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Char Siew Bao (Char Siu Bao/叉烧包) http://rasamalaysia.com/char-siew-bao/
April 16th, 2009 135 Comments

Char Siew Bao (Char Siu Bao/叉烧包)

These days, I am so busy that I don’t have much time to explore blogoshere, so I rely on websites like Tastespotting to discover really good food blogs, and that’s how I discovered My Kitchen. Lydia Teh is a fellow Malaysian and her blog My Kitchen is full of great recipes and very beautiful food photography. Lydia is also a great cook and makes some of the most authentic Chinese and Malaysian dishes around. Please welcome My Kitchen to Rasa Malaysia as she shares her Char Siew Bao/Char Siu Bao recipe (Chinese roast pork or barbequed pork buns) with us. What’s more, she made her Char Siew Bao/Char Siu Bao (叉烧包) from scratch. Now, that’s what I call a no-cheat great cook!

(Check out my char siew/char siew recipe. Highly recommended!)

A while ago, I received an email from Bee–Rasa Malaysia. I have been following her blog for quite some time but never expected to be invited as a guest writer on her blog. What a big surprise and honour to me!

What dish should I bring to Rasa Malaysia? Bee suggested char siew (Chinese barbecued pork) but since I made char siew before, we settled on char siew bao/char siu bao (steamed bun with char siew filling). Char Siew Bao/Char Siu Bao is one of the signature dishes in dim sum restaurants around the world. This irresistible little steamed bun is soft and fluffy, filled with slightly sweetened char siew.

It is a must order item whenever we visited a dim sum restaurant. My other half loves it too, but he usually eats only a quarter of bun. He is a small eater, would not be able to eat other dim sums if he had a char siew bao by himself. Now, I am glad that I can share this yummy bun with my 14 month-old boy. Yes, I have made him a char siew bao lover too!

In Malaysia, char siew bao/char siu bao is also available in Kopitiam (literally means coffee shop in Chinese dialect) together with other savoury and sweet steamed buns. Compared to char siew bao served in restaurants, Kopitiam version is bigger in size and has no opening on the top. Taste wise, they are similar.

Steamed buns made with the mixture low-protein flour and wheat starch are fluffier and softer than those using only low-protein or all purpose flour. For the filling, I used ready-cooked char siew since I am living in Malaysia now and it is readily available. If you are making your own char siew, the recipe is available on my blog.

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135 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Manggy says:

    Awesome awesome awesome awesome!!! When some people think of comfort food, soup or mac and cheese or burgers come up– mine is siu bao :) I’ve always wanted to make my own! Thanks Lydia (love her blog, btw)!
    … Might have a problem finding low protein flour, though. Don’t want to use cake flour! I don’t think it makes a good result!

    • You are welcome! I like this bun, but I would say big bao in Malaysia will be my comfort food. It is hard to find low-protein flour, but I think you can find Hong Kong flour or bao flour easily in Asian market, they are low-protein flour for bao.

    • Ninik says:

      Hi, I’m from Central Java and I like to say thank you for sharing this recipe. I’ve made these buns many times with variations of fillings and never failed. My entire family love these buns. Thanks again

  2. I love char siew and making it so I think I am just a few steps away from making these buns! Delightful post!

  3. char siew bao… my facourite and must have during dim sum time… yum yum…

    make it myself… very tough la….

  4. I love those steamed pork buns but have never attempted to make them! These sound good.

  5. pat says:

    My husband loves char siew pau but not the steamed kind. He likes the baked ones. Can I put these in the oven? or does it need a different kind of pastry?

    thanks,
    Pat

    • Pat,
      You will need different pastry, something like puff pastry. I think the one your husband likes is siew bao (烧包), with crispy and flaky pastry. Actually I baked some of those and 叉烧酥 today for a mahjong gathering at friend’s house. Will post the recipe on my blog soon… check it out.

  6. I have been on the lookout for a recipe for these things for ages! I have such wonderful childhood memories of going to Chinatown for them…now all I need is a good soup dumpling recipe and I’m all set.

    • I missed those days going to coffee shop with my dad before school, and we had roti canai there. Even though we had little thing to talk about but I missed those moments.
      I think the soup dumpling recipe is available on Rasa Malaysia too.

  7. LySiNe says:

    http://saltysavorysweet.blogspot.com/2008/11/otasty-pork-buns-one-for-frozen-food.html

    I recently found this at at Ralphs in California, in a mostly caucasian city. It’s fantastic. I always have a bag in the freezer now.

    • The frozen bun looks so prefect! Btw, I made my own frozen buns with this recipe. Steamed, cooled, keep in ziplock bag and store in freezer. When I need it, just thaw and heat up in microwave or steamer (5-10 minutes).

  8. Tuty says:

    Gosh these buns look so yummy. I’ve tried using the premix flour… but I will try this recipe for sure. Thanks for sharing Lydia/Bee.

  9. Miakoda says:

    Those look positively heavenly! The texture just looks so perfect.

  10. wah….my favourite “bao”! great post. thanks for sharing~~

  11. lk says:

    This is the recipe I have been searching for. Must give it a try one day. Tks for sharing, Lydia. Great post! I am giving your pao a 5-stars rating!

  12. lydia, my wife makes them with prepacked Pau flour.
    Are they the same with the hong kong flour in this recipe?

    • Most probably same with hong kong flour, but please check the ingredients listed on the package. I used bluekey brand and it contains low-protein flour and approved food conditional.

  13. Very impressive ! It sure looks so tasty. Thanks for sharing

  14. Bee, thanks for giving me a chance to share my recipe here.

  15. gracey says:

    hi lydia. i have been looking for this recipe for so many years!! I tried so many recipes but cant do it right……It is so hard to find the hongkong flour…..Would u be kind enough to share what brand u are using…any pictures pls…..so i can look for this in asian store. thanks again …
    God Bless,
    gracey

  16. thuyn says:

    Yummers!! I made these last night, there were delicious – the dough was exactly like the restaurant, light and fluffy. But I have just one question, how do you get to bao to “smile”, that is puff up and “break open” during the steaming process (like the restaurant)?

  17. John Woon says:

    After years of dreaming of making my own char siew pao, I finally made it. Thanks to your Blog!

    However I still found my pao not as white as those sold in kopitiam and the texture not as soft. Do the coffee shop paos contain any bleaching agents? Can you or Lydia help please?

  18. Elan says:

    Hi Lydia,
    Your buns look so good. However, I cannot find any “wheat starch” in the supermarket. Is there another name for it? I live in Singapore so perhaps it is called something else?

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  21. Patrick Tong says:

    I am looking for a simple recipe for Roasted Pork which is also one of my favourite dish in Malaysia. What seasoning do you add to the pork prior to roasting which I usually use a griller?.

  22. adioz says:

    Is the Char Siew supposed to be pre-flavored when bought or do you just use regular pork + the listed ingredients? I am confused about that.

  23. mochiqueen says:

    Very nice recipe. Just one question- why does the baking powder have to be added in a seperate addition ? How does it affect the final result of the buns?

  24. Bridget says:

    These look great! Thank you for sharing!!!

    Love,
    Bridge.

  25. mochiqueen says:

    can i use cake flour as a substitue for low protein flour, as its very difficult to find where i live?

  26. Penina says:

    Hi, i’ve been dying to get the perfect recipe for pao buns all these years. I’ve tried many different kinds of flour but have never been satisfied with the result everytime. I have yet to try the hongkong flour, I live in Singapore and I’m going to look for it in the supermarket first thing tomorrow. I want to achieve the soft and fluffy texture like the commercial ones. If I may add, should I put bread improver to the dough mixture? I make bread sometimes, and it really helps. :-) By the way, your version looks promising!

    Thanks a lot in advance!

    • Yes, getting the right char siew bao recipe is challenging. Even in restaurants, you may just get a few that really does a good job on char siu bao. The ones do, ended up supplying to all other restaurants. I am not sure about bread improver. If you have been following my post, baking is really not my best cup of tea :P Let me know how yours turn out :)

  27. w says:

    Hi,
    I just discovered your blog and followed this link here. Your cooking is impressive to say the least and very varied. I never thought of making my own bao but may just attempt it one of these days.

    Someone had asked what is wheat starch. I’m stumped too. Can you tell me what this is?

    Thanks very much in advance!

  28. Dr.Congo says:

    Hi,

    Great recipe!

    I wanted to check if 8g of yeast was correct because it seems like a lot?

    What should I ask for when I try a Chinese supermarket because they had a limited range of flours and they did not understand what kind of flour I wanted when I explained to them it was for making bao?

    Thanks.

  29. Dr.Congo says:

    Hi,

    Also what is the purpose of the wheat starch?

    Thanks.

  30. Dr.Congo says:

    Hi,

    I think you mis-understand (or maybe I do!).

    I was asking about your recipe that you listed on Apr 16.2009 Char Siew Bao (Char Siu Bao/叉烧包)

    q1. Is 8g of yeast correct as it seems a lot?
    q2. What is the purpose of the wheat starch?

    Thanks,

    Dr.Congo.

    • Dr. Congo, if you read the article, the recipe is submitted by my guest blogger, so I didn’t make the char siew bao and so I don’t have the exact measurement. You can click on the link to the guest blogger’s site and ask her.

      Sorry I can’t be of much help.

  31. Tika says:

    Hi!
    Wonderful blog! i just tried making the bun…but mine wasn’t as soft as it looks on yer blog…
    can you please tell me what’s wrong?
    Some other blog said that they can use milk instead of the warm water. Do u think it will work? (i think i have to omit the vinegar or it will curdle)

    Thanx a lot!!

  32. nsl says:

    I try the bao recipe it turn out ok. My it finish my dough were hard its not soft and fluffy.I think I’m doing something wrong with the conversion. Need help with the conversion.

  33. Gurpal says:

    Hi:

    I live in India but when I travel abroad – All i eat is Char Siu bao – I’ve loved it ever since I was a child.

    Anyway I tried your receipe using all purpose flour. I’m to travel to Malaysia over the weekend and wanted to know if you knew where I could possibly get Hong Kong Flour or if you can help me in understanding what I should be looking out for?
    Would China town be the best place? Any particular brand of flour?

  34. cat123 says:

    What is a substitute for Hong Kong flour?

  35. Carrie says:

    MMMM!! I have been craving this for years, and I’ve been looking all over the internet for the right recipe! Thanks so much for having this available! I LOVE your site!!! Both of you!

    SOOO GOOD! I’ll be obsessing over this site for a long time. What a great find today! :)

  36. Evelyn says:

    Is it possible to get the bun recipe in standard measurements instead of metric measurement? (for example, 1/4 cup VS 60ml… etc)

    I would LOVE to make this. Looks better than the baos at our local Chinese restaurant.

    :)

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  38. cat123 says:

    I made this with some slight adaptations. It was very good.

  39. Adeleine says:

    I just did the steamed pow. The filling was good but the dough was the not as soft as i expected it to be. Followed your recipe closely but…. is there any reason y? HELP….. Its my all time favourite and i want it to be good. Will be selling it for charity in church….. HELP…….

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  41. CW says:

    Hi! Thank you for this recipe and I have tried it. It comes out a bit dissapointed cos the yellow spots did appeared on the pau. Can you please advise me how long do the baking powder mixture need to dissolve before adding to the dough? Thanks.

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  43. Piseth Ren says:

    I love char siew buns very much and i tried to make it for my parent, but have afew problem with buns after second steam it become dark yellow on the whole dough , if you don’t mind pls held me how to solve this problem .

  44. Lynn says:

    Hi,

    I don’t have corn flour. can I just use corn starch?

    thanks

  45. san says:

    I have given up on baos…none of the past recipes I tried produce the soft, fluffy ones found at Dimsum places but I shall try one more time, using this recipe.

    From what I understand…hong kong flour is basically bleached all purpose flour which has lower protein than bread flour and bleached so the baos will be whiter. Wheat starch is supposedly flour from which the protein had been removed, again an attempt to lower the protein content of the flour mixture. Protein in flours is what produces gluten which is responsible for the “stickiness” that produces crusty breads (artisan). I think bao was discussed more extensively at one point at the kitchencapers.com forum.

    Hope these help!

  46. san says:

    I forgot…supposedly, the yellow spots are due to undissolved/unevenly distributed baking powder…oversteaming also produces yellow baos.

  47. Andy W says:

    I’ve always wanted to make bao, since they were my favourite special treat when I was growing up. I’ve tried making them before, but they were pretty bad, since I only had regular flour and they came out very heavy, yellow and yeasty.

    I had a bit of trouble while using this recipe – my yeast sachets were 7g instead of 8g, and I couldn’t find Hong Kong flour or wheat starch over here in Scotland. For Hong Kong flour I used a mix of 180g self-raising fine cake flour and 100g plain gluten free flour (a mix of rice, buckwheat, potato etc flours), and for wheat starch I used the same quantity of cornflour (cornstarch). The gluten free flour seemed to need more water than regular flour, so I added a couple of tbsp extra.

    The dough didn’t seem to rise at all, and I was really worried about ending up with stodgy lumps, but when they were steamed they were perfect! They ended up very slightly beige in color rather than white, but they were fluffy and tasted right.

    Thanks for the recipe :)

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  49. Chris says:

    I want to make this dough. It kind of looks difficult. It looks so soft and fluffy and you make great photos.

  50. Jackie says:

    Can u pls tell me where can i get “Sau Pau” (longevity buns) in KL/PJ. This pau is mainly for birthday celebration only.

  51. Josanne says:

    Hi,
    I’m from Trinidad and Tobago (Caribbean), and here Char Sui Bao is called ‘Chinese Pow’ and is incredibly delicious!
    I cannot wait to try your version of ‘Trini Pow’ :)
    Only got my steamer yesterday and already have made Shu Mai dumplings :)

  52. Betty says:

    Instead of hong kong flour, can I use plain flour/all-purpose flour?

  53. lillien says:

    this recipe looks wonderfully fluffy! i am now sure if low-protein/hong kon flour is available at my asian supermarket, but i see some recipes calling for glutinous flour. would that work?? if so, is there a difference between glutinous flour and glutinous rice flour?

  54. Brenda says:

    I am really excited to try this recipe! I wasn’t able to find Hong Kong flour. I picked up the lowest protein flour that I could find that was Rice Flour. Will that work? or should I just use all purpose flour? I want to make them for the new year today since we are celebrating with our neighbors

  55. This is the best bao dough recipe ever, and I kind of love you right now! They turned out perfectly! THANK YOU!

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  57. Catherine says:

    Hi I tried the recipe and buns turn out quite well except the buns are polka dotty ;( caused by the undissolved baking powder. How do u sure they are completely dissolved? When I add in the baking powder in the cold water, it became foamy and then I knead into the risen dough. Please advise if I miss out any step or appreciate any tip. Thanks.

    • Amelia says:

      HI, I also faced with the same problem; polka dots.. How can we know the baking powder is properly dissolved???? Pls help… Otherwise the pau is superb!!!!!

  58. Huong says:

    Hello, may I use wheat flour instead of wheat starch?

  59. Colette says:

    Hi… What is wheat starch called in chinese? Can I find in supermarkets?

  60. ella says:

    Hi, what can I substitute for wheat starch? Thanks!

  61. Coral says:

    Hi guys, I replaced the low-protein flour and wheat starch with the same weight in all purpose white flour (because I didn’t have either of them). They turned out fantastic! Fluffy and yummy. :)

  62. Sow Lin Swai says:

    Hi! Is the baking powder, double action baking powder?

  63. Dewi Sandra says:

    Hi Bee,

    I did what the instruction said and my buns came out dense. What do you think I did wrong?? I will never quit, I will make it again until I succeed:)

  64. nancy says:

    Do you mean step (1-4) is done in the bread maker?

  65. Kim says:

    I just made these last night (after a few repeated failures from other recipes). It was perfect!!!!
    Thank you for putting up this recipe!

  66. DebbyK says:

    Can I use white rice flour?
    Thank you in advance..

  67. holly skinner says:

    is there anything cheaper than wheat starch that is almost the same because i have been to the shops and there are soo many which is best

  68. Debbie says:

    This bao recipe is the BEST! I had wheat starch on hand because I make har gow frequently. The low protein flour I had to seek out, and my local asian grocery doesn’t have everything labeled concisely in English but I found one (it said “Special Bun Flour” but I had to make sure that it didn’t contain any leaveners already mixed in). I also found out that using cake flour (a comparable low protein flour) will work just as well. Anyway, I’m still working on my shaping-the-bao technique, but one trick I found pretty useful was using a small round mustard dish to drape the rolled-out dough on. This leaves a convenient little pocket for my filling and leaves me two hands to pleat and pinch the bao closed. I was able to put a lot more filling in each bao, and keep the pleats clean of filling residue so they would seal better. Maybe someday I’ll be as dexterous as all of the YouTube demos I’ve watched of ladies producing these flawless doughy gems, but until then my mustard dish method helps my baos from looking like misshapen lumps (and speeds up the whole process).

  69. salvacion says:

    Hi, Miss Bee! I am Fililpino currently based here in saudi arabia, I tried your chicken noodles recipe last night and got great comments from my Saudi “eaters”. So now, I’m planning to try this. Thanks for these delicious recipes. God bless and more power.

  70. DimSumanic says:

    I spent yesterday afternoon hitting the Asian markets and was able to find a Red Lotus special flour for steam buns. It’s a white flour with about 8-8.5% protein content.
    Using Lydia Teh’s recipe, I’ve made 3 batches of dough. While easy to use,the buns are flat and dense in consistency. I’ve made dough using recipes with all-purpose and self rising flour that also produced dense buns. In fact, I just bought and made buns with one of those ready made flour mix. They are yellow and dense.
    How do I make buns that are light and fluffy in texture like what is served in the tea houses and steam box of the Asian markets.

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  72. Sally says:

    Is the baking powder necessary? I got the yellow dots all over my buns!! :-(

    • Yes. It’s not completely dissolved.

      • kiasu88 says:

        Can you please expand your answer. Tell the 2 ladies above how to determine whether the baking powder is dissolved. You have not reply to their enquiries. I would like to know too inorder to avoid the dots. Thanks in advance.

        • This recipe is from guest blogger Lydia Teh. The step said to dissolve baking powder in water. You have to make sure that there is no more lumps in the water and that the baking powder is completely dissolved before using. To be very sure it’s completely dissolved, you can filter the mixture and dissolve the remaining solids. Hope this helps.

  73. desire says:

    can you tell me what is the purpose of wheat starch in bun recipe?

  74. gaya says:

    hi,

    I like your recipes, and they usually turn out very well. Do you think I can replace pork with chicken because some of my family members do not eat pork?

  75. Bun Eater says:

    I could eat a dozen of these things in one sitting. Can’t imagine only eating a quarter of one. It’s probably why I’m so fat.

  76. maliah_tsen says:

    Hi, I ve tried this recipe. So far this is the best bao recipe ever. The buns are sooo soft and fluffy. As good as those sold in dim sum restaurant. But I do have one small issue. After steaming , the buns ha ve yellowish spots. I understand is because baking powder not fully dissolved. On my 2nd attempt, I tried to knead it longer but it was still the same. On my 3rd attempt , I actually restart my bread machine after i put in the baking powder mixture to let the machine knead it again for 15 minutes and then followed by hand kneading for another 5 minutes. But end result still the same. Is it possible if I put in the baking powder from beginning or is there other way to do it? Please help

  77. kats says:

    what is icing sugar? is it confectioners sugar(powdered sugar)?

  78. worthwords says:

    I made this with ‘dumpling flour’ and wheat starch from my local Chinese wholesalers – they came out absolutely lovely and fluffy. i’ve been so disappointed with normal flour versions – but these came out as good as any i’ve had in a restaurant.

  79. worthwords says:

    oh one thing. was it really 10g of baking powder? I only used 1g as it seemed too much for the water

  80. My says:

    Hi Rasa & MK,

    Can I ask when you say low protein flour, what % of protein is suitable for this recipe? I live in Australia and the lowest protein flour I can find in my australian supermarket is cake flour which is abt 8.7% protein. I haven’t had much luck finding any lower % even in Asian market.

    Thanks.

  81. John Fun says:

    Hello from Aruba,
    I tried this recipe and it turned out great. Still I have few questions: mine were not as white, but I used low-gluten flour which is the same as Hong Kong, right? Bought it at a chinese store and the buns were pictured on it. Why the baking powder with water at the end? Wouldn’t it work better if mixed with the flour? Also: do you need to allow the buns to rise after filling them? Not that they didn’t rise enough: they were nice and fluffy! Anyway, thanks, I will make these again

  82. Kazuma says:

    My dough kept turning hard. How do I make it so it is fluffy all round?

  83. Kazuma says:

    No. I used rice flour. What is Hong Kong flour?

  84. Kazuma says:

    Thank you very much, Bee-sensei!

  85. Celia says:

    Thank you so much for this fabulous recipe! I’ve made it, blogged about it, and linked back to your post for the recipe! :)

  86. Beginner says:

    The recipe look yummy, am surely going to try this soon. Just wondering, is it possible to premake and refrigerate this pau, and to steam only when it is to be eaten. If so, for how long does it keep?

  87. Thanks again for another great recipe. Tried it yesterday and your recipe is perfect!
    http://www.forkandstory.com/2/post/2014/05/white-fluffy-thing.html

  88. Thanks again for another great recipe! Tried it yesterday and it was perfect!
    http://www.forkandstory.com/2/post/2014/05/white-fluffy-thing.html

  89. James F McManus says:

    Love your work!

  90. Elysia Fisher says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe.
    Just out of interest is the dialect your referring to Hokkien :)

  91. Bonnie says:

    I want very much to try this recipe but I don’t know the equivalent of grams. I always make recipes with cups and tablespoon as measurement. Thanks.

  92. Cecilia says:

    I have just tried the recipe. buns fluffy and soft but with polkadot on the surface.This doesn’t look good. can I add in the baking powder at the beginning together with other dry ingredients.

  93. Hn says:

    My buns didn’t rise when I steamed it, even though I already preheated it. How can I make it rise?

  94. Joanna says:

    What a super recipe! I found the flours I needed at a fantastic Chinese supermarket in Bristol, UK where I live and made these last night and they worked beautifully. I strained the baking powder/water mix through a tea strainer before working it into the dough as you suggest and there were no spots or discolouration and the buns had that lovely shine on them. Thank you so much for this!

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