Manapua From Alana Kysar's "Aloha Kitchen: Recipes From Hawai'i"


Makes 12 manapua

Manapua, Hawaiʻi’s version of a Chinese char siu bao (steamed pork bun), is one of my favorite snacks. How it came to be known as the manapua is a story worth sharing. The name comes from the Hawaiian phrase “mea ʻono puaʻa,” which loosely translates to “delicious pork thing.” How can you not love a delicious pork thing? Typically steamed, you can also find baked versions. My favorite manapua comes from Char Hung Sut on North Pauahi Street in Chinatown on the island of Oʻahu. The giant manapua have the perfect bao (bun), both pillowy and chewy, and are very generously filled with the best char siu. This is my take on their classic.

Bun (Bao)

  • 3⁄4 cup water, warmed (100° to 110°F)
  • 11⁄4 cups whole milk, warmed (100° to 110°F)
  • Two 0.25-ounce packages active dry yeast (4 1⁄2 teaspoons total)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, plus 3⁄4 cup
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄3 cup neutral oil


  • 11⁄2 pounds Char Siu Pork, minced (recipe below)
  • 1⁄2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the dough, combine the water, milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Let the mixture sit until the yeast is activated and foamy, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine both flours, the salt, and the remaining 3⁄4 cup sugar. Mix the dry ingredients together on low speed. Keep the mixer running and slowly pour in the yeast mixture followed by the oil. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. If it does not start to pull away from the sides, add more flour, a tablespoon or two at a time. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface quickly so that you can oil your stand mixer bowl. Transfer the dough back into the oiled bowl, flipping once to coat both sides, and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, cut twelve 4-inch squares of parchment paper for the bottom of the manapua.

To make the filling, put the char siu in a bowl. In a small saucepan, whisk together the water, cornstarch, all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat and pour over the char siu. Stir with a wooden spoon or toss with your hands to evenly coat the meat with the sauce.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide it into twelve equal pieces. Transfer all but one piece back to the bowl, covering them with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Roll the piece of dough into a ball before flattening into a pancake with the palm of your hand. Use a rolling pin to roll the edges of the pancake out to a 5-inch round; you want the center of the dough to be a bit thicker—it should look like a little bump. This will help give the manapua a uniform thickness on the top and bottom. Add about 1⁄4 cup filling to the center of the round, then bring the edges up and around the filling, pinching them together to seal in the filling. With the seam side down and your hand in a cupping motion, gently roll the manapua into a ball with a few circular motions. Place the round ball, seam side down, on one of the precut parchment squares. Cover the ball with a clean kitchen towel and repeat until all the dough has been used. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil with the lid on. Set a steamer basket over it and turn the heat to low, keeping the water at a simmer. Place the manapua with the parchment squares in the basket, spacing them about an inch apart. If you are using a metal steamer or a glass lid, place a clean kitchen towel between the basket and the lid to capture the condensation. Steam until the buns are light and fluffy, 15 to 20 minutes; they should be touching or almost touching. Transfer to a wire rack, cover with a clean towel, and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator or freezer. To reheat, simply wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds or resteam them in a steamer basket for 10 minutes, until heated through.

Char Siu Pork

Rub the pork butt strips with the salt and place in a wide rimmed pan or in a gallon-size ziplock bag. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, five-spice powder, hoisin, whiskey, and red food coloring (if using) to make a marinade. Whisk together until well combined. Reserve one-third in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for basting the next day. Pour the remaining marinade over the pork strips and gently rub with your hands to evenly coat them. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or zip up the bag. Transfer both the reserved marinade and the pork strips to the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Fit a roasting pan with a rack that is at least 2 inches tall. Fill the pan with a 1⁄4 inch of water. Lay the pork strips on the rack and roast for 20 minutes. Flip all of the strips over and baste with some of the reserved marinade. Roast for another 20 minutes. Flip all of the strips one more time and baste again before roasting for another 20 minutes. The pork should be just cooked through and still moist at the center. Transfer the strips to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet to cool a bit. The pork can be served immediately or cooled completely before using for another recipe.

Reprinted with permission from Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai'i by Alana Kysar, Copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press.

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