If you've ever had Chinese bao, you'll find Hawaiian manapua familiar. Chinese workers brought them to the islands, where they became hugely popular. Traditionally, the puffy yeasted dough was filled with roast pork but Hawaiians use a huge variety of fillings now. We like ground beef sauteed quickly with soy sauce and hoisin.
For the dough: Whisk together the warm water and honey in a small bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast. Let the mixture rest until it bubbles, 4 to 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and sesame oil and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. If the dough seems a little dry, sprinkle in a little bit of water. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. If the dough is a little sticky, lightly dust the surface with flour. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with sesame oil. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, gently turning to coat. Cover with a damp clean dishtowel and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
For the filling: Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet. Add the beef and a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate.
Lower the heat to medium. Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Return the beef to the skillet. Stir in the Chinese five spice powder and cook until very fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the sherry and cook until the skillet is almost dry. Add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce and 1/4 cup water. Stir to combine and cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 3 minutes. Cool completely.
To make the steamed buns: Cut the wax paper into eight 3-inch squares. Lightly brush a baking sheet with canola oil. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface. Punch it down and divide it into 8 equal balls. Roll out each to a 5-inch disc, working from the center to the outer edge and turning it often to keep the middle twice as thick as the outer edge. Cup the disc of dough in one hand and mound 2 tablespoons of filling in the center. Pinch the edges of the dough together with your other hand to seal the bun, Flip the bun over so that it is seam-side down and reshape it into a smooth round dome. Place it on a square of wax paper to keep it from sticking. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Arrange the buns (and wax paper) on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart and cover with a damp towel. Set the buns in a warm place to rise until plumped and puffy, 45 to 60 minutes.
Fill a large pot with at least 3 inches of water and bring it to a strong simmer over medium-high heat. Put 4 buns in the steamer insert, leaving 1 inch between them to expand. Drape a clean dishcloth across the top of the pot to prevent condensation from dripping from the lid onto the buns. (This step isn't necessary if you are using a bamboo steamer.) Cover the steamer and cook for 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining buns. Serve hot.
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