Small Packages

I don’t recall my first introduction to baked Chinese barbecue buns. I do remember how brokenhearted my wife and I were when the only local Chinese bakery closed their doors.

The original hot pocket. Warm, soft dough. Tangy, salty, slightly sweet meaty filling. Portable. It gives the hot dog a run for its money in street food.

You’ll find them under several names - char sui bao or bbq pork buns. In Honolulu, they’re known as manapua. 

They are easier than you’d expect. A simple dry rub. A wet marinade. A quick yeast dough. Here’s how I brought it together.

BBQ Pork

  • Full rack of St. Louis-style spare ribs
  • 2 TBS Chinese Five Spice Powder
  • 1 TBS white sugar
  • Dash of ground black pepper and kosher salt

Mix the spices and sugar. Then sprinkle each side of the ribs and rub in. Wrap in plastic wrap. Then, into the fridge overnight

  • ½ C Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/3 C Soy Sauce
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 TBS rice wine vinegar

Mix wet ingredients. Cut ribs into individual bones.  Place bones into 9x13 pan. Coat with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and back into the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. Mix again halfway through.

Place ribs onto wire racks on foil-lined rimmed baking sheets. Place into 300 F oven for 1:45.

Take leftover marinade and place into sauce pan. Add 2-3 TBS of hoisin, 1 tsp of five spice powder, and ¼ C of water. Bring to a boil and reduce for 45 minutes or until thickened.

With approximately 20-30 minutes remaining, baste ribs with sauce. Baste again after removal.

Let ribs cool. Then, remove meat from bones, chop, and mix with remaining sauce. Set aside or into fridge.


  • ½ C Milk
  • 3 TBS water
  • ¼ C white sugar
  • 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast

Warm milk and water to tepid. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add yeast and set aside until frothy - 10-15 minutes.

  • 2 C AP Flour
  • 3 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly

Mix milk/yeast mixture with ingredients above in mixer with dough hook for 5-7 minutes until smooth.  Ball up the dough and place in oiled bowl, covered in a warm place. Let raise until doubled - 1-2 hrs.

Punch down dough and divide into 12 pieces. Ball these up and let them rest 5-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Flatten dough with pin to a 4" circle. Spoon in meat. Pinch closed.

Baste with mixture of ¼ C of milk and 1 TBS of honey. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Baste again with milk/honey after baking. Let cool slightly.