Siopao Bola Bola (Beef) & Asado Sauce

Siopao Bola Bola are light and fluffy steamed buns filled with a soft, tasty, beefy meatball and served with a sweet-savory soy sauce for dipping. They are hearty, delightful and very satisfying.

Siopao Bola Bola with Asado Sauce

This recipe incorporates tangzhong in the steamed bun dough for extra fluffiness. There is also a little dairy added as well for softness, flavor and aroma.

Siopao BolaBola with Asado Sauce

For some helpful tips before you begin, click here. (RECOMMENDED)

Makes 10 siopao.

INGREDIENTS:

For the meatballs:

  • 2/3 cup (about 65 g) bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) milk
  • 1 pound (454 g) ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons (6 g) garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) MSG
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml) rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) toasted sesame oil
  • 2 large scallions, finely chopped

For the buns:

tangzhong:

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 3 tablespoons (22.5 g) all-purpose flour

dough:

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet or 7 g) active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (37 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) half & half 
  • 3 3/4 cups (450 g) all-purpose flour   
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon (9 g) fine salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil

OPTIONAL for FILLING:

  • 2 1/2 salted or hard-boiled eggs

For the asado sauce:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (12 g) cornstarch
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.75 g) MSG
  • 10 squares of wax or parchment paper, about 3×3-inches (7×7-cm) 
  • Steamer

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the MEATBALLS:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (176°C); Combine the meatball ingredients.

– Preheat the oven to 400°F (176°C).
– Soak the bread crumbs in the milk for 5 minutes.
– Mix the soaked bread crumbs together with all remaining meatball ingredients until just combined.

2. Cook and cool the meatballs.

– Divide into 10 portions and place on a baking pan.
– Cook at 400°F (176°C) for about 15 minutes, until browned.
– Set aside to cool to room temperature. Or refrigerate and use the next day.

Prepare the BUNS:

1. Make the tangzhong.

– In a small pan, over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup (120 ml) water and 3 tablespoons (22.5 g) flour for the tangzhong.
– Whisk until thick like pudding, maybe 5 minutes.
– Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate to cool while gathering the remaining ingredients.

2. Activate the yeast. 

– Warm the half & half to about 110°F (43°C). (Slightly warm to touch.)
– In a small bowl, stir the yeast and sugar into the warm half & half.
– Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until foamy.

3. Combine the ingredients.

– In a stand mixer bowl, briefly stir together the flour and salt to mix and to remove any large lumps.
– Add the tangzhong, vegetable oil and the foamy yeast mixture.
– Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is absorbed and a shaggy dough is formed.

4. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.

– With the paddle attachment, knead the dough on medium-high speed (setting #4) for 7 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl and gathers in the center. The dough will be a bit sticky, but should also be smooth, springy and elastic enough to stretch thin without tearing. (See TIPS)

5. Let the dough rise until double in volume.

– Scrape the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl.
– With lightly greased fingers, gather up the dough by pulling up the sides and folding it into the center. Do this a few times to bring the dough together into a ball.
– Flip the dough, so that the top is smooth and greased.
– Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour or until double in size.

6. Divide the dough into 10 pieces.

– Scrape the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface.
– Gently flatten the dough with your hands and then roll tightly into a log making sure to push out any air bubbles.
– Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll into balls.
– Cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 10 or 15 minutes.

7. Fill and seal the siopao. (See TIPS)

– On a lightly floured surface, take a dough ball and flatten it with a rolling pin into a round about 4-inches (15 cm) wide.
– Then flatten the outer inch of the circle a little more so that the center is thicker than the edges. (If the dough is tense and keeps shrinking back, cover and let rest for a few minutes.)
– Place a cooled meatball and a quarter of a hard-boiled egg, if using, in the center of the round.
– Enclose the siopao by pleating and pinching the edges, gathering the dough toward the center.
– Seal the siopao by twisting the dough gathered at the top.
– Place the bun on a square of parchment paper. (Place the bun swirl side up if you like the design or swirl side down if you prefer a smooth bun.)
– Continue with the remaining buns.

8. Let the siopao rest and rise until just puffed (proofing).

– Place the buns in the steamer baskets about an inch apart and cover loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Place the baskets somewhere draft-free.
– Let the siopao sit for about 15 minutes to proof, until the siopao are just puffed. (If you lightly poke the dough, the indentation from your finger should bounce back half-way.)
– While proofing, begin heating up the steamer.

*If you are steaming your siopao in batches and are unable to steam all the buns immediately after they have proofed, cover the remaining siopao with plastic wrap and refrigerate to avoid over-proofing.

9. Steam the buns.

– Meanwhile, heat the steamer to full steam.
– Place the steamer basket with the siopao over the steam, cover and turn the heat to medium-low.
– Cook the buns in the steamer for 15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through. (The buns will spring back when lightly pressed.) 
– If the siopao are not done after 15 minutes, dry off the steamer lid (so water isn’t dripping from it), place back on the steamer and continue to steam the siopao until done.
– Remove the papers from the siopao before serving.

Prepare the Asado Sauce:

– Dissolve the cornstarch in a couple tablespoons of the water. Set aside.
– Whisk the remaining water and the other ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
– Stir in the dissolved cornstarch and bring to a boil. Let boil for one minute while stirring continuously.

Asado Sauce for Siopao Bola Bola
Keeping siopao warm
You can keep your cooked siopao warm by just covering it with a tea towel.

To store:

– Keep the siopao in an airtight container in the refrigerator 3 to 5 days.

To reheat:

  • Re-steam for 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Or microwave each siopao for 20 to 30 seconds while loosely covered with a damp paper towel.
*****
Siopao Bola Bola with Asado Sauce
Siopao Bola Bola with Asado Sauce

ABOUT THIS RECIPE

Siopao Bola Bola is a fluffy,, steamed bun stuffed with a seasoned soft meatball and maybe some salted or hard-boiled egg, served with a sweet soy Asado sauce. They are hearty and delicious and wonderful as a light meal or a hearty snack.

In the Philippines, siopao are usually filled with sweet-savory meat fillings such as Asado (a sweet soy sauce braised meat filling) (Recipe coming soon) or Bola Bola. But in our house, siopao is one of my favorite ways to use leftovers. Among our favorite fillings for siopao are leftover Adobong Manok (Chicken Adobo), anything barbecue and, of course, Mechado.

Click here for Adobong Manok (Chicken Adobo) and Mechado recipes!

*Make your Adobong Manok (Chicken Adobo), Mechado or Asado filling the day before and let it chill overnight. It will not only be easier to work with when filling your siopao, it will taste better, too. (Braises and stews always taste better the next day.)

See below: Siopao Mechado – tangy and spicy (left) and Siopao Asado – sweet and savory (right) (Recipe coming soon)

TIPS:

Here are 6 helpful tips:

1) Precook and cool the meatballs.

– Adding breadcrumbs to the meatballs and then precooking them will prevent them from shrinking in the siopao bola bola during steaming.
– Give the meatballs plenty of time to chill after cooking. A warm meatball may make your dough soft and slippery and hard to wrap and seal.

Soft beef meatballs for Siopao Bola Bola

See below: Siopao Bola Bola with a meatball that wasn’t precooked (left) vs with a meatball that was precooked (right).

2) When starting your dough:

  • Weight measures are more accurate than volume measures. Get a scale!

– While I sometimes find using volume measures more convenient, in baking, weight measures will give more accurate and consistent results. So if you bake regularly, you really should get a scale. (Preferably one that reads ounces and grams.)

scale
  • Make sure to cool the tangzhong.

– Be sure to give your tangzhong enough time to cool. If your tangzhong is still too hot when used, it may kill the yeast.

tangzhong
  • Make sure your yeast is active.

– Yeast must be alive and active for bread dough to rise. You know your yeast is active if it becomes foamy when stirred into the warm milk with a little sugar.

– When activating your yeast, make sure the milk is just slightly warm to touch, no warmer than 110°F (49°C). If the yeast doesn’t become foamy within 5 to 10 minutes, throw it out and try again.
– Do not let the yeast sit too long after it has become active and foamy. If the activated yeast sits too long, it may become less effective.

3) Knead until smooth and stretchy.

– Dough for steamed buns should be treated the same as any other bread dough. There should be proper kneading as well as sufficient proofing and resting. This will ensure that your siopao will be light, fluffy and soft. It will also help your siopao to be nice and smooth after steaming.

– The dough, when properly kneaded, may still be a bit sticky, but will also be smooth, stretchy and springy. The dough should be able to be stretched until almost translucent without breaking or tearing (the “windowpane” test).

Siopao dough windowpane test

– Because this is a soft and sticky dough, you may be very tempted to add flour, but DON’T add any. A soft, sticky dough is what will become soft and fluffy siopao.

If your dough didn’t pass the windowpane test:

– If you have kneaded for the allotted time but your dough is not passing the windowpane test, don’t stress:

  • Rest your dough for 10 minutes (and up to 30 minutes) then test again.
  • If the dough is still not smooth and elastic, knead for 2 minutes and then re-test.
  • Repeat, if needed. But if you start to feel the dough becoming firm and less stretchy, stop kneading or else you risk over-kneading your dough.
  • If you feel the dough is close, but not quite there, lower the speed, or better yet, knead by hand.

Kneading by hand:

– I think kneading this dough entirely by hand is tricky. It can start out very soft, sticky and messy. But if you don’t have a mixer or choose not to use one, here’s one way to knead sticky dough:

  • Before kneading, cover your shaggy dough with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Scrape the dough out onto a lightly-oiled surface. With lightly oiled hands, fold the dough toward you, then stretch it back by pushing dough with the heel of your hand in a rolling motion. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat.
  • If the dough is very sticky, do not add any flour. Instead, use a lightly-oiled pastry scraper to scrape, push and fold the dough toward you while kneading. Very lightly oil the counter and your hands just enough to get the stickiness under control.
    • It will be messy and sticky. That’s OK. With time and patience, the dough will come together, becoming less and less sticky as you progress. Adding extra flour may make your bread heavy and dense.
  • Knead for 10 minutes. Then cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After resting, the dough should look and feel smoother and finer.
  • Repeat kneading and resting until the dough is smooth and elastic enough to pass the windowpane test.

Feel free to take breaks.

– Bread dough continues to build structure (gluten) even while resting. Feel free to take breaks (10 to 20 minutes) while kneading. Be sure to cover your dough with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

4) You can refrigerate your dough overnight.

– After kneading, if you wish, you can let your dough rise in the refrigerator overnight and as long as 2 days. However, any longer than that and your dough may start to smell and taste “yeasty”.

– You can also refrigerate your siopao immediately after filling and sealing them until you are ready for steaming. Cover them well and then be sure to let it sit at room temperature until puffed and ready to steam.

5) Rolling the dough:

  • Rest the dough before rolling.

– Be sure to let the dough rest before rolling it out. Relaxed dough will roll out much easier and won’t shrink back while trying to seal in your filling.

Rest the siopao dough before rolling out
  • Roll the dough thinner around the edges.

– When rolling out the dough, keeping the dough thicker at the center will help the top and bottom of the bun be more even in thickness. (Since you be bunching up the dough on top.)

Keep the center thicker

6) How to fill the siopao bola bola:

  • Chill the meatballs before using.

– Cold fillings are easier to wrap than warm fillings. Warm fillings, especially those that are saucy, may also make the dough slippery and difficult to seal.

  • Place the filling in the center of the round of dough.
  • Start pleating and pinching the dough while gathering it toward the center.
  • When all the dough is gathered at the top, twist and seal.
  • Place swirl side up if you like the design, or swirl side down for a smooth bun.
  • Swirl-side up or a smooth bun? Since my swirls need practice, I always opt for smooth buns 🙂

7) Proof no longer than about 15 minutes.

  • Let the filled siopao proof until just puffy before steaming. This should only take about 15 minutes or so. Just enough time for your steamer to heat up to full steam!
Poke test - Siopao Bola Bola
The siopao is ready for steaming when you can poke the dough and the indentation left by your finger springs back half-way.
  • Be careful not to over-proof your siopao. Over-proofed dough may collapse during steaming and look like this:
When siopao is over-proofed - Siopao Bola Bola

8) Steam the siopao gently.

  • Steam on a medium-low or low setting (wisps of steam, not full-blown, billowing steam).
  • A bamboo steamer is best, but if you have a metal one like me, try to find a lid with a small vent hole to avoid over-pressurized steam. Otherwise, maybe just leave a tiny, little gap.
Cooking on low steam (left) vs high steam (right) - Siopao Bola Bola
Cooking on low steam (left) vs high steam (right). A gentle steam is much better for your Siopao Bola Bola!
  • Lastly, don’t open the lid until the “baking” is done! (Or at least, not until after 15 minutes.) The extreme change in temperature when the siopao is still very under-done may cause it to collapse.

*****
Siopao Bola Bola with Asado Sauce
Siopao Bola Bola with Asado Sauce 2

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Tender pieces of beef cooked slowly in a stew of tomato, soy, lemon and bay leaf.

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