My dad was far from romantic. I can count with the fingers of my hand the number of times I remember him showing affection to my mom in front of me and my sisters. My mom would tell stories about how he wooed her back in the day with occasional carry-outs of mami [mah-mee] noodles and siopao [shoh-pou] — two of her favorite things — but he never brought her flowers, never gave her gifts.

He never took me out to dinner, my mom would sometimes say. Fondly, of course. Without a trace of regret. He never took me out to the movies, she would add — which was true. She loved the movies but the only time my dad took her for a movie date, as far as I can remember, was when they went out to see John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. They brought me along that fateful night that’s why I remember it so well. I was five or so back then and smitten by Tony Manero’s moves. The disco drama was the very first film I saw and, because of it, I had dreams of cleft chins and mirror balls in my sleep for weeks.

He may not have wined and dined her and may not have showered her with I love you’s — as far as I can tell — but my mom didn’t love my dad any less. They didn’t love each other any less. Theirs wasn’t the perfect partnership but they stuck it out together for better and for worse. For richer and for poorer. In sickness and in health. Fifty one years. They stayed together fifty one years until death did them part.

Every now and then I ask myself if I tell Dennis I love him enough or if I tell him I love him too often. Too often that the words begin to lose their meaning, their power. Ours isn’t a perfect partnership, too — is there even such a thing? We’ve been together six years now and, as the years go by, I hope without ceasing that we can have what my mom and dad had. For as long as we can have it.


Pork Asado Siopao


Siopao is steamed pork buns. It is the Filipino version of the Cantonese char siu bao [chahr shoo bou], which is a bun — bao — filled with barbecued pork — char siu — either steamed or baked. Filipinos typically fill their siopao with pork, too, which can be pot-roasted — asado [ah-sah-doh] or ground and shaped like meatballs — bola-bola [boh-lah boh-lah]. Paired with a steaming bowl of mami noodles, siopao is a popular Filipino merienda.


Pork Asado Siopao Recipe, makes 12 buns
Recipe adapted from Nora Daza’s Let’s Cook with Nora and Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings

For the filling

3/4 pound pork butt or shoulder, cut into large cubes
1 medium onion, quartered
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 star anise
1 teaspoon all purpose flour dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

For the dough

1 package active or instant yeast, about 2-1/4 teaspoon
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons canola oil, more for greasing a large bowl
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder

Put pork, onions, water, soy sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce, star anise in a saucepan and cook over low heat until meat is fork tender, over an hour. Drain pork but do not discard the sauce. Shred pork with a fork and set aside. Thicken sauce by whisking in flour and water over medium heat. Whisk sauce until thickened, about one to two minutes. Set aside asado sauce.

Put yeast in a small bowl and add water. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Add oil and stir together. Set aside. Whisk flour, sugar, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add yeast while slowly stirring until a ragged but soft dough forms. Pat the dough together into a ball with your fingers, transfer to a clean work surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and slightly elastic, about five minutes. Test the dough if it is done by pressing your finger into it. The dough should spring back with a slight indentation remaining.

Grease a large bowl with canola oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put it in a warm, draft-free place such as an oven and let it sit until the dough has nearly doubled, about 1 to 2 hours. You can make the dough in advance but make sure to cover the bowl well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let the dough sit at room temperature before rolling it.

Divide dough in half and roll into a log. Divide log into six pieces, about 2-1/2 ounces each piece. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten gently in between your palms. With your fingers, gently shape the dough into a disc — the size of your palm — with a small bulge at the center, which the Chinese calls the belly.

Place a generous tablespoon of pork filling in the center of the dough, right on its belly. Gently tug the edges of the dough toward the center to wrap the filling. Gather the edges together and pinch the top to fully wrap the filling. Lay filled bun on a tray and cover with a towel. Continue shaping and filling the rest of the dough. Set aside filled buns to rise for about half an hour before steaming.

Cut 2-inch square pieces of parchment paper and use these to line the bottom of each bun during steaming. Make sure that there’s an inch space between buns inside the steamer. Steam buns until done, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with asado sauce.

Buns can be steamed then frozen in ziploc bags. Reheat using a microwave or steamer.


Pork Asado Siopao

  • Niecey Roy-RomanceAuthor

    I am so excited to see this recipe! This is my FAVORITE and I cannot get it ANYWHERE in Nebraska! Thank you for sharing!

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  • Sely

    I loved reading the recipe! I can’t wait to try it. But I loved the preamble even more. A very sweet story. One for pause and reflection. Happy Valentines Day to you and Dennis.

  • Liz N.

    I have never been brave enough to try siopao and I think I just might try it now! Thanks for sharing this great recipe. I love the story you shared about your parents, God bless them! My parents are going on 42 years and their relationship has endured so many trials and tribulations but I always am grateful for the example they set for me and my brother. Thank you for sharing a bit of your own personal relationship with Dennis. So touching! Happy Valentine’s Day to you both.

  • Pru


    It’s apparent that your Mother showed and gave her love through food…a gift that she passed on to you! Thank you for sharing this touching story. You’re Parents did good, I’m sure Dennis would agree. Fifty one years, what an inspiration!

  • Dan Terrill

    Looks awesome — I’ll definitely be making this over the weekend. I wasn’t quite following you on how to do the wrapping, but I found a good video at

  • Catherine

    Pork siopao is one of my favorite go-to meals, it’s so compact +
    delicious! Love the love story of your parents, it’s always reassuring
    to hear how a relationship remained strong because of true love +
    perseverance, not perfection :) Happy Valentine’s Day to you + Dennis!

  • Niecey Roy-RomanceAuthor

    I have memories of eating these when we lived in Hawaii on the Naval base. I was only 2 years old but can remember the beach, the siopao, the drag races where they served the best chili over rice, and the ice cream truck that brought us the little Pink Panther ice cream bars with gumball eyes! Funny that I can close my eyes and remember biting into these amazing little steamed rolls…yum! I also remember getting my finger smashed in a vice…funny how one can remember the extremely good and extremely bad at such a young age, and everything in-between is just a haze :)

  • Anonymous

    What a lovely tribute to your parents and your relationship with Dennis too! I think your parents were lucky to have such a long and loving partnership. I know we all strive for that too! Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day Jun! And thanks for the Siapao recipe too!

  • Row

    Love isn’t perfect, but that’s what makes it so special. I’ve learned over the years that gestures that may not seem romantic are actually the most heartfelt ones. Okay, that’s enough from me. I’m hungry for siopao now. :)

  • Pia

    If you mean it every time you say, it will not lose its meaning or power. Keep saying it if you mean it because it may be the last thing he’ll hear from you. (Asado siopao is one of Helen’s favorites! Happy V-Day!)

  • Jun Belen

    Helen has good taste! You did good, Pia!

  • Jun Belen

    What vivid memories, Niecey! It’s funny, isn’t it? I am the same way. It’s a good thing though we remember the good along with the bad.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Sely! I hope you had a happy one, too. Enjoy the long weekend!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Liz! WOW! 42 years is amazing. Here’s wishing your parents more happy years together.

  • Jun Belen

    Pru, thank you for the very kind words. I’m sure my mom would be so happy when she reads what you said. Thank you.

  • Liren Baker

    Jun, this touched me, because in many ways, my dad was the same, when it came to public displays of affection. The rare moments that I would see my parents holding hands would make me so deliriously happy, particularly for my mother. But I always knew he cared, and now that my mom is gone, I understand his devotion more so. And I remember how he would buy her favorite siopao from the tiny shop in Chinatown NYC, where the shopkeeper knew how his Pinoy customers loved it so because it was a taste of home. Thank you for reminding me. I hope you and Dennis had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

  • Michael

    I like the stories with your recipes.

    I made a baked asado bun a couple weeks ago and and am looking forward to trying a steamed variety.

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  • Jun Belen

    Michael, thank you for writing. Please do try the steamed buns and let me know how it goes.

  • Suzanne W.

    Omgosh! I was googling ‘Filipino bloggers’ and found your blog and this recipe! Thank you for sharing, I’m going to pin this on my Pinterest board!

  • yoanna finaud

    This looks sooo yummy!!

  • Jun Belen

    Suzanne, thanks to Google you found my blog! I hope you come back often and try the recipes.

  • annie

    I was looking for a recipe of Siopao until I found yours. It looks delicious, tho’ haven’t tried it yet. Thanks! I am touched by your story for I can relate to your dad and mom’s story. My husband of 27 years never gave me flowers as well but with no doubt, I feel that he loves me until now. He expressed his love by bringing me to Kowloon House in West Ave. and there, he would buy me siopao, because that was all he can afford for we were both students then. (LOL!) I remembered, he would park his car infront of the dimsum kiosk of Kowloon House, and there, we would feast on the siopao and siomai. What a date!

  • Anonymous

    your Pritong Mani recipe was rockin’ and I cannot make them fast enough as I sell out every night. Can’t wait to start cranking out the Siopao next.

  • Kip Hughes

    I take it that the adobo sauce mentioned at the end of the recipe is the thickened sauce the meat was cooked in. Is that right?

    Can a slow cooker be used to make the “pulled pork” filling? If so, any changes needed in the recipe?

  • Anonymous

    So happy to find this recipe. Been wracking my brain for what to do for my mom for Christmas and she’ll LOVE these. Her normal source for siopao is too busy this year to make her some so this’ll be a great surprise. Not the massive Emerald siopao which is the only thing she wanted as pasalubong when I went home in October but she’ll still love it.

  • Jun Belen

    So happy, too, you found the recipe! Happy Holidays to you and your mom!

  • Jun Belen

    Annie, apologies for the late reply but thank you for sharing your story! I remember Kowloon in West Avenue very well. Love their asado and bola-bola siopao. So good paired with a piping hot bowl of chicken mami!

  • Jun Belen

    Kip, I have never made this dish in a slow cooker. I don’t think the recipe needs modifications when using a slow cooker. And, yes, the asado sauce you serve the steamed buns with is the sauce that you thicken when you cook the filling.

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