Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Char Siew Pau ~ Steamed Barbecue Pork Bun

I have been searching for the illusive char siu pau recipe which is soft and fluffy without having to use expensive specialised pau or bleached flour or long preparation time of a few days. I am pleased to say I have found it.

char siu pau
A combination of plain and high grade flour is used for this recipe which does not require a long or complicated proving time after the pau is pleated.

I am not very good at the pleating which could explain why my buns 'loose' the pleat pattern after steaming. The buns turned out with only a slight tinge of yellow. They were delicious. I am all right with it not being pure white , the texture was what I was after.

For testing purposes I ate a cold char siu pau a few hours after it was steamed. It was still soft though normally I prefer my pau hot or at least warm and would zap them in the microwave to reheat.

You can rest assured you will not end up with rock hard buns with this recipe. The dough is very forgiving.

Makes 12 buns

150 gm plain flour
250 gm high grade/bread flour
50 gm sugar
30 gm milk powder
1 Tbsp shortening
2 tsp Surebake yeast
250 ml warm water (50C)
1 tsp Edmonds baking powder

char siu filling recipe

1. Add shortening and warm water into breadmaker pan to soften shortening.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients except baking powder. Turn the breadmaker to dough setting and mix for 5 minutes.

3. Add baking powder and continue with the dough cycle.

4. Let rise until at least double in size (about 1-2 hours). (Mine was overproofed (fig 1), it more than doubled in size but the final texture was not affected - it is a very forgiving dough)

5. Divide the dough into 12 pieces.

6. Flatten and wrap with about a tablespoon of filling of your choice and seal.

7. Place onto greaseproof paper and leave to rest for another 10 mins only.

8. Steam over high heat for 10 mins.

9. I like to peel the outer skin before eating.

char siew bao, bbq pork bun

Notes on shaping and pleating the pau :
1. Once the dough is formed into 12 balls (fig 2), I flatten all of them with my palm and cover them with a cloth. This helps to relax the gluten and makes it easier for the next stage.

2. Make the center of the dough thicker than the edge (fig 3). I do not use the rolling pin at all as the dough is pliable enough to be thumped and pulled into shape with the palm and fingers.

3. Do not wait for the buns to double in size, rest for 10 minutes only before they are put into the steamer (fig 5). They will expand and double in size when they are steamed (fig 6).

This is a 1 minute video of how I pleat the pau. Music excerpt from Fishing Junks at Sunset by Jean Michel Jarre.

Note :
1. This recipe is not suitable to proof overnight as it contains double acting baking powder.
2. The steamed pau freezes well. To defrost, take the pau out from the freezer a few hours earlier. It is not so suitable to defrost in the microwave as the meat and pau defrost at a different rate.
3. Edmonds baking powder is a double acting baking powder.

Recipe : The Bread Book by Bernard Clayton (adapted)


hiha12 said...

i made it! beautiful and so yummy.
thank you so much Sinner.
i am to try the "bouncy beef balls" later on. wish me luck..

Sinner said...

Hi Hiha12

So glad you like the pau. Thank you for the feedback.

Finger crossed for the bouncy beef balls.

KWF said...

Sinner, can I use normal instant yeast for this recipe?

Sinner said...

kwf, I would say there shouldn't be a problem using normal instant yeast.

KWF said...

thanks so much sinner! This is definitely going to be in my to-do-list. I tried making paus the conventional way a few days ago. End up they're hard like stone when cold and smell of ammonia *yucks*

KWF said...

sinner, I've tried this today. As I don't have plain flour on hand, I've used my remaining Hong Kong flour to replace the plain flour in the recipe. Is the skin supposed to be a little chewy? It's not really like the conventional pau which is a little powdery. Not too sure is it's due to the replacement of flour though. But the skin stayed soft after cooled.

Sinner said...

I don't know much about HK flour. Its gluten level could be very different to that of plain flour. HK flour is not very common here.

As it was, it took me a bit of juggling to get the plain flour and bread flour ratio close enough to that of a pau texture.

Maybe you would like to try ½ the recipe with plain flour and see whether it makes a difference.

It has always been a habit of mine to peel the skin of all my pau (even bought ones) before eating, so can't really comment on what the skin feels like .

KWF said...

sorry sinner, I didn't make myself clear. What I meant by skin was actually the whole white "bread", not only the outer layer. HK flour is actually a low gluten flour. I suspected it was due to that when mine turned out different from yours. I will definitely try it again with plain flour. Is your dough wet to handle? I kneaded it with my hands (don't have a bread machine). And do I have to knead till membrane stage like bread? Thanks for answering my many qns. :)

Sinner said...

Mine wasn't chewy. Even those that have been kept in the freezer still turned out nice and soft reheated in the microwave.

The dough (after the 1st proving) was neither tacky nor sticky. If you look at the video the dough was very easy and pliable to shape. But bear in mine that you might have to adjust the water content to suit your flour absorbtion.

Yes...same treatment as you would knead a normal bread dough.

No worries ... glad to assist if I can :)

Anonymous said...

Hi sinner, I am trying out this recipe of yours. My dough is proving as I type. I do not have milk powder so I omitted that. I hope it won't affect the pau in any way. Will let you know the outcome :) Thanks for sharing this easy to follow recipe :)

Anonymous said...

Hi sinner, your recipe turns out great! I used HK flour as I have read in other forum that it will make the pau white! One thing though, I think I can taste a very slight tinge of bitterness...I followed the exact measurement given in your recipe. Do you think I should reduce amount of baking powder as stated in your recipe? I'm just thinking that baking powder is the one that gives the bitter aftertaste...please correct me if i'm wrong. Anyways, it's a wonderful easy to follow recipe!

Sinner said...

Hi Favbabe,
I had my finger crossed when you first said you omitted milk powder but was hoping you had substituted with milk instead.

Milk is suppose to help the pau (or bread) be more tender, softer and aid in the keeping properties.

I did a search about your bitter taste - it could be the aluminium in your baking powder. Maybe buy a brand that is aluminium free.
I use a level tsp of baking powder only - no bitter taste in my pau :).
I don't know if reducing the bp will affect how the pau rises in the steaming process.

Thank you for the feedback. I am glad the pau turned out well. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey sinner, thanks for your prompt reply to my comment. I was contemplating on substituting the milk powder with liquid milk cos I have milk in my fridge. I should have uh?...nvm, I'll keep that tips in mind next time. Yes, I will continue to make pau using ur recipe :) As for the baking powder, it says on the label that the ingredients are: disodium diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate and potato starch. No alum mentioned...I'll maybe try another brand as I bought a generic (in-hse supermarket) brand of baking powder cos it's cheaper. Btw, I watched the video of pau pleating MANY times before I pleat my pau. I sat in front of my computer and watch the video AGAIN when I needed to pleat my pau. The pleat came out very nice. You are such a thoughtful person, loading a video clip on pau pleating as it really helps! Sorry for the long comment as I am very long-winded :P

Sinner said...

Hi Favbabe,

Thank you for your kind words. Glad you found the video useful. I too have sat staring at pictures for hours when first trying to learn how to pleat :)

aster said...

hi sinner,
i would like to try to make paus tonight, but could you please tell me how much fresh milk should i use if i were to substitute it for powder milk? thank you.

Sinner said...

Hi aster,

Try replacing the water with milk. You might have to reduce the liquid content in the recipe since you are not using milk powder.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sinner,

I did some research on Char Siew Pau..I think they use American Rose flour which taste better..And how to make your pau white? I also did a research while reading so many receipe about Char siew Pau? Someone did mention add a few drop of vinegar to your water before you steam your buns and it will make them white? I dunno whether it's true or not as I have never sampled them before but you can try put some vinegar to your water before you steam your buns.

But from the look your buns already look great to me..Soft and fluffy.

Unknown said...

i wish to try this revipe but i dont have a bread maker... still possible to make? :)

Sinner said...

pris - of course you can make this without a breadmaker.

Sharpei Puppy - thanks for the tip

Anonymous said...

i made it. it's so soft. only one thing which puzzle me. yours looks beautiful. mine seems like expanding sideways instead of upwards. everytime i make pau using baking powder, this is sure to happen. any idea what went wrong? your recipe is sure a keeper.

Sinner said...

I too had my pau expanding sideways when I first started trying out pau recipes. My bread shaping technic must be improving as my pau have been behaving itself. lol

I don't think it is the baking powder that is the cause. Try this....after you have divided the dough, take each piece and gently pull the sides down and under to form a smooth ball with good surface tension (fig 2). I believe this is what helps bread buns retains its shape during the baking process. If you are already doing this, then I can't think of anything else.

Am glad you like the pau. Thanks for the feedback. Hopefully when you try again, your pau will behave itself and stand tall ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tips. One more thing, can this pau be baked instead of steam?

Sinner said...

If you want a soft baked bun I suggest you use the soft sweet 'water roux' bun dough.

For a crispy pastry type, use the seremban siu pau dough.

However if you do attempt to bake this pau, I wouldn't mind knowing the result.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sinner.

I'm very eager to try this recipe tonight. I don't have shortening at home, is there any sub I can use instead of shortening?

Sinner said...

roxkitty, you can try lard.

Anonymous said...

I tried the recipe and am really happy with the result. Thank you so much :)

P/S: I used shortening in the end.

Sinner said...

I went to your blog and had a look at your pau. I wouldn't have believed it was your first attempt. Well done !

Really appreciate the feedback. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I just love this site!
My kids have been for years badgering me to make boa and finally did it with the kids yesterday, but they didn't come out white. They were fluffy (cause a boa can always be fluffier...) but they turned a light coffee colour....the dough was also not white after i added the yeast ...any suggestions?
btw, i used butter for shortening as there is non in israel..thought about trying vegtable oil instead next time?
Anyways, how do i get the boa to stay white, like your pics??
love to hear your recommendations

Sinner said...

Hi Sueisrael,
Butter is yellow so your pau will have a brownish tinge. Shortening is white.

My pau doesn't turn out pure white either as I don't use bleached flour.

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered your site and would like to know the way to make the dough if I don't have a breadmaker.This is very new to me

Sinner said...

You don't need a breadmaker to make this. The breadmaker just makes it easier and does the hardwork of kneading.

Knead by hand like you would for bread until it is smooth, soft and pliable.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, will try and let you know the results

Anonymous said...

Hi,ty for the recipe =) Would like to ask about e shaping and pleating part. I pleated them nicely but after I steam them, all the pleats are gone,how do i keep the nice shape? Also, how could I make them even softer?

Sinner said...

I guess with anything, practice makes perfect. This pau was soft. Did you substitute any ingredients in my recipe ?

Unknown said...

Just found your recipe and going to try it. If I want to make the pau in advance for dinner guests, how do i do this - where do i stop?

Sinner said...

Krish, complete the steaming process. When you are ready to serve, steam again to reheat. Make sure no water drips onto the pau. Or alternatively reheat in the microwave.

You can even make and freeze the pau a few days in advance. Leave at room temperature to thaw and reheat before serving your guest.

Easy peasy :)

Unknown said...

Thanks. will try and let you know

Amy Goh said...


Thank you for your video clip on pleating pau. It was definitely helpful!

My 1st 5 pau turned out hideous! But the next five was much better, but it still cannot be compared to yours. Looks like I have to pleat many more to achieve the same standard.

Sinner said...

Glad the video was of help. My pleating is only passable. haha

Anonymous said...

hi sinner kids came home and ask wats for lunch. they couldnt believe when i said char siew pau. yep and truly home make ones too. actually i was surprised myself tat it was so easy and of cos the appearance wasnt so perfect. but the taste was "awesomenest" said my son. the texture was really soft. the colour was abit yellowish but was ok wit me. thanks so much for sharing another great recipe.

Sinner said...

Hi greedy,

Am so pleased your son thinks the pau was 'awesomemest'. lol

Anonymous said...

Hello Again

I made this for my late supper.

Turned out quite okay although I hand kneaded the dough. I am sure the next attempt will be much better with a bread maker (my LK had promised to buy me one for my birthday present).

Sinner, what features shall I look for in bread maker ?


Sinner said...

Hi CClarice,

You have been a busy little beaver ;) A breadmaker will be a great timesaver.

When looking for a breadmaker the most important feature (in fact a must have) is an independent BAKE button. With this you then have the flexibility of delaying or pausing the baking until the dough have risen enough. When ready you can then press the Bake button to start the baking process.

The 2nd important feature for me would be to get a breadmaker with a horizontal pan. That gives you a normal and more attractive looking loaf like those in a bakery instead of a square skyscraper.

My first breadmaker was an entry level Breville BB280. Had the all important separate Bake button. But konked out within 2 years.

My current breadmaker is more heavy duty - Sunbeam Quantum BM7800. Love it as it is so flexible. For us here in the cold winter, bread takes a bit longer to rise than in summer and the Sunbeam allows me to set a different program for the different seasons.

Hope I am not confusing you. So glad you were game to try the pau even by hand kneading.

Anonymous said...

Hej Sinner

Thanks for going into such an extent of details on the bread maker. Really appreciate it. I will not rush myself into the purchase until I find the features that you recommended.

Once again, thank you Sinner.


madimomi said...

Hi Sinner,
I can't find Surebake yeast in USA. Will it be just as soft and fluffy using active/instant yeast (missing ingredient is bread improver)? Do I still use the same amount of active/instant yeast to replace Surebake? Should I also try to add bread improve too & if so, how much? Thx for answering the questions in advance.

Sinner said...


Yes, use the same quantity of active/instant yeast in place of surebake yeast.

I believe the pau will be just as soft without adding bread improver. Even though my yeast has bread improver, I am not adding more yeast than normal. I wouldn't go to the trouble of buying bread improver unless you already have some at home.

Sinner said...

Hi CClarice,

You are more than welcome. Always happy to help if I can :)

Unknown said...

Hi Sinner,
Thanks a lot for the video on how to pleat 'pau'. Mine always 'hoi how' on steaming. Btw, have you tried making chinese egg custard tarts - the ones you get in yum char restaurants? Haven't had much success there.

Sinner said...

Hi Denise,

I love egg tarts. But as I am the only one eating them, I can't try out those recipes too often. And it is not something that will keep well for next day. But one day when I have a real craving, I might give it another twirl.

Thanks for dropping by.

Audrey said...

Hi Sinner
Made the paus yesterday according to your recipe but used milk and warm water (200 ml altogether). Used 1 and half tsp instant yeast. Tasted good but dough was elastic. Wonder what caused this.Thanks.

Sinner said...

Sorry Audrey, pretty hard to pin down why some recipes works well for some but not others. Could be due to any number of variance - flour, brands, atmosphere etc.

Unknown said...

Hi Sinner
Regards to your Notes on shaping and pleating the pau.
My question is:
Do i need to flatten the 12 balls as per fig 3? If yes, cover them with a cloth (as per your notes) for how long? The cloth should be dry or wet?
Your reply is much appreciated.

Siew Ching

Sinner said...

Hi Siew Ching,
Yes, flatten the balls. Cover them as long as you are still working on them. Dry cloth.

Unknown said...

Hi Sinner
Forgot to ask you a few more questions:
1) Can I use canola oil (healthier type :)) instead of shortening? If yes, do I still use warm water or cold?
2) What can I substituted for the peanut butter? Is a bit weird for me to put that...I've never thought of putting that into the char siew pau..
Thanks & Regards
Siew Ching

Unknown said...

Hi Sinner
I've not receive your reply yet.
Are you busy celebrating Chinese New Year? :)

Hope to hear from you soon.
Siew Ching

Sinner said...

Hi Siew Ching,
I have no idea about the substitution but if you do experiment with it, would love to hear the outcome.

Cage said...

Hey everyone!

Thank you Sinner for this great recipe!
hmm.. im thinking about ghee as a substitution for shortening as im having a hard time finding it too!
anyone tried ghee?

Kiwi'n Oz said...

Hi Sinner
I love your site but have only just now made a recipe from it!
I made these steam buns last night (didn't take long to proof as I am in Perth.. 32 degrees yesterday!) and they turned out great.
Being in Oz I thought I might have a bit of trouble with the B Powder but buns came out light and fluffy (I actually just bunged the B Powder in with all the other dry ingred).
Of course they weren't snow white but taste and texture great. I might omit milk powder next time (as it is yellowish in colour) and use milk instead of water.

Thanks from Kiwi in Oz
PS Love your pics from Waitakere and Happy New Year 2012!

Sinner said...

Hi Kiwi'n Oz,

I believe it is the flour that is causing it to be yellowish, unless you use bleached flour.
Glad you like the Waitakere pics. Thanks for the feedback.

BLUMIT - Blooming Your Life said...

Looks Delicious

Unknown said...


I just want to tell you that I made this just now so people know that this is a legit recipe. It's the first time I've been happy about Pau! Other attempts just fail.

The bun was a tad elastic but it tasted so good! :)

I used pork instead or char siew. And also I forgot to add the baking powder, but it still got big. :)

You will now be on my blog roll. I might take pictures of it next time I make them and post it on my blog. :)


Unknown said...

Can I use the dry yeast instead if I don't have the double active yeast powder?

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