[Puerto Don Juan, Baja California, Mexico; 28º 56.45'  N/113º 27.14' W]

This recipe is from the Amberchan family (John, Judy, Gaby and Sami) aboard the 60 foot steel sailing vessel, Encanto, and is a family recipe from Judy’s family.  Carina’s crew had the pleasure of working with the Amberchans on repairing their mainsail in Puerto Don Juan, near Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California Mexico in the summer of 2004.  During the project, Judy kept the entire crew well fed with homemade delights - including this Char Sui Bao - from her large lovely galley.

Steamed Bao Dough

(makes 24 buns, small)



            2 tsp active dry yeast

            1 cup lukewarm water ~110º

            ½ cup sugar

            1 ½ cups cake flour or fine harina


In a large bowl, mix the yeast with water and sugar and let stand for 10 min.  Stir in flour until well blended.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let mixture rise in warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until puffy and bubbly.



            ½ tsp salt

            1 Tbsp rice vinegar

            2 c cake flour

            1 Tbsp baking powder

            1 Tbsp baking soda

            1 Tbsp shortening


Stir the salt and vinegar into the Starter.  In another bowl, sift together the 2 cups flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Stir the flour mixture into the yeast mixture.  When combined, add shortening and work it in with your fingers.  The dough will become a sticky, somewhat shaggy mass.  Turn dough onto a well floured board and knead it for five minutes or until smooth, adding flour as necessary.


Grease a large, clean bowl with a little shortening, place the dough in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap.  Let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour.   After rising, lightly punch down dough, then proceed to Steaming Process (below).


(If you have prepared the filling ahead and it is cold,  let it come back to room temperature at this time.)


Char Sui Filling


Char Sui:

            1 tsp salt

            ¼ cup hoisin sauce

            ¼ cup ketchup

            ¼ cup honey, plus two Tbsp for glazing

            1 ½ - 2 lbs boneless country style pork


Marinate for 3 hours.  Pre heat oven to over 400º F.  Place meat on oiled broiling pan and bake 25-30 minutes.  When pork is cooked, brush with honey to glaze.


Filling Sauce:

            1 Tbsp sugar

            2 tsp soy sauce

            1 tsp rice wine or sherry

            1 Tbsp oyster sauce

            1 Tbsp hoisin sauce

            1 tsp sesame oil

            1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water

            ½ lb. char sui – diced


Note: In Chinatown San Francisco the filling is all BBQ pork and sauce but the Chan family (including the Amberchans of the sailing vessel Encanto) adds vegetables and any meat they have including: ground pork, Chinese sausage, celery, BBQ pork, jicama, green onion, yellow onion, shitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots.


In a small saucepan, mix together 1/3 cup water, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil.  Cook on medium heat until sauce is bubbly,  Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 1 minute until thickened. 


Remove sauce from the heat and stir in char sui.  Cool to room temperature.  Filling can be made days in advance or even frozen for later use.  Filling should be room temperature for use.


Steaming Process:


Cut 24 x 2 inch squares of parchment paper


Divide dough into 24 pieces, roll into balls, then flatten into 3 inch circles.  Place circle of dough in the palm of your hand and spoon 2 tsp of filling into it.  Gather edges of dough together and pinch tightly.  Place bun on square of parchment and place in steamer tier.  Repeat until tier is full.  Stack two tiers covering the top loosely with plastic wrap or cover.  Let rise for 30 minutes.  You’ll have to steam the buns in 2 or 3 batches – batches 2 and 3 can be allowed to rise under a damp cloth.


Bring water to boil over high heat.  Heat/steam buns for 12-15 minutes, replenishing water between batches.  Serve warm.