A Guide to Understanding the Difference Between Siopao Asado and Bola Bola

siopao bola bola steamed minced pork buns

Many people love Filipino food, but the beloved siopao stands out as one of the most popular dishes. These fluffy, steamed buns are filled with various savory concoctions. They are a staple in street food culture and at family gatherings. But there are two types of siopao that stand out: Asado and Bola Bola.

Picture this: a fluffy white bun holds succulent meat simmered in a savory sauce. It mixes sweet and salty flavors to create an irresistible harmony. Yes, we’re talking about siopao asado. 

This classic version of siopao has long been a favorite among food enthusiasts. They love its tender filling, which is made from marinated pork or chicken. The meat is slow-cooked perfectly in soy sauce and spices. It’s packed with umami goodness and guaranteed to leave your taste buds begging for more.

But, if you prefer pure indulgence, then look no further than siopao bola bola. 

Join me as we uncover the mysteries behind these foods. We will explore their special flavors, textures, and cultural importance. By the end of our adventure, you’ll know how to tell these snacks apart. You might even find your new favorite. 

Siopao Asado: A Symphony of Sweet and Savory Flavors

Siopao Asado is often hailed as the quintessential Filipino snack. It has a rich history that dates back to Chinese influences on Filipino cooking. At its heart lies a succulent filling of marinated pork, typically simmered in a tantalizing blend of soy sauce, sugar, and spices

Preparing Siopao Asado requires great attention to detail. This is to ensure a perfect balance of flavors and textures. The asado pork filling begins by marinating the meat in a rich mix of sauces and seasonings. Then, it is slowly simmered until tender. A lot of this tasty filling is then put inside soft and fluffy siopao dough. The dough is made from flour, yeast, sugar, water, or milk. 

The result is a harmonious fusion of sweet and savory flavors, encapsulated within a pillowy soft bun.

Key Characteristics of Siopao Asado:

FillingMarinated pork, cooked until tender and infused with a sweet-savory sauce.
TextureSoft and fluffy bun, providing a delightful contrast to the succulent filling.
FlavorA symphony of sweet and savory notes, with hints of soy sauce, garlic, and spices.
AppearanceTypically, a pale white bun enclosing a generous portion of flavorful pork filling.
Related: Do I need to cover or wrap cookie dough when chilling?

Bola Bola: A Celebration of Versatility and Tradition

Bola Bola is a versatile siopao that comes in a variety of flavors and textures that are sure to please the taste buds. Unlike its Asado counterpart, Bola Bola is not sweet. It relies on a savory mix of ground meat—often pork or chicken—mixed with aromatic herbs and spices. 

Preparation is key when it comes to crafting this savory sensation. We make the meatballs with care. They have ground pork, garlic, and onions. We use breadcrumbs or cornstarch to hold them together. They also have a tasty mix of herbs and spices like oyster sauce, pepper, and soy sauce. This flavorful mixture is then rolled into bite-sized spheres before being carefully tucked away inside the soft white dough.

Once assembled perfectly in their fluffy exterior. Then, they are steamed just right. The heat gently penetrates the smooth dough. It creates a harmony between lightness and succulence. Only expert cooking can achieve this. 

Key Characteristics of Bola Bola:

FillingA savory mixture of ground meat, seasoned with herbs, spices, and aromatics.
TextureThe softness of the steamed bun complements the filling’s hearty texture.
FlavorRobust and savory, with layers of flavor derived from a blend of herbs, spices, and meaty goodness.
AppearanceResembling its Asado counterpart, Bola Bola showcases a pale bun concealing a flavorful meat filling.

Understanding the Difference Between Siopao Asado and Bola Bola

While both Siopao Asado and Bola Bola share the commonality of being steamed buns filled with savory goodness, their points of departure lie in the flavor profiles and ingredients used.

  • Flavor Profile: Siopao Asado leans towards sweetness, thanks to its caramelized pork filling, while Bola Bola embraces a savory palette enriched by herbs and spices.
  • Filling Composition: Asado features marinated pork as its centerpiece, while Bola Bola opts for ground meat mixed with aromatic seasonings.
  • Cultural Significance: Asado reflects the influence of Chinese culinary traditions merged with Filipino flavors, whereas Bola Bola embodies a more indigenous approach to siopao-making.

Usage Application Differences

Siopao asado and bola bola not only differ in their fillings and flavors but also have distinct usage applications in Filipino cuisine. While both varieties are commonly enjoyed as snacks or street food, they each have their own traditional uses for specific occasions and festivities.

Siopao asado is often associated with special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and family gatherings. Its sweet filling, made of tender chunks of pork marinated in a flavorful sauce, appeals to those looking for a delightful treat that satisfies the taste buds. The vibrant red color of the filling adds a festive touch to any celebration, making siopao asado the perfect addition to a banquet table.

On the other hand, bola bola is considered more of an everyday siopao variety in many regions across the Philippines. Its appeal lies in its savory meatball filling consisting of seasoned ground pork or chicken mixed with different herbs and spices. Bola bola is frequently sought-after during lunchtime at school or work, offering a hearty meal on-the-go that can be consumed quickly without compromising on flavor.

It’s worth mentioning that regional preferences also play a role when it comes to deciding between siopao asado and bola bola. For example, in some regions like Metro Manila, siopao asado reigns supreme due to its popularity among locals who appreciate its sweet notes combined with tender pieces of meat. 

In contrast, other areas may give preference to the versatile nature of bola-bola because it allows for creative variations by incorporating ingredients like salted eggs or cheese into the meatball mixture.

Read: How to Reheat Siopao without Microwave

Serving Suggestions Creative Variations


When it comes to serving siopao asado and bola bola, the possibilities are truly endless. You can be as creative as you want with these tasty steamed buns. You can try different sauces, toppings, and even new fusion varieties. Let’s explore some exciting serving ideas. We’ll also look at creative variations. They will take your siopao experience to the next level. 

For siopao asado enthusiasts, pairing it with a tangy dipping sauce can add an extra layer of flavor. A classic combo is to dip the fluffy bun in a mix of soy sauce, calamansi juice (Filipino lime), and chili oil. It gives the perfect mix of savory and spicy. Alternatively, you can try smearing a dollop of hoisin sauce on top of the bun before taking each bite – this will give it a rich sweetness that complements the succulent pork filling beautifully.

If you’re craving something more adventurous, why not create your own fusion variety? Consider adding some Asian-inspired slaw made from shredded cabbage marinated in rice vinegar and sesame oil as a topping for your traditional siopao asado. The slaw is crisp. The bun is soft. They create an interesting contrast in texture that will surprise your taste buds. 

When it comes to bola bola siopao, there are equally exciting possibilities. Try accompanying these meat-filled buns with some sweet chili sauce or peanut sauce for added depth and complexity.  The flavors are slightly sweet and nutty. They go perfectly with the juicy meat. They create a tantalizing harmony with every bite. 

To kick things up a notch, consider exploring fusion by adding unique fillings to your plain bola bola siopao recipe. How about mixing Italian cuisine with Filipino flair? Stuff these buns with tomato-based meatballs. Or perhaps experimenting with Korean bulgogi-style beef filling paired with kimchi? Only your imagination can limit the options.

Don’t be afraid to let your culinary creativity run wild and explore all the different ways you can serve and enjoy siopao asado and bola bola. It could be with a zesty sauce, a twist on traditional flavors, or even fusion types. These steamed buns are waiting for you to unlock their full potential. So go ahead, think outside the bun and embark on a siopao adventure unlike any other.

Also see: How to Make Siopao Dough Without Yeast

Which Siopao Is More Popular in the Philippines?

In the Philippines, Siopao Asado is generally more popular than Siopao Bola Bola. 

Popular spots for Siopao in Manila include Kowloon House, known for its Jumbo Pao, and Masuki, renowned for its Regular Asado Siopao. These establishments attract crowds seeking quality Siopao with delicious fillings. Additionally, Ma Mon Luk and Binondo Original Fried Siopao are also highly regarded for their Siopao offerings.

The Verdict: Which Siopao Reigns Supreme?

Ultimately, the choice between Siopao Asado and Bola Bola boils down to personal preference and mood. Craving a sweet-savory indulgence? Siopao Asado is your go-to. Seeking a hearty, savory treat? Bola Bola has you covered.

The colorful landscape of Filipino cuisine has two types of siopao. Both hold their own. They offer a journey through flavors and traditions. They are enjoyed on bustling street corners. They are also comforting snacks at home. These steamed buns are sure to satisfy cravings and bring back memories of shared meals and culinary adventures.  

So, why not savor both and revel in the diverse tapestry of Filipino gastronomy? After all, there’s always room for another bite of siopao goodness!

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