Dave Bakes. Dave Steams. Ha!
Siopao. (Pronounced She-UH-pow). The sound of that word conjures up distinct memories growing up eating Filipino food. Even though this is really of Chinese origin. Steamed yeast buns stuffed with a saucy meat filling, usually chicken, but also available in pork. Sometimes with a slice of hard boiled egg. Unforgettable.
That’s how I remember it. I found various recipes online and decided to try making it. I thought, these are going to be a cinch! I was wrong. Aside from the time it takes, as most yeast recipes are time consuming, I did not anticipate how sticky the dough would be. It was really challenging to handle the dough. In my mind, I was hoping to form cute little spiral twisted tops, but not. I fond that I could barely stuff them and close them without messing up the smooth top. But I suppose practice makes perfect. So I probably need to make these a few more times, but decided that they are good enough to share here!
Just in case you are wondering, siopao is Filipino for humbow, or hum bao. Plus a few other alternate names, depending on the country. Aside from the influences of other countries on the P.I., obviously, there were a lot of Chinese influences on the Philippines, as well. I would say there is a heavy Chinese influence, especially on the food.
For some reason, I think of cassava cake as representative of my mom, but siopao is all about my dad! Maybe it’s because my first recollection of this tasty treat was eating it with my dad. Or that my dad made the trip to the bakery to buy them, and I was there. I’m not sure, other than I associate this with my dad, more than my mom.
Anyways, the best part is that you can freeze them, then just zap them in the microwave when you need a snack.
Chicken Siopao (Taken directly from Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen)
For dough recipe:
1 cup lukewarm water, around 114 degrees F.
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon, plus 1 and 1/2 teaspoons, active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola, or vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 cup sugar
6 cups flour
4 cups of shredded chicken meat, or pulled pork , if you prefer. I used the chicken meat from a rotisserie chicken that one can find in most grocery stores.
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in it
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled of shells and quartered, optional
Place lukewarm water in a small bowl. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve, followed by the yeast. Set aside undisturbed for about 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes it isn’t frothy on the surface, discard yeast and water and start over.
Beat eggs and place in a stand mixer bowl with a paddle attachment. Add the milk, oil and sugar and mix to combine. Add half of the flour and scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula once in a while.
Slowly add the rest of the flour, while mixing on low. You want the dough to start to leave the sides of the bowl as it is mixed, but to still be sticky. Switch to the dough hook.
The recipe I based this on (see link) suggests to add slowly by the spoonful, up to 3/4 cup of extra flour, but not more than that. I did this, but it was still pretty sticky. But I still managed to get it more smooth and elastic by kneading it on the counter.
Place dough into a large greased, well oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough with oil. Place plastic wrap to cover the bowl tightly, and leave for the dough to double in size in a warm place without a draft in your kitchen. about 1 and 1/2 hours.
(After this point, I had to go to sleep, so I punched the dough down once and reshaped it into a ball, placing more oil into the bowl and turning it once again in the bowl to coat with oil, then covering the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then placed it into the refrigerator. In the morning, I completed the rest of the steps.)
Punch down dough and portion out into 24 equal pieces. I have a scale, so it helped to figure out how many ounces each piece should be by dividing the weight of the dough by 24. This turned out for my portions to be about 2.2 ounces, but this will vary depending on the weight of your dough. The weight should’ve been about 2.3, but I wanted to allow for dough waste, and ended up with about 26 portions. I used a baking sheet to lay the dough pieces, but next time, I think a silpat or long piece of parchment paper or wax paper might be better, as the dough was slightly sticky. I portioned out the meat into 24 even portions, one for each bun.
With greased palms, place one piece of dough in one palm and flatten out on he palm so that it covers the surface of your palm, making the sides thinner than the center. Place a portion of the meat filling on the center where it is thicker, and bring the edges together in the middle, closing the dough around the meat filling by pinching the dough together. If you are going to do the hard boiled egg slices, try to cram one wedge of it in with the stuffing. Confession: I boiled the eggs and tried to do this, but it was too hard to cram all the meat filling with the egg wedges, even though it was only a quarter of an egg. I really wish I put the egg in it, though, because that’s how I remembered them!
Place a small piece of a square parchment paper that has been cut to be the size of the bottoms of each bun. Mine were about the size of a tennis ball. While stuffing and shaping each bun, place the ones made in the fridge.
When ready to steam, place as many as will fit without each of them touching the sides of the steamer, or with each other. If you only have a small rice cooker, that means you’ll have to do them in small batches of three or four, which is a pain, but if you store them in the fridge, they should be okay.
I topped with small cuttings of green onions, but I’ve seen other recipes make slightly more of the sauce used for the meat filling for topping when served.