Throughout my lifetime, I’ve made more than a few visits to the Philippines, and during my trips, I’ve tried such exotic dishes as balut (duck embryo) and insalal na manok, but if I were to mention a favorite flavor, it would be siopao. Throughout my visits, I’ve always been happy with the truly unique flavors that this post-colonial country has to offer, but one of my favorite food additives that can be found throughout this island-rich country is siopao sauce.
This sauce is uniquely Asian – it has hints of hoisin, a smooth and savory flavor, and it seems to go with a wide array of regional and non-regional dishes. If you haven’t had an opportunity to try this sauce in your cooking, then you’re in the right place. In this guide, I’m going to give you all the information that you need about this unique Filipino sauce, including information about siopao ingredients as well as a few different recipes to use when you’re making up the sauce for dinner.
Where Does Siopao Sauce Come From?
Siopao is a Filipino sauce that has a lot of flavors and contains a lot of ingredients that has a lot of unique flavors that originate from a wide variety of Asian and non-Asian sources. The Philippines plays host to a wide variety of delicious foods that ranges from delicious snack-friendly cuisine like lumpia to truly unique dishes like daing.
Steamed pork buns, which are also called cha siu bao, are a uniquely Chinese dish that can be found, with regularity, in just about every Asian country. This food is very popular because it can serve as a delicious main course or be a quick snack that you can take with you on the run. In the Philippines, siopao sauce serves as a dipping sauce for bao, and it’s even become a popular option abroad as well.
How to Make Siopao Sauce
It’s amazing how much flavor you can bring about by using this very simple recipe. This uniquely flavorful sauce only takes a few minutes of preparation, and once you’re done, you should have enough of the siopao to last for several meals, which means that you can make siopao bola bola and siopao aside back to back without the need to make extra sauce.
I suggest storing the sauce in a bottle or jar once it’s made – just remember that it should cool first before you put it in the fridge. Also, while onions and garlic are integral to the flavor of the sauce, holding on to them once the sauce is prepared isn’t, so I suggest sifting them out and throwing them away rather than letting them sit in your container, which can cause them to become rancid. Here are some of the ingredients that you’ll need:
- Two cups of beef stock
- Two tablespoons of cornstarch
- Four tablespoons of water
- Two garlic cloves, chopped finely
- About half of an onion, chopped finely
- Four tablespoons of brown sugar
- Two tablespoons of soy sauce
- A tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- A tablespoon of salt
- A piece of star anise
The first thing that you should do is combine your water with your cornstarch; this will make a sort of thin paste. After this is done, take a saucepan and heat the beef stock until it starts to boil; this part of the sauce will be your base.
Once it’s boiling, add in the soy sauce, onions, and garlic. After this cooks for about a minute, toss in the Worcestershire sauce, the garlic, star anise, and the brown sugar. If you want a little extra spiciness, you can also throw in a dash of pepper to taste. Let this simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes so that the steam is trapped inside the saucepan. If it starts to boil down a bit, add in extra water so that the sauce isn’t too thick.
As mentioned, you’ll need to strain out all of the solid components, which is why I typically use a kitchen strainer, but you can use a paper towel-lined bowl or cheesecloth if you prefer. After it’s strained, once again, bring the liquid to a boil and add the previously-mixed cornstarch paste to the sauce so that it thickens slightly. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to let the mixture cool down so that you can transfer it to the fridge to be used in your favorite dished. I like to use a leftover plastic squeeze container so that I can squeeze out the right amount of siopao whenever I need it.
As mentioned, there are at least two dishes that you shouldn’t hesitate to try when you’re making this kind of sauce. One, siopao asado, is a dish that incorporates the aforementioned cha siu bao to make a unique culinary experience. This dish is truly special and has a truly sweet flavor due to the use of siopao sauce hoisin and sugar that couples well with the savory meats and veggies that comprise it, so if you favor this kind of flavor, then you’re in luck.
Here’s what you’ll need for the filling:
- One tablespoon of minced garlic
- One half of a large minced onion
- One pound of pork that’s been sliced into cubes
- Two tablespoons of sugar
- Tw0 tablespoons of soy sauce
- One tablespoon of oyster sauce
- One tablespoon of hoisin sauce
- Two tablespoons of cornstarch
- Four tablespoons of water
Sautee the onions and garlic until they are translucent, and then add the pork into the saucepan. Once the pork starts to brown lightly, pour in the two tablespoons of sugar and soy sauce and allow it to cook for a minute. Once a minute has expired, pour in the hoisin sauce and oyster sauce and continue to simmer the pork over medium-to-high heat.
As the pork simmers for about three minutes, combine the water and cornstarch and pour it into the saucepan. Continuously mix the sauce until it starts to thicken and set aside for later.
Here’s what you’ll need for the dough:
- One cup of warm water
- Half of a pack of dry yeast
- One and a half tablespoons of sugar
- Two and a half cups of all-purpose flour
- One and a half teaspoons of baking powder
- Three tablespoons of lard or shortening
In a bowl, combine the cup of warm water, the yeast, and sugar. Set this mixture aside for about 15 minutes. In a second bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and set aside. Once the 15 minutes have elapsed, the yeast should start to activate and will be fizzing somewhat. Next, combine the water, sugar, and yeast mixture with the flour mixture and knead it until it’s doughy. Then, set this aside for about an hour so that the dough rises.
After the dough has risen for an hour, roll the dough into a log shape and then split it apart into one and one half-inch-thick segments. With a rolling pin, flatten these segments into circular, disc shapes. Finally, place a bit of the filling in the center of these dumpling shells and pinch the tops in a circular pattern so that it’s sealed. Continue for your remaining pork buns. Using a steamer, steam the filled buns for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then serve with some of your delicious siopao.
Siopao Bola Bola Dough
For Siopao bola bola, you’ll need a completely different dough. When I make the dish, I create a similar filling as I listed above, but instead of cubed pork, I sometimes use ground pork. For this dish, I might also throw in some shiitake as well, but what makes bola bola unique is its cloud-like bun exterior.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Four cups of all-purpose flour
- One teaspoon of baking powder
- A teaspoon of salt
- A half pack of Instant yeast
- A half of a cup of sugar
- Two tablespoons of shortening
- One and quarter cups of warm water
In a bowl, combine the flour, the baking powder, the salt, the yeast, and the sugar by whisking. Once it becomes a little doughy, make a depression in the center and pour in the water. Next, add in the shortening and whisk until the dough is a bit rough.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it for about 15 minutes, and transfer it to a greased bowl. Now it’s time to let the yeast do its job – cover it with a damp paper towel or cloth and let it sit for about 40 minutes, which will cause it to double in size. Break the dough into one and a half-inch pieces and flatten with a roller. Place your filling inside and pinch it closed and steam for about a half an hour, which will cause the buns to increase dramatically in size.
Siopau sauce is truly delicious and can be used for a multitude of dishes – I even like to use the sauce for dipping gyoza. In any situation, I hope you liked my siopao guide, and I hope you love the delicious Filipino flavor.