…would surely have to be the steamed, chinese red pork filling variety. According to the brains at wikipedia, manapua is really pidgin english for the hawaiian word mea’ono-pua’a, or pork cake [mea’ono meaning cake and pua’a for pork]. This, I have to say, is news to me as all I’ve ever heard them called are manapua or charsiu bao.
Etymology lessons aside, I realized that I haven’t made these for the blog and since MotH is crazy for chinese red pork/chicken, I cooked up a batch of char siu pork using Noh seasoning mix and looked up my favorite dough recipe on the Honolulu Star Bulletin website. If prepared charsiu is readily available at your market then that’s even better, although the online recipe for the filling looks quite easy. Making the filling a day in advance will work to your advantage when putting these together.
Manapua dough recipe
Note: While the recipe calls for water, I use warmed milk (partially skim) for my dough; I find it gives a richer flavor. Following through with a double-proofing is essential.
Initial shaping: as it’s explained in the recipe, getting the dough thinner around the edges.
Adding the filling: I like small diced pieces of pork fat and meat in my manapua so I cut the charsiu accordingly. I also add chopped green onions for color. To enclose, bring up opposite edges and pinch to seal. Place seam side down on a 3-inch square of waxed paper or baking parchment. Allow buns to rest for 15-20 minutes, depending on how hot your kitchen is. You want the dough to relax enough so that they will expand to a nice, soft texture. Too little time and the dough will be tight. Too much and the whole thing will balloon, fall, and shrink into a wrinkled bun. If your steaming pot/bamboo steamer can only hold so much, the manapua can be placed in the refrigerator to avoid overproofing (cover with a clean kitchen cloth to keep surface from drying out). Meanwhile, bring at least 1½ inches of water to a boil in a steamer then reduce heat to a low simmer.
Place the buns inside with some room to expand. Cover with a folded layer of kitchen gauze to catch the condensation. I steamed them for 15 minutes max. The surface of the buns will be smooth, shiny and spring back when touched. The manapua in the top photo is stuffed with a little more than what the recipe calls for. Most of the time when I buy these, there is hardly any filling and a whole lot of bun. I prefer the ratio at 50-50. Great with beer!