Manapua is a ubiquitous snack food in Hawaii. Coming back from the beach? Grab a manapua and a shave ice and you're golden. Manapua trucks, manapua stands, manapua shops, they're like Starbucks in the islands.

Basically it's just a riff on the Chinese char siu bao that's been given the local treatment; you can get them steamed or baked, you can get curry-flavored ones, haupia (coconut custard), chicken, eggplant, pineapple, etc. But I'm a traditionalist, and like 'em simply steamed and full of delicious char siu.

So, for the dough:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Crisco or other shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

Sprinkle yeast over 3 tablespoons water in a bowl and allow to stand until yeast softens. To remaining water, add shortening, sugar and salt, stirring until melted or dissolved. Cool. Add yeast mixture.

Place flour in a large mixing bowl or a heavy-duty mixer and add most of the liquid. KNEAD! Add remaining liquid to make a very heavy dough. Continue kneading or mixing until you have a smooth ball that is beginning to show signs of long strands on the outside, indicating that the gluten has fully developed.

Remove dough from bowl and rinse out bowl. Pour sesame oil into bowl, return dough and turn it around until covered with a thin layer of the oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until double in bulk — about an hour in a warm room.

Put dough in fridge and allow it to rise there, 3-6 hours, gives for more complex flavor. When it's done, divide dough into twelve pieces and roll each out into a circular shape. Now, we FILL.

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For the filling (and this, of course, you'll have done long beforehand):

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 (2-pound) boneless pork shoulder

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours, turning occasionally. Place pork and marinade in an crock pot or dutch oven, or hey, just a heavy pot. Cover and cook on low for 3-5 hours. Remove pork from slow cooker using a slotted spoon; place on a cutting board, shred with two forks. Now you can refrigerate until ready to use.

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Now we STUFF.

Basically, this is just a matter of placing the char siu in the center of the rolled-out dough circle and balling it up around it, pinching and twisting the bottom together to create a seal so the stuffins don't fall out. You have to try it a few times and get the hang of it. I overstuffed a few of mine this time, rookie mistake. You can go easy.

So then we place the twelve now-stuffed buns on individual wax paper sheets, and you have this:

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Then INTO THE STEAMER! They fit in my bamboo steamer four at a time. Steam for fifteen minutes, they'll plump up and look like so, once they're all out:

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You'll note that these are big. Quite big. Bigger than I intended. Next time instead of twelve I think I'll make sixteen out of these same ingredients. Or maybe even twenty. But they freeze very nicely and can be steamed again out of the freezer if you're in need of a manapua fix. I know this looks labor-intensive, but it's really not, especially if you just do the char siu a few days ahead of time.

Onolicious!

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Previous installments of Project Breadway can be found under the Project Breadway tag. Yes, I'm still determined that Pumpernickel will be next.

Yours in all things breadly,
chritter