IMG_0121redoA few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for char siu, a popular way to prepare Chinese BBQ pork. While char siu is delicious on its own, one of our favorite ways to eat it is in a manapua, a popular snack food in Hawaii. If you’ve ever been to a dim sum restaurant and had a char siu bao, a manapua is a larger version of this dainty char siu filled sweet bun.

Manapua History

Char siu bao was first introduced to Hawaii by the Chinese immigrants that came to work in the sugar cane fields. They would peddle these pork filled buns in various neighborhoods and it soon became an island favorite called, manapua. Manapua is the shortened version of the Hawaiian word “mea ono pua’a”; “mea ono” for cake or pastry and “pua’a” for pork.

The present large sized manapua found in Hawaii is credited to a lady named Bat Moi Kam Mau. She opened her dim sum restaurant, Char Hung Sut, in 1946 and supposedly developed the larger sized Manapua, which can now be found in many food establishments all over the islands.

Modern Manapua

Today, you can buy manapuas that are filled with all sorts of fillings: curry, boiled eggs, chicken, and a variety of other goodies.  The filling is only limited by your imagination and you can fill a manapua with anything you would eat with a sweet bun.

Making manapua is somewhat of a small task, but it’s a treat worth taking the time to make. To date, I’ve tried a few steamed bun recipes and the one below is my favorite because it produces a nice smooth and shiny outer skin and has a good texture.

Manapua Dough3yeast

 Add one packet or 2 1/4 tsp of yeast to 1 cup of lukewarm water.

Add one cup of flour to the yeast/water mixture and cover with a damp towel. Let this sit for one hour or until bubbles appear.


Dissolve sugar and vegetable oil in boiling water. Let this water cool until it is lukewarm and add to flour/yeast mixture.


Add remaining flour and knead  for 10 minutes. Place 2 tsp. of sesame oil in a large bowl and roll dough in the bowl to coat lightly with sesame oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for about 2 hours.


Once dough is ready, split it into two. Roll out each piece into a long roll, approximately two inches wide and 14 – 16 inches long.

Cut into 8 -9 pieces and roll into round balls.

Manapua Filling


Flatten dough balls into 4 inch circles. Leave more dough in the center and use your fingers to press dough out at the edges. *You want more dough at in the middle so the meat mixture doesn’t pop through while cooking*

Place a heaping tablespoon of char siu mix into the center of the dough.


Start pulling up the edges of the dough around the filling (my 10yr. old daughter is my helper here).

Pinch the gathered dough close and flip onto a 2″x 2″ inch parchment or wax paper square.

Dip fingers into sesame seed oil and lightly rub onto the top and sides of the bun.

Set buns onto a sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm area and let rise for another 30 – 45 minutes.


After second rise, place buns into a steamer. Leave approximately 1- 2 inches between buns.

Steam for 10 – 12 minutes. Remove and place on rack to cool.  Serve warm.

*If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, you can use the steamer in a rice cooker or any other type of steamer.*


Yummy manapua.

What would you fill your manapua with?Manapua - Char Siu Bao Hawaiian Style


Manapua - Char Siu Bao

How to make large steamed buns or manapua.


Manapua Filling

  • 1 1/4 cup char siu
  • 1 -2 T. Hot Water
  • 2 T. Hoisin
  • 1 T. Oyster Sauce
  • 1 T. Sugar
  • 1 1/2 - 2 T. Green Onions

Manapua Dough

  • 1 packet yeast or 2 1/4 tsp. yeast (do not use quick rise)
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup + 3 1/2 cup flour (total 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil (for bowl) + 1/2 tablespoon
  • 2" x 2" square cut parchment paper for bottom of manapua dough


Manapua Filling

  1. Add hoisin, oyster sauce, and green onions to the chopped char siu.
  2. Dissolve sugar in 1-2 tablespoon of hot water. Mix into char siu filling mixture.
  3. You can also add more hoisin or oyster sauce to taste.\

Manapua Dough

  1. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and mix in 1 cup of flour. Cover with cloth. Let rise 1 hour, until bubbles appear.
  2. Dissolve sugar and vegetable oil in 1/2 cup boiling water. Cool until lukewarm. Pour into the yeast mixture and add the remaining 3 1/2 cups flour.
  3. Knead dough on lightly floured board until smooth (10 minutes). Put 2 tsp. of sesame seed oil into an extra large bowl and place dough inside. Roll dough around in bowl to lightly cover it with the sesame seed oil. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm place. Let rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours.
  4. Divide into 2 portions. Remove first portion and knead 2 minutes. Repeat with second. Roll each into roll 14 – 16 inches long and cut into 8-9 pieces.
  5. Shape each cut piece into round balls. Flatten each piece into 4 inch circles, leaving more dough in the center and using your fingers to push the dough out at the edges.
  6. Take a heaping tablespoon of the char siu mixture and place into the middle of each dough circle. Bring up the edges of the circle to encase the filling and pinch close.
  7. Place each bun onto a square piece of  2″ x 2″ parchment paper. Dip your fingers into the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil and lightly rub the top and sides of the buns. Place these onto a sheet and cover with a damp towel. Place in a warm area and  let the buns rise for about 30 – 45 minutes.
  8. Place buns into a steamer and steam for 10-12 minutes.
  9. Remove buns and place on a rack to cool. Serve warm.
  10. If storing, let buns completely cool and place in the refrigerator in an air tight container. Keep up to 3 days.
  11. To reheat, cover with a damp paper towel and place into the microwave for up to 1 minute or until warmed through.
  12. If freezing, place buns into a plastic bag to store. Re-steam for 10 minutes.

Did you make this recipe?

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  1. My husband is half-Vietnamese, and they love these! I now can make them for him. Thanks for linking up with the Tasty Tuesday’s Link-up. I have pinned your post to the Tasty’s Tuesday’s Pinterest Board!

  2. HI, Erlene. I enjoyed reading about the history of manapua. Thank you for the step by step pictures too–I’m not sure I could make these without the pictures. The tip to leave extra dough in the middle makes sense and is something I wouldn’t have thought about.
    Thank you for sharing this week!

  3. I love steamed buns, these look great! Thanks for linking to Sweet and Savoury Sunday! Stop by and link up again this weekend!

  4. These look amazing!! I think I just saw something similar on a Food Network show that was in Hawaii. I would love to try these!

    Thanks for linking up to Wordy Wednesday. Pinning! 🙂

  5. My family loves manapua, They sit around eating it right out of the box with the pork hash and half moons…..yummy….. Thank you for sharing with us at The MaMade Blog Hop

  6. I love steam buns! I never knew how to make them from scratch and this sounds like a super fun way to make them. I even have the steamer and everything, so gonna try it out! Thanks for linking it up to Snickerdoodle Sunday!

  7. Yum. I love manapuas. Char Siu is my favorite. We have a bakery here where I usually buy mine (i’ve never had them steamed I always go for baked). I’ll have to try making them sometime. Pinning. Seen on Much Ado.