Friday, December 5, 2008

Char Siu Pastries - First Draft

Besides Nor Mai Gai and Baked Hum Bow, Char Siu pastries are one of my favorite Dim Sum dishes.  Since I already know how to make decent Nor Mai Gai, I thought I'd try out making Char Siu (Chinese BBQ pork) pastries.

Since I decided to go on a Dim Sum kick, I purchased a half-dozen cookbooks on the topic.  One of those cookbooks was Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder.

So many great look dishes in this cookbook.  Fortunately, the recipe for Char Siu pastries is one of them.  Woohoo!

Since this is a recipe from a cookbook that's still in print, I'm going to skip my usual ingredient list.  Instead, I'll recommend buying the book.  There are no pictures but it has some very nice illustrations showing technique.

I've purchased many cookbooks that I've regretted.  This is one I'm very glad to have.


This is a long process, so I recommend getting something nice to drink and get comfortable.

First, I started out making the pastry dough.  Ice water and the usual ingredients for a flaky dough.

Using my pastry cutter, I cut in the lard until the dough resembled round pebbles.

I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and formed it to the size of about half a piece of paper (8.5" x 11" or A4, take your pick).

The recipe calls for a second dough.  Slightly different ingredients (larger amount of shortening compared to the flour content).  Again, I cut in the lard until I got a crumbly, pebble-like consistency.

The second dough is wrapped in plastic and formed into a 3" x 4" piece.  Both doughs get put into the fridge for a few hours to ensure that the shortening doesn't melt.

After their time in the cooler, both doughs are pulled out.  Here they are ready-to-go.  Rolling pin, dough, flour to roll out, and a half-sized pastry piece of parchment folded in half length-wise to use as a ruler.

I placed the small piece of dough on top of the larger one.  Really, what's going on here is similar to making puff pastry.  The small dough has more fat in it and will be used to make layers.

Fold the larger dough's sides in and seal around the smaller dough.

Roll the whole thing out to approximately 6" x 18".  As you can see, my rolling pin skills need improvement.

Once rolled out, fold into thirds.

Then, wrapped in plastic again and back into the fridge.  Again, trying to make sure that the fat doesn't melt which makes the dough tough.

A second and third time I pulled the dough out of the fridge and rolled it out to 6" x 18" in size.  After each time, I folded it in thirds and put it back into the fridge.

Now that the dough is in the fridge and resting, I turned to the filling. I pulled out a piece of my char siu pork.

Gave the delicious pork a nice dicing.

Here are the ingredients for the sauce.  Nothing secret here.  Just the normal Chinese sauce ingredients (again, not going to be precise since this is from a book in print).

A little time over the stove and the filling is born!

I put the filling into a Pyrex measuring container and put it all into the fridge.  I wanted nice and cold filling.  Easier to work with and it won't melt the fat in the dough.

Now that I had the chilled filling, I pulled the dough back out.  I attempted to roll it out to about 12" x 12".  Unfortunately, the dough was showing signs of stress.  I just didn't want to behave.  I think I overworked it and I also think I blew the ingredients a little.

I cut the rolled out dough into little 3" x 4" pieces.  I had a bit of a problem as the dough was being uncooperative.  It just didn't want to heal, so my pieces weren't exactly works of art.

Down the center of the piece of dough, I put about a tablespoon of filling.

Folded the dough over like a piece of paper ... and sealed it up.

I turned the little packet over so that the seam-side was down.

I painted an egg wash onto each pastry and sprinkled them with sesame seeds.

Here are my little pastries all laid out and ready to go into the oven.

Now, the pastries came out of the oven not flaky ... a little bit tough.  Still quite tasty.

Test Results

Primary Test Group:  Delicious!

Test Group C:  Oi!  Bring more ... and don't talk while I'm eating!

Potential Improvements

Definitely need a better crust.  I'm pretty sure that I screwed up it by overworking the dough.  I also think I added slightly too much water to the large dough.  And, I think I messed up by using lard that was at room temperature rather than cold lard.

Potential Variations

All kinds of great fillings can go into a pastry-like dough.  Still, my favorite is char siu.


I'm pretty sure that I'm on the right track here.  I just need more practice working with this kind of dough. 

I'll try this one again soon!


Argus Lou said...

Hats off to you for being so diligent in making the oil dough wrapped in water dough. This is also applicable to spiral curry puffs, with the circular pattern in mind when rolling.

James said...

Thanks! I'll definitely try again.

And, thanks for the pointer towards spiral curry puffs.