Steamed Pork Buns and Torpedo Extra IPA

(Meagan) I love dim sum, especially steamed buns. They’re always a tempting purchase when I shop at the local Asian grocery stores. Pork steamed buns (char siu bao) are a particular favorite, as they’re delicious, and often big enough to be half of a meal. For probably the last year, I’ve been threatening to make my own, but was a bit intimidated by the purported complication and need for specialty ingredients.

Recently, we had a BBQ, and Ben smoked a whole pork shoulder and made his own tropical BBQ sauce—sorry, there’s no recipe for that at the moment. After all the guests had gone, we still had a huge bowl full of pulled pork. Delicious as they are, a body can get tired of eating pulled pork sandwiches, carnitas, and burritos. Enter this Steamed Pork Buns recipe from It’s fairly easy, and doesn’t require running out to buy sweet rice flour or anything. Since I already had pulled pork, I ignored the filling portion and concentrated on the dough.

You should never begin a baking or cooking project without checking to make sure you have all of the ingredients, but that’s exactly what I did. Since my version of these buns contains several ingredient substitutions, I’ve included my adapted recipe at the bottom of this post.

pork1To make it a complete meal, I needed a side dish. In addition to dim sum, I’m also a sucker for fried rice, especially Kimchi fried rice. is my go-to site for Korean cooking, and the Kimchi-bokkeumbap recipe does not disappoint. There’s even a video on how to make it.

Dim sum is delicious, but dim sum with beer is better. While on vacation in Kingston, ON, CA, I discovered that spicy food pairs well with hoppy beers, so I wanted to choose a good beer to complement the pork buns and kimchi fried rice. Naturally, Ben helped with this project. Any pale ale or IPA with pronounced hop character will do, but for this pairing, we settled on Sierra Nevada Torpedo.

The brewery website describes Torpedo as a “hop bomb,”† which makes sense in terms of how much hopping the brew received, but not necessarily when you taste it. Weighing in at 7.2% ABV, this extra IPA has enough presence to complement a very flavorful meal, and though it has plenty of hops, there’s a lot of complexity there, not just bitterness. But hops aren’t the only thing Torpedo brings to the table. Thanks to its stronger build—and, I imagine, the Caramel malt—it has enough backbone to support all those delicious whole hops—Magnum, Crystal, and Citra.†

Kimchi fried rice is a bit spicy, but fruity sweetness (from the tropical BBQ sauce), onion, and a bit of garlic are the dominant notes in this batch of pork buns.

(Ben) At 65 IBU and 7.2% I wouldn’t call SN Torpedo a hop bomb; I feel that it’s a more malt-balanced IPA (or Xipa, Dipa, IIpa, whatever one prefers to call it) with enough piney, citrusy hop character to make it a very pleasant quaff. However, it’s those hoppy notes that really pull through with the smoked pork. You get a very good sense of complimentary umami when pairing the two; I could go into lots of detail about incomplete chains and L-glutamate creating a distinct blah blah, but I won’t.

In short, the nice sharp hops cleanse the tongue of anything lingering from the pork, and then when you take another bite of pork, the smoky sweetness overlays the hops. It’s a continual taste explosion, a carpet bombing of flavors, if you will. The multiple layers of apple, hickory and pecan infused in the pork really come off well with good, fresh, piney west coast hops. And the tropical flavors from the fusion BBQ sauce also blended in well with the citrus notes; I felt that the entire experience was a delicious mélange. If you want some detailed notes, I’m sorry; I don’t really have any, because I ate too fast.


Maangchi. “Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-bokkeumbap).” March, 2008. Accessed May 7, 2015.

†”Torpedo® Extra IPA.” Sierra Nevada. Accessed May 7, 2015.

Weinstein, Bruce, and Mark Scarbrough. “Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) recipe |” May, 2008. Accessed May 7, 2015.

Steamed Pork Buns and Torpedo Extra IPA

Steamed Pork Buns and Torpedo Extra IPA


  • 1 small onion, diced
  • about 2 cups pulled BBQ pork
  • about 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons diced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped or shredded
  • DOUGH:
  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • about 1 tablespoon dry yeast, or one package
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cup bread flour
  • 1/3 cup sweet rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar cane juice


Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl, and let stand until the yeast looks foamy—usually 5 to 10 minutes.

Sift the flour in the bowl, then add the other ingredients—except for baking powder. Stir, either by hand or with stand mixer, until everything starts to form a dough. Knead for 10 minutes or so (less if using stand mixer), until the dough has a smooth, elastic texture.

Coat a clean bowl with oil or cooking spray, and put the dough in it, making sure all surfaces are coated.

At this point, I like to heat the oven for one minute, and place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack. Then I turn off the oven, and place my bowl of dough uncovered on the center rack. Or, you can follow the usual cover and leave in warm place, procedure. Either way, it needs to rise for about an hour.

While the dough is rising, assemble the filling. Chop up the pork and the vegetables, and mix in a bowl with the wet ingredients.

Punch down the dough, and let it rest for another 5 minutes. Turn it out on a floured surface, and knead the baking powder in. Give it another 5 minute rest.

Make 10 equal balls out of the dough. one at a time, roll the balls into a circle, 5 in. or so in diameter, and put about 1/4 cup of the pork filling in the middle. Fold up the sides to make a pocket, and twist the top to seal it.

If you have a bamboo steamer, great! I use the steaming rack in my rice cooker. For that, put a few buns in, and steam for about 20 minutes. I cooked the rice for the kimchi bokkeumbap at the same time.

Obviously, the buns will be hot. Let them cool for a few minutes before eating. Serve with kimchi fried rice, if desired, and a good hoppy beer.

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Meagan loves words, and frequently combines them into stories and articles, very often involving tasty libations. She enjoys writing about the intersection of beer (or spirits) and life. This is her blog. You can find her on Twitter @meagwil, or shoot a regular ol' email to

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  1. Ooooooh. I’ve never had beer with Asian food, but this sounds YUM. Thanks!

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