfer to another container.
- Remove star anise and transfer pork to a container and let it cool. Allow to set in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. You can also place it in the freezer for 1 hour to quickly set.
Recipe Notes & Tips:
- Shelf-life and Storage: The pork filling can last in the fridge for 5 days and up to 1 month in the freezer. Store in an airtight container.