Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Smilling Char Siew Pau/ Starter Dough Method(Traditional Way)

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It has been a long journey for me to get these smiling char siew pau with traditional way. My family consume a lot of steamed buns for the past 2 weeks :D Too much until my elder son complaint too much for him :p The efforts are pay off after seeing all these steamed buns with big smile :)
First I like to thanks
Lily's Wai Sek Hong
for her recipe. Thanks for her efforts of showing step by step pictures tutorial on making smiling steamed buns in professional way.

Pau dough recipe adapted and slightly modified from Lily's Wai Sek Hong
Char Siew Filling
* more than enough for one batch of steamed buns
~Char siew filling with homemade Chinese roasted pork (char siew)
300g char siew, dice
(B) Thickening sauce
120ml water
5 tbsp homemade char siew sauce(from roasted pork)
1 tbsp tapioca flour
1 tbsp corn flour
½ tbsp all-purpose flour

Mix all the thickening sauce till well combined. Bring to simmer at low heat by stirring continuously till thicken. Off the heat and add in the diced char siew. Stir till well mix. Cover and keep in fridge to set for several hours before use.
* Do not skip the thickening sauce as this will create the ‘sauce’ while having the hot char siew pau.

You can replace with ordinary pork meat and cook as below.
~Char siew  filling with ordinary pork meat
300g pork loin(梅花肉)‏, dice
1 onion (dice)
2 tbsp oil

Seasoning: 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 3 tbsp soya sauce, 3 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp sesame oil
Thickening sauce: ½ cup water, 2 tbsp cornflour, 1 tbsp plain flour (mix and set aside)

Heat up the wok. Add in oil and fry the onion till fragrant. Add in the diced pork and cook till turn white and cooked. Pour in the mixture of seasoning and cook till become thick sauce. Off the heat and dish out the filling. Cover and keep in fridge to set for several hours before use.

Pau Dough
* yield about 8 pieces of steamed buns (about 38g each)
~Starter dough (yield about 350g;only used 150g for this recipe;keep the rest for other batch)
250g pau flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
130-150ml water
~Main dough
150g starter dough
50g castor sugar
1 tsp double action baking powder
1/2 tsp Ammonium bicarbonate
A tiny drop of potassium carbonate & sodium bi-carbonate solution a.k.a. Kan Sui (<1/8tsp)
3 tsp water
5 tbsp pau flour
4 tbsp wheat starch
1 tbsp lard/shortening
~ Starter dough
Knead all till form into dough. Put inside a container and flatten the dough. Cover with wet cloth. Leave to rest overnight at room temperature.

* As you can see the dough has double in size. I left mine about 12 hours.
* Inside turns foamy and yeasty.

~ Main dough
1. Weigh 150g of starter dough and add in the sugar.  Mix until the sugar has dissolved. 
* I mix with scraper as the mixture is sticky to handle.

2. In a small plate, add 1/2 tsp double action baking powder, 1/2 tsp ammonium bicarbonate and a drop of kan sui with 2 teaspoons water.  Stir to dissolve. Add into starter dough mixture.  Mix well to combine.

3. Add in the pau flour and wheat starch. Mixing with scraper till most of the flour form into lumps. Transfer to working surface and knead with hand to soft dough.  (a little more water might be needed as it depends on how wet the starter dough is).
* I added about 2-3 teaspoons. One teaspoon at a time.

4. Add in 1 tablespoon lard/shortening and knead well.
*At first it might seems very oily. Don't worry as the dough will absorb as you knead.

5. Flatten dough and spread it out. In a small plate, dissolve the remain 1/2 teaspoon double action baking powder with 1 teaspoon water. Rub/spread all over the dough. Fold the dough in and knead well, so that all the baking powder is well spread.  Dough is ready to be shaped.

6. Divided into 8 portions (about 38g each). Shape all into balls.
7. Flatten one portion and put the Char Siew filling.  Pick up the edges and wrap up the filling. Place the bun on parchment paper. Repeat till all finish.
* Do refer
Christine and dim sum chef video on how to pleat steamed buns.

8. Bring the water in a steamer to rapid boil. Steam the buns for 10 minutes.  Turn the heat (stove) to lowest and steam further 1 minute. Off the heat and leave the buns inside for few minutes before open the lid.
* This process is to avoid sudden decrease pressure inside steamer which can cause shrinking.
* If the ammonia smell is too strong do steam 2nd time for few minutes. This will get rid of the unpleasant smell.

I'm sharing this post via Muhibbah Malaysian Monday.


  1. your char siew paus really make me mouthwatering...yum yum...

  2. I'll be smiling right back at the pau if you served me one of this! Looks delicious, perfectly done!

  3. lovely char siew paus, the texture is nice!

  4. Thanks for sharing!
    I've been looking for char siew bao's receipe recently.

  5. wow, they cracked beautifully! and so white!

  6. Oh wow Vivian, Kudos! Your baos look perfect. I have also bookmarked this recipe from Lily's site but have yet tried it.
    Hoep you're having a great week ahead, dear.

  7. You must be very happy when see this char siew pau smiling at you ^_^, well done.

  8. Your baos skin looks so soft and velvety. Very nice! Thank you so much for sharing. I have tried to make this in the past but without much success. With your step by step instructions, I will definitely try again. By the way, where can I get the potassium carbonate or can I just omit it?

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I tried reduce the amount of potassium carbonate in one of my attempts. The bun is not that fluffy. In other words it is not a good idea to omit in making smilling steamed bun. It is available at any bakery ingredients supply shops.

    2. THanks for your reply. I will try to look for it one day.

  9. Dear Vivian

    I used ur recipe for smiling pau and the paus turned out good. I used superlite flour instead of pau flour but surprisingly my paus did not turn yellowish. I think the secret is in incoporating the baking powder well into the dough during the kneading process.

    Very good pau recipe. Will feedback to you tomorrow on how long paus stay soft.

    Priscilla Poh

    1. Priscilla Poh,
      Happy to hear that. I'm sure your family enjoy your smilling steamed buns very much! I not really keep track how soft it can be kept as I will resteam and serve tham warm. Have a nice day!

  10. I have tried making steamed bun using your recipe and it turn out well. Thanks for sharing.My sister was telling me that i can keep the starter dough for future use. Is it true?

    1. I'm happy to hear that you manage to make nice pau! Yes you can keep the starter dough for future used. Since I'm not making very frequent I normally try to use it within 7 days after store in fridge.

  11. Hi can i substitute ammoniun bicarbonate with baking powder?

  12. Hi can i substitute ammoniun bicarbonate with baking powder?

  13. Hi can i substitute ammoniun bicarbonate with baking powder?

    1. They are not the same. Therefore can't be replaced.

  14. nice sharing vivian, pao is my favorite snack when i was kid.
    i have try your receipt it run well 'till i steam and it become wrinkled
    my guest is i have rest the pao too long.
    and my curious i make it one more time and cut the resting time to 10 minutes, but now the pao become soo small..

    how can i know the best time for steam, can you give some tips for me, how to get the best result? and usually you take how long after finish the dough kneaded?

    thanks in advance

    1. I don't think the wrinkle is caused by resting pau too long. My guess is due to sudden decrease pressure at the time the steamer lid is open. By the way how was the pau texture?
      Pau need to rest at least 15-20 min after shape. How to know is enough resting? The pau will rise a bit and the pleading lines (especially at sealing point at top) look not so obvious. Hope this helping. Have a nice weekend!

  15. After steaming the pau, the pau seems slightly yellow, may I know what is the cause? Thanks!

    1. Pau with unbleach flour(like all purpose flour) will turn yellowish after steamed. Bleach flour like Hong Kong flour will produce white pau.

    2. Thanks for the reply. I too used Hong Kong Bao flour but it turned out slightly yellowish, which part did I go wrong? Please advise me. Thanks!

    3. I really have no idea why still yellowish although HK flour is used. I read from somewhere adding milk (substitute water) will get whiter skin. Maybe you can give this a try.

  16. Replies
    1. The result won't be good. As it helps achieving soft n fluffy texture.

  17. Hi Vivian,

    I tried out your recipe and produced my very first batch of pork baos. They turned out well, the dough was soft with a slight chewiness. Thank you! How do you store leftover starter dough? Also, I left my starter dough for about 24 hours. It developed a hard crust but once I mixed in the other ingredients I got it to a more pliable texture. The starter didn't rise as high as the one in your picture.

    1. Happy to hear recipe work for you. I stored the starter dough in fridge. Used it within 5 days.
      Did you cover your starter dough? I kept my starter dough in covered container. Don't have the problem of hard crust.
      Not rise as high as mine? Well in can due to temperture, brand of yeast etc. As long as it yield good result it should not be problem :)

    2. How do I store the starter dough longer than 5 days? Thanks

  18. Hai Vivian,

    I'm really curious to make my own pao since I saw this post of yours.
    Can you tell me which recipe should I tried for yielding the cottony soft pao?
    Is there any texture differences between your straight and sponge method's pao?
    It's so confusing since your straight dough methods looks as soft as your sponge methods.

    Please please help me
    Thanks Vivian :)

    1. If you prefer soft cottony pau this post is the one. Which require a lot of preparation compare to sponge dough and straight dough methods.
      Sponge dough method yield soft but not cottony soft. It is softer texture compare with straight dough. Do try and find out the texture. See which one you like. Have a nice day!

  19. Can I use stand mixer to knead the dough?
    Or it won't produce the same result?

    1. Not encourage as you can't feel the dough texture. When the dough is well mixed you can 'feel' it. Furthermore it is not hard to get the dough ready by hand.

  20. Hi Vivian, I wonder what is the cause of the yellow spots on the baus? Thankyou!

    1. Might cause by baking powder which is not well mixed into dough.

  21. Hi Vivian, why my bao's smell very sting?
    Cant really put into mouth..end up jusy throw them away.. :(

    1. Sounds adding too much Ammonium bicarbonate. You can reheat (steam again)1-2 more times to get rid of the unpleasant smell.

  22. Hi Vivian and via Vivian, Lily Wai Sek Hong,

    I tried this recipe which yielded very nice smiling buns but the ammonium bicarbonate is really pungent and present at the end result, yes, yes I tried resteaming 2, 3, 4th time and even re steaming on high with open lid. The smell and the after taste is still there which is very off putting and unappetising. Thank you anyway for sharing the recipe and for the blog efforts but I think I would rather eat less cottony paus than to have something that can't even get past my nose. If you have a particular brand of ammonium bicarbonate that really dissipates in smell after the second steam, would appreciate knowing which brand, very much. Thank you and best regards,

  23. Hi,
    MAy I know the balance flour of 100G Is used at which stage?the starter use 150g right. Total flour is 250g.

    1. Used total 250g pau flour to prepare starter dough. This amount of dough gave 350g starter dough. But only use 150g from it.

  24. Hi, just found this blog when searching for Hongkong pao.
    The paos look gorgeous but is this recipe safe for consuming ? considering of many chemicals in it. : Ammonium bicarbonate, potassium carbonate & sodium bi-carbonate solution a.k.a. Kan Sui.

  25. Hi Vivian
    Are you in either KL or Singapore? If so, can you give the name of the shop where you got the kan sui? I checked a number of shops in KL and the kan sui's content in English is sodium carbonate rather than 'potassium carbonate & sodium bi-carbonate'. Are they the same?

  26. Any resting time after shaping & before steaming?

  27. Hi Vivian, I'm wondering why the sodium bicarbonate (kansui) doesn't turn your buns brown unlike every other recipe that I've read that involves bicarb soda? Is it the ammonium bicarb that stops it?


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