I returned home to Singapore yesterday, only to be greeted by heavy showers and thunder. I could see countless lightning bolts, although I couldn’t hear the thunder, and see the heavy nimbus clouds as the plane flew through them as we were about to land. Just moments before, as the plane began its descent into Singapore, the sun was setting over Malaysia and Indonesia and it really was a sight to see. The clouds never looked so magnificent when they are basked in that golden glow which a setting sun can provide. 
When I arrived home, I was also greeted by a familiar sight (no smell since baos hardly emit any smell when steamed) – steamed baos waiting for my consumption :] I love baos – other than porridge, fried rice and Mee Hoon Kuay (面粉馃), they are my idea of a perfect homecoming present. I used to love to get these peanut baos from a coffeeshop near my place, but after hearing that no one consumes these baos and they are actually being repeatedly steamed on a daily basis for weeks (hence the oily bottoms and weird textures), I have not patronized them anymore. Instead, I bug my mother to make these baos for me. My mom makes a mean peanut steamed bun (花生包) and vegetable steamed bun (菜包). In fact, I now only eat baos that my mom makes, because I really don’t like how mushy and weird tasting vegetable baos can get when purchased. I know many people swear by meat steamed buns (肉包) – 小肉包大肉包 but I don’t really like meat buns because of the strong porky taste in those buns – I know right, I’m super picky. In any case, the only type of meat bun I like to eat is the honey-roasted pork bun (char siew bao or 叉烧包). This is the bun I will always order when having dimsum. However of late, I have been disappointed by the size, quality and price of these char siew baos. The filling has been decreasing in size, been increasingly replaced with more fats than meat, and the price of these baos have really skyrocketed! It was just a few months ago that I convinced my mom to attempt making char siew baos and to my delight, the results were phenomenal :] Needless to say, I hardly order bao when I’m out because these gems are really easy to make at home – you can make the filling on the first day and make the bao on the second if you don’t have enough time – and it’s really much quicker than making proper breads which require two periods of proofing and rising.

My mother got this recipe off the Blue Key bao flour box a long time ago, and has been making it for as long as I can remember. However, that tiny recipe booklet no longer accompanies the box (according to my mother), so here’s the recipe for keepsakes [word for word from the booklet - see modifications below]: 

Ingredients:

Makes 14 moderately sized baos 

500 g   pau flour
6 g       yeast
100 g   sugar
50 g     oil/shortening
250 g   water

Method:

  1. Mix flour and instant yeast together and dissolve the sugar in water. 
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, then knead the dough by hand for 10-15 minutes or by mixer until it becomes smooth and extensible. 
  3. Scale the dough at 40g each. Round it and leave it to rest for 10 minutes. 
  4. Flatten the dough and place your filling in the centre of the dough. Wrap the filling by folding the edge of the dough with desired design. Then place each dough on a small piece of square grease-proof paper.  
  5. Cover the dough with a piece of clean plastic sheet and allow it to rise for 35-40 minutes. 
  6. Place all the dough pieces in a steaming rack and steam for 15 minutes over the high heat.

Janine’s jots: 
  • Modifications: I also add a pinch of salt to give the baos a little complexity to the taste. Also, be sure to use lukewarm water to dissolve the sugar, before adding the mixture into your flour and yeast. Once you get a rough dough, proceed to add in your oil. You can also use lard or shortening if you prefer. I use sunflower oil since it’s available in my pantry all the time. 
  • Taste: This bao can actually be made into a mantou and be eaten on its own, because there is sufficient sugar to give it some taste. However, it tastes especially good when combined with a savory filling. 
  • Texture: The texture of the bao is perhaps not as smooth as those you can get from yum char places, but it’s perfectly fine for consumption at home. Perhaps a little bit of wheat gluten and more shortening will result in that smoother bao you can get from shops. 
  • Serving size: This recipe makes enough for 14 similar shaped buns. 
  • Storage: These baos store in the fridge well for about 3 days and freeze perfectly. From the fridge, just steam them again for about 10-15 minutes. From the freezer, remove them to thaw before steaming them or you could just steam them for 30 minutes. 
  • Would I make this again?: Definitely. This is a family staple, and this is perhaps the only way in which I can consume my beloved peanut baos (it’s so rare nowadays) and the only way in which I can have a vegetable bao with some chicken inside ;p 
  • Other comments: For the “grease-proof” paper that the recipe mentions, you can use baking paper or tracing paper, cut into little squares. 
In pictures: 
These baos are proofed (see how the pleats are not as prominent as before) and ready to be steamed :]
Look at this dreamy char siew filling! Unlike those in stores, this is all meat and little fats – no red coloring is used :]
Steamed baos – look at how fat they have become – the pleats are almost giving way :/
Another close-up for good measure :]
My absolute favorite – the peanut bao
And last but not least, my mom’s version of vegetable bao – with half a hardboiled egg and pieces of chicken :D

These photos are not taken yesterday, but are from my attempt a few months ago. I’ve been wanting to post them, but since the recipe is on the booklet, I haven’t had a chance to steal them from my mom to type it out. I’ll only be writing the recipe for the bao ‘skin’ today, because I’m still kinda tired from all that travelling that I have done, and I need to figure out the exact measurements to the fillings since my mom usually just ‘agars’ (estimates) when making the filling (and so do I).



This is my last minute submission to Jasmine’s Aspiring Bakers #8: Bread Seduction as well as my 4th Muhibbah Malaysia Monday event hosted by Shaz of Test With Skewer and Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies (sorry I didn’t exactly post this on a Monday cos I wanted to be in time for the roundup!)

23 comments

  1. Look so yummy, last time i use blue key pau flour too but nowadays I like to use Hong Kong Flour.

  2. Thanks for the inspiration! I want to try to bake my own paos now too!
    Btw, thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving a comment. I’m glad you did cos now I discovered yours. Enjoy your stay back here in Singapore 

  3. Lyndsey says:

    Your steamed boas look beautiful. I think I would love all the fillings, and I wish I was there to sample…yum!

  4. michele says:

    YUM! they all look delicious!!!

  5. I just had a pork version of these last weekend at a party and I have been craving them ever since! I would love to try these at home! Any ideas for not having that type of steamer?

  6. shaz says:

    Janine, those are some of the most beautiful bao I’ve ever seen! Gorgeous. I forgot all about peanut baos, now I’m craving some. Any bao would do actually since I’m freezing. Sounds like you had a lovely time in OZ, next time you head over, let me know, would love to catch up. And don’t worry about not posting on a Monday. Suresh and I frequently miss our own “deadline” too :)

  7. Those steamed buns look so lovely!

    p.s In general, you can substitute one teaspoon of dried herbs for one tablespoon of fresh herbs and vice-versa. So, you don’t double the amounts if you want to use the dried one instead.

  8. j3ss kitch3n says:

    lovely baos! i would love to have a bite!

  9. Shu Han says:

    that looks beautiful, really plump and smooth!

  10. Janine says:

    @Sonia: Is there any difference between pao and hk flour in your opinion?

    @Shaz: Do make your own paos – they really are the healthier choice for your kids :)

    @Lyndsey, michele, jess and shu han: thanks :D

    @Angie: ooh great – thanks for letting me know about the herbs!

    @Shaz: I had a great time in Oz, especially Sydney. I’ll definitely be heading back there in the near future – we should meet up and have some cakes :D

    @Davenport Dame: do you have a chinese wok at home? If you do, you can just overturn a bowl, fill the surrounding with water, and use a cooling rack to place your buns. However, it’d be best if you head down to an Asian grocer to get that metal rack (the one with holes you see in my photos) – it’ll probably cost less than a few dollars :)

  11. Your baos are fantastic! Looks really good!
    Thank you for visiting my blog. You have a lovely site here. Hope to see you again! Have a nice day!

  12. Zoe says:

    Very delicious boas!

    I’m happy to follow your blog. Your cooking adventure is fantastic!

  13. Biren says:

    I have not eaten a bao in a while. I like char siew bao and yours look really good. Peanut bao is new to me but I am sure it must be tasty. Thanks for visiting my blog :)

  14. Janine says:

    @Zoe, Biren and kitchen flavours: thanks :D

  15. Kent says:

    These look so good, I’ve always wanted to try them, but they look like so much work. (I know I know I sound lazy)

  16. lena says:

    char siew pao is my favourite. They look great and look very ‘original’ , just like the msiling char siew pau, the skin’s not too shiny and texture’s great!

  17. Purabi Naha says:

    This really looks delish and something I want to try out seriously. You have a great blog and your food photos left me drooling!
    http://cosmopolitancurrymania.blogspot.com

  18. Janine says:

    @Kent: You should try them – I’ve seen the food you make on your blog and they’re so intricate – this isn’t at all!

    @lena: thanks for the compliments :)

    @Purabi: thanks! You should try it!

  19. A. True says:

    These look fantastic! I’d love to get your recipes for the fillings too.

  20. Arudhi says:

    I`m on my way looking for steamed buns recipe and I stumbled upon your post. Beautiful buns! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  21. asthmagirl says:

    First time I’m visiting your blog – found it on a google search for baking supplies stores in Singapore. Your list is fabulous, and even better – the recipes! So happy to find a Singapore-based food blog. Hungry for the pau’s now. Thank you!

  22. Janine says:

    @A. True: coming up real soon!

    @Arudhi: thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comments!

    @asthmagirl: thanks for the lovely comment :D

  23. mycookinghut says:

    This is my favourite! I can eat them the whole day!

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