Siopao (Filipino Sweet Steamed Buns)

Siopao has to be one of my ultimate favourite Filipino snacks. It is essentially the Filipino adaptation of the Chinese barbecue pork bun (“char siu bao”). It consists of a sweet bread-like dough filled with a saucy barbecue or hoisin-style meat. The bun is steamed in a Chinese bamboo steamer resulting in a light and fluffy white bun that is slightly glossy on the outside.

Siopao (pronounced “sio-pau“) is a popular Filipino street food. It is typically filled with pork, although there are other variations with minced chicken and mixed meats and salted duck egg as fillings. In my version I use shredded chicken. Siopao can be enjoyed pretty much any time of the day – from breakfast to a heavy snack to a light lunch. In the Philippines it is often requested as a snack by kids on their way home from school. My fussy child absolutely loves to eat siopao when she gets home from school.

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Siopao Recipe

Makes: 10 buns
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Leavening Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS

For the buns:

  • 400 g plain flour
  • 70 g sugar
  • 7 g fast acting yeast
  • 0.5 tbsp baking powder
  • 160 ml milk lukewarm
  • 80 ml water lukewarm
  • 3 tbsp butter cubed and at room temperature

For the filling:

  • 625 g chicken diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 stalks spring onion white part finely chopped
  • 1.5 tsp five spice
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 0.5 tsp ground black pepper
  • 120 ml water
  • corn flour slurry (2 tbsp corn flour mixed with 80 ml water)

Additional:

  • 1-2 tbsp cooking oil for oiling the bowl and the dough
  • cornflour for flouring your work surface
  • half a small cup of water for sealing the buns
  • 10 flattened out cupcake cases
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar (used during steaming)

METHOD

  1. Prepare the dough for the buns. In a large bowl add the flour, sugar, yeast and baking powder and mix well.
  2. Add the milk and water and use a wooden spoon to start to bring the ingredients together into a dough.
  3. Mix in the butter and knead the dough using a dough hook for around 6 minutes or manually for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, oil the bowl and then add the dough back to the bowl. Turn the dough over to ensure it is slightly oiled all over.
  5. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave the dough to rise for around 90 minutes.
  6. Next prepare the filling. Sautee the garlic and spring onions for 3 minutes. Add in the chicken, five spice, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sugar, pepper and water. Simmer on a low-medium heat with the lid off until the sauce has reduced, around 15-20 minutes, mixing every 5 minutes to ensure that the sauce doesn’t dry out.
  7. Add the cornflour slurry and mix well until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat, use two forks to shred the meat, and then leave it to cool.
  8. Once the dough has risen divide it into 10 equal sized pieces. Use cornflour to flour your surface and roll each piece into a ball. Place the balls back in the bowl and cover with a damp clean tea towel.
  9. Working with one of the dough balls at a time roll the ball into a circle around 15 cm in diameter.
  10. Spoon some of the meat filling onto the centre of the dough circle. Dab your little finger into the water and moisten a 1 cm thick circle at the edge of the dough.
  11. Seal the bun by pulling opposite sides of the dough circle around the meat towards the centre of the circle and squeezing them together. I usually squeeze together eight opposing sides.
  12. You can then roll the bun in your hands slightly to even it out if needed. Place the bun seam side down on the cupcake case.
  13. Repeat steps 9 to 12 for each of the dough balls and until all the meat filling is used up. Place the buns on a large baking tray, cover loosely with cling film and then a tea towel and leave to leaven for a further 30 minutes.
  14. Next pour 1 litre of water and the tablespoon of vinegar into a deep frying pan or a saucepan and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. I use my favourite 28 cm Anolon Sauté Pan for this, click here for more details.
  15. Place the buns into a wooden steamer ensuring that there is 1-2 cm between each of the buns and the sides to allow them to expand as they cook. Steam the buns for 20 minutes. I use my BestCool Bamboo Steamer for this. It is a two tier steamer roughly 25 cm in diameter – one tier can comfortably hold two or three buns, so I steam the buns in two batches.
  16. Carefully remove the buns from the steamer and place them on a baking tray to cool for 5 minutes. Serve the buns while they are hot, remember to peel off the cupcake cases first.

NOTES

  • You can use either chicken breast or thigh fillets in this recipe. If you want a more even texture then use chicken breast as it is easier to shred. I personally prefer chicken thigh fillets as the meat is more succulent.
  • The vinegar is added to the steaming water to stop the buns from becoming overly yellow in colour as they are cooked.
  • These can be made as appetizers by dividing the dough and the filling by 20 to make smaller size buns. These are also more kid friendly.
  • Tip: To get even sized buns you can weigh the risen dough, divide the weight by 10 or 20 (or however many buns you wish to produce) and then make sure that each of the pieces of dough in step 8 are this weight. Similarly you can weigh out the filling too.

Bibingka (Filipino Coconut Rice Cake)

Filipino desserts and sweet treats are very different to their European and American counter parts. They are often denser in texture, and as expected many feature exotic ingredients such as purple yam (ube), coconut, casava and glutinous rice. This Filipino coconut rice cake is a wonderful alternative to cupcakes. It is traditionally cooked in banana leaves which adds more flavour, but is still delicious even just baked in cupcake cases. It’s super quick and easy to make and the ingredients are really easy to find (see the “Notes” section below).

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Bibingka Recipe

Makes: 12 cupcakes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Baking Time: 15-20 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 115 g rice flour (I’d recommend Natco Rice Flour)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 115 g caster sugar
  • 200 ml coconut milk (half a can)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter melted
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170 °C fan (190 °C conventional oven).
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. Mix the rice flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
  4. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and thoroughly whisk in the caster sugar, coconut milk, butter and vanilla extract.
  5. Sift the dry ingredients onto the wet ingredients a third at a time. Fold the mixture together between each addition.
  6. The batter formed will be runnier than that of traditional European/American cake batter, but don’t worry, the rice flour will firm up during baking. Divide the batter between the cupcake cases.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the muffin tray for around 10 minutes before transferring the cakes onto a wire rack for further cooling.

NOTES

  • I bought my rice flour from Amazon. Click here for more details.

Filipino Adobo

One dish that we ate regularly during my childhood is adobo. It’s a dish that brings me comfort to this day. My mum would make it for dinners, and our friends would cook it when we would visit their houses. Every Filipino has their own way of cooking adobo, and I will share my very own version.

Adobo is the unofficial traditional dish of the Philippines (and should not be confused with the Mexican/Spanish/Portuguese marinades bearing the same name). It normally consists of chicken or pork, or sometimes both, braised in vinegar, and soy sauce, and delicately flavoured with black pepper and bay leaves. Once it’s cooked up the flavours mesh together to form what I can only describe as adobo-y yumminess. It’s neither salty or sour, it’s just a hearty savouriness that’s unique to Filipino adobo.

It’s so tasty and simple to make, definitely worth a try.


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Filipino Adobo Recipe


Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 500 g pork belly strips (each strip cut into 3 pieces)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 15 ml white vinegar
  • 45 ml lemon juice
  • 120 ml low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 240 ml water
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

METHOD

  1. Add the chicken, pork, garlic, white vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, bay leaves and black pepper (essentially all the ingredients apart from the water and the sugar) to a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour or over night.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.
  4. Scrape the marinade from the meat (as best as possible) and set aside the marinade for later.
  5. Brown the meat in batches on a high heat. Fry each piece for roughly a minute on each side.
  6. After the meat is browned add all the pieces back into the saucepan.
  7. Add the water and bring the pot to a boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer.
  8. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.
  9. Stir in the sugar and continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

NOTES

  • Meat with a generous fat content is an absolute must in this dish as the fattiness of the meat adds to the flavour. It will not taste the same if you use chicken breast. Chicken legs or even boneless chicken thighs will work though if you’re not keen on meat on the bone.
  • Steps 3 to 6 are optional. If you are pushed for time then you can just add the marinaded meat straight to the saucepan and continue from step 7. However, I find that browning the meat in advance adds a little extra flavour.
  • If you’re not a fan of pork you can use 1kg of chicken thighs instead, either with the bone in or boneless. If using bone-in thighs then increase the simmering time in step 8 by and additional 10 minutes. Likewise this dish also works great with just pork, although I would stick to just 500 g of pork belly and use an additional 500 g of lean pork pieces to keep the fat content reasonable.
  • You can use regular light soy sauce instead of the low sodium version. I prefer the low sodium soy sauce as I’m quite conscious of my family’s salt intake. It also does not take anything away from the authenticity of the flavour.
  • Traditionally whole black peppercorns are used in this dish. Personally, I’m not keen on the crunch and intense pepperiness this causes every few mouthfuls. Hence I use freshly milled cracked black pepper instead.
  • Serve with steamed basmati rice, steamed vegetables or salad.