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Easy Baked Manapua (Hawaiian-style Char Siu Bao)

Warm and savory with a juicy pork filling, these baked buns can be paired with some pineapple rice or a fresh salad to create a delicious lunch or dinner.

Hemingway Daiquiri


Assembly -

· 12 frozen dinner roll dough balls (see Recipe Notes)

· char siu filling (below)

· all-purpose flour, for dusting

· 1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

· 1 teaspoon honey, whisked with 1 teaspoon hot water

For the char siu filling –

· nonstick cooking spray

· 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or high smoke point vegetable oil of choice

· 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced

· 16 ounces char siu pork, diced into 1/4-inch cubes (~2 cups diced) (see Recipe Notes)

· 2 ounces water chestnuts, finely diced (~1/3 cup diced) (see Recipe Notes)

· 1 green onion, thinly sliced

· 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (can sub regular brown sugar)

· 1/3 cup chicken broth

· 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

· 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

· 1 teaspoon sesame oil

· 1 scant tablespoon cornstarch, whisked with 1 tablespoon water

. kosher salt & whitepepper, to season


1. Prepare the dough: 3-4 hours before you’d like to prep & bake manapua, prepare the dough by thawing it out. Place the frozen dinner roll dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, arranging them at least 2 inches apart from each other. Lightly spritz a large piece of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray. Gently place it over the frozen dough, oil side facing down. Set aside for 3-4 hours, until the dough is completely thawed & looks puffy or swollen.

2. Prepare the char siu filling – render the char siu pork & cook the aromatics: Once the dough is thawed, begin prepping the char siu filling. Add the grapeseed oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add in the yellow onion & char siu pork. Season with a small pinch of kosher salt & 1/2 teaspoon white pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent & the pork is rendered slightly. Add the water chestnuts & green onion to the skillet, stirring to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, just until the green onions are softened & fragrant.

3. Finish the char siu filling: Add the dark brown sugar to the skillet, stirring to coat the char siu pork mixture. Cook until dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the chicken broth, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, & sesame oil (it’s most efficient to do so in a liquid measuring cup!). Once the brown sugar is dissolved, add the chicken broth mixture to the skillet. Stir to combine. While stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to a simmer & allow everything to bubble together for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch slurry. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, until thickened. Carefully transfer the char siu filling to a large bowl or plate to cool before assembling the manapua, or transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

4. Assemble the manapua: Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Place one dough ball on the prepared work surface. Use the palm of your hand to flatten it into a circle roughly 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the dough in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Use your other hand to add a heaping spoonful (roughly 2 tablespoons) of the prepared char siu filling to the center of the dough. Starting on one side of the dough & working your way around the circle, use your fingers to gather & pinch the edges of the dough until the filling is fully enclosed & the bao is sealed. Use your hand to smooth & press the seal flat. Place the assembled bao, seam side down, on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough balls & char siu filling until all 12 manapua are assembled.

5. Proof the manapua for baking: Place the lightly oiled plastic wrap over the assembled manapua, oil side facing down. Set aside to proof for 30 minutes, at which point the dough will look puffy & swollen again. This is also a great time to preheat the oven for baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, ensuring a rack is positioned in the center of the oven.

6. Bake the manapua: Lightly brush the tops of the bao with egg wash, then transfer to the oven. Bake the manapua 18-20 minutes, or until beautifully golden brown.

7. Serving: Remove the baked manapua the oven & allow to cool slightly. If desired, brush the tops of the bao with honey wash for a crave-worthy sticky-sweet finish. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:

a. Frozen dinner roll dough balls are the secret ingredient that makes this baked manapua recipe quick(er) & easy! Since they’re already pre-portioned & ready to bake, they make for a savvy substitute for homemade bread dough. Frozen dinner roll dough balls are readily available in the freezer section at most conventional grocery stores.

b. Char siu is an iconic Chinese (specifically, Cantonese) roasted BBQ pork. Perhaps most commonly known for its vibrant red color, char siu is super juicy with a unique spiced-savory-sweet flavor. You can purchase prepared char siu at most Chinese/Asian grocery stores with a deli, but it’s also incredibly simple to make at home.

c. Water chestnuts are an aquatic tuber (named after their chestnut-like appearance) indigenous to Southeast Asia. They are very mild in flavor but have a wonderfully refreshing crunchy-crisp texture. You’ll often see water chestnuts used in Chinese-style stir fries, but my family always adds them to dishes like manapua or siu mai for extra texture. Canned water chestnuts are readily available in most conventional grocery stores – find them in the “International” aisle near other Asian ingredients.

Storage, & Freezing:

Storage & Reheating: Leftover baked manapua will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.

Freezer Instructions: You can also freeze leftover baked manapua. Transfer the chilled baked manapua to a freezer bag & freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in the microwave until warmed through.


Source: “Easy Baked Manapua (Hawaiian-style Char Siu Bao)”. Recipe. N.p. 25 Apr. 2022. Web. Sept. 2022.


By Recipe Contributor


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