Char Siew Bao (Char Siu Bao/叉烧包)
April 16th, 2009 133 Comments

Char Siew Bao (Char Siu Bao/叉烧包)

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Char Siew Bao/Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Bun) Recipe

Makes 16 buns

Ingredients for dough:


8g instant dry yeast
160ml lukewarm water
½ tsp white vinegar or lemon juice (optional)280g low-protein flour aka hong kong flour
100g wheat starch
90g icing sugar
30g shortening or vegetable oil10g baking powder
10ml cold water


250g char siew, diced
½ tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp sugar*
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp oyster sauce*
1 tbsp soy sauce*
1 tsp. sesame oil
1-2 drops red food colouring (optional)

150 ml water
1½ tbsp corn flour
Salt to taste

*Some store-bought char siew comes with sauce, use it for preparing filling. Omit sugar, oyster sauce and soy sauce.


1. Heat oil in pan, sauté onion for 1 to 2 minutes. Add in all other ingredients A, stir fry for 1 minutes.
2. Mix together water with corn flour, add mixture into the pan and stir well. Simmer until gravy is thickened.
3. Transfer to plate and allow to cool.
4. Divide filling into 16 portions if desired, set aside for later use.


1. Sift together flours and icing sugar. Place sifted flour mixture in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
2. Fill well with lukewarm water, vinegar and yeast. Use a spatula, gently stir the water to dissolve the yeast then slowly bring together flour mixture.
3. Add in shortening or oil and knead for 10-15 minutes until soft dough is formed. It should be smooth on the surface.
4. Cover dough with damp cloth and let it rise for 30 minutes or until it is doubled in size. I used bread maker’s dough mode to prepare my dough up to this step.
5. Dissolve baking powder in cold water, sprinkle over dough and knead until well combined. Divide dough into 16 equal portions and flatten with a rolling pin to make a 3” circle. Then place a heap teaspoon of filling in the middle, wrap and pleat the dough to seal. Place it on a 1.5” square parchment paper, seal side up.
6. Arrange buns into a steamer, leave about 1” gab in between buns. Spray water mist over buns, and steam in a preheated steamer on high heat for 12 minutes. Remove buns from steamer and cool on rack to prevent soggy bottom.

Cook’s Notes:

1. If bigger bun is desired, divide dough into 12 equal portions in step 5.
2. There is no need to rest the dough after adding in baking powder, but if time allowed, rest it for 10 minutes or so to get fluffier buns.
3. Adding a few drops of vinegar into steaming water will produce whiter buns, but this is optional.
4. Steamer must be preheated otherwise bun would not rise to the volume as it should be.
5. Spray the surface of bun with water mist helps to produce buns with smooth surface after steamed.
6. DO NOT open the lid during the steaming process.
7. If there are yellowish spots on the steamed buns, it means the baking powder is not fully dissolved.

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133 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Josanne says:

    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 :)

  2. Betty says:

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

  3. 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?

  4. 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

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

  6. Pingback:Steamed BBQ Pork Buns | Sunday From Scratch

  7. 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!!!!!

  8. Huong says:

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

  9. Colette says:

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

  10. ella says:

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

  11. 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. :)

  12. Sow Lin Swai says:

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

  13. 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:)

  14. nancy says:

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

  15. 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!

  16. DebbyK says:

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

  17. 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

  18. 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).

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Pingback:Weekend cooking: Dim Sum | Olduvai Reads

  22. 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.

  23. desire says:

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

  24. gaya says:


    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?

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. kats says:

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

  28. 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.

  29. worthwords says:

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

  30. 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.


  31. 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

  32. Kazuma says:

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

  33. Kazuma says:

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

  34. Kazuma says:

    Thank you very much, Bee-sensei!

  35. 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! :)

  36. 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?

  37. Thanks again for another great recipe. Tried it yesterday and your recipe is perfect!

  38. Thanks again for another great recipe! Tried it yesterday and it was perfect!

  39. James F McManus says:

    Love your work!

  40. Elysia Fisher says:

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

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. Hn says:

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

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