Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Oyster Sauce Char Siew Pau

I was very surprised and happy that my Miss Picky Eater, ate 2 char siew paus, filling and all.  Usually she would just eat the pau and leave the filling.  She must be getting older and eating alot more, variety that is, like green leafy vegetables and fish.  I will go to any lengths to make or cook the food she likes to eat and looking at her devout that 2 paus made me go looking for this recipe which has been with me for more than 30 years.  I had been lazy and depended on the premixed cos pau flour is not readily available here and i have even asked the dim sum restaurants to sell me some of their stock but the reply is that they are always short.  Anyway, the bleached all-purpose flour and wheat starch made pretty good paus - perhaps not as fluffy or perhaps it is not the flour, it is that i do not have the expertise to make them as fluffy.  Even the folding of the paus, has an important part to play when it comes to making them smile.  I noticed that more dough should be on top of the pau and don't be like me, leaving the knob behind.  I must remember to break that knob away.


Yeast Dough:
300 g pau flour/260 g bleached all-purpose flour and 40 g wheat starch
1 tsp instant yeast
150 ml water

To make pau dough:
150 g pau flour/130 g bleached all-purpose and 20 g wheat starch
3/4 tbsp double action baking powder
130 g sugar
1/2 tbsp lard/shortening
1 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp ammonium bicarbonate
2 tiny drops kan sui


300 g char siew(recipe is here
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1/2 tbsp soya sauce
2 3/4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp dark thick soya sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp waterchestnut powder diluted with 2 tbsp water
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp roast sesame seeds
1 tsp sesame oil



Mix flour yeast, yeast and water together.  Knead well and leave for at least 15 hours.


Cut char siew into tiny dices.

Heat wok with a little oil and add in the minced garlic.  Saute until fragrant and add the diced char siew and the water and sauces.  Mix well and thicken with waterchestnut solution.  Cook until sauce comes back to the boil.

Add in chopped cilantro and roasted sesame seeds and drizzle with sesame oil.

Leave to cool.

To make pau dough after 15 hours:

Sieve the baking powder with the flour.

Mix ammonium bicarbonate, kan sui and water and mix until ammonium bicarbonate is dissolved.

Tear up the yeasted dough into small pieces and place in an electric stand mixer bowl,, add in the sugar, lard and the ammonium bicarbonate solution.  Using the dough hook, knead until well mixed,  Add in flour and knead the dough until it is smooth.

Remove dough and spread dough out into a rough rectangle.  Mix 1/2 tsp of baking powder with a little water and spread it over the rectangle.  Roll it up and knead until smooth and not sticking to your hands.

Divide dough into portions (i like to weigh them 35 gms each).  Line the divided dough up.  Start from the first portion, cup the dough portion with your palm and round it.  Repeat with the rest of the portions, lining them up in order.

While making the paus, fill steamer pot with water and bring to the boil.

Roll the first rolled portion dough out into a circle and fill with a tablespoon of cooled filling.  Pleat the circle up and seal well.(i roll the circle bigger, so that i can have more dough on top of pau.  I find that more dough is good for the pau to smile.  Remove the last pinch from the top).  Put a piece of paper at the base of pau and leave in a steamer rack, covered with a damp cloth while you prepare another 6 more paus.

Make sure water is in a rolling boil before putting the steamer rack with the prepared paus to steam for 10 minutes(if you are making bigger paus, then steaming time will be longer).

Continue to wrap paus with the char siew filling and steam.

These paus cannot be consumed yet as they stink from the ammonium bicarbonate.  A second steaming of 10 minutes is required to allow the ammonium to dissipate.

Enjoy the paus warm.



Lyndsey said...

Isn't it great when your picky eater's eat the same thing that you're eating? Mine is finally trying new things. This recipe looks great, a few items I might have a hard time locating. Thanks for sharing!

Ube said...

Your char siew pau looks so look and made no wonder to me your Pinicky Eater ate two of them. What is kan sui and ammonium carbonate? Ammonium carbonate is the same as baking soda?

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Hi Lily,
Your pao skin looks so good! Just like those in the Dim Sum restaurant. ;) Will definitely give your recipe a try. But first I need to get ammonium bicarbonate & kan sui. ;)

lilyng said...


the pic of the bottle of kan sui is here

ammonium bicarbonate works the same as baking soda. somehow, chinese like to use it. it stinks that's why it has to be steamed twice to rid off the smell.

Linee Yeo said...

Been looking for a pau recipe like this for a long time. Will try it soon! Thanks!

Tuty said...

Can I use regular baking soda instead of ammonium bicarb? If yes, for equal amount?

lilyng said...


i have not tried using more baking soda but there are recipes which do not use ammonium bicarbonate. Too much baking soda might give a soapy aftertaste.

lilyng said...


i thought i told you that TT said that ammonium bicarbonate is available in the store next to the chinese gate which has a dragon on a lamp post, in seattle chinatown. Look for the store that makes dumplings.

Claire said...

Hi Lily,

Did you use a stainless steamer to steam the paus? Because once when I made pau, and steamed them in a bamboo steamer, my paus turned did you gets yours so white-looking?

lilyng said...


it is not the steamer that made the pau yellow. it is that the recipe has too much alkali. If the starter dough is not sour then the alkali is not needed. If you have yellow spots than the baking powder is not evenly distributed. Always dilute baking soda/baking powder with a little water before mixing in or more sure it is sieved in to the flour well.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lily,

Where do we get wheat starch?


ZZ said...

Aunty Lily,

I am a regular reader of your blog and I love all the yummy foods that you made. You are definitely a fantastic cook and I think you should publish a cookbook. :) I will buy it!!!

Kurdistan said...

looks good cant wait to try it

Elin said...

Hi Lily..I have been looking for a good pau recipe and yours look great. Will try this out for sure. Thanks for sharing such a great one :))

Anonymous said...

Hi Lily,

Was the yeast dough left at room temperature for 15 hours, or in the fridge. I've been your secret admirer for a long time. I've also been looking for a good pau recipe. I'm hoping to try this one out. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lily,

Was the yeast dough left at room temperature for 15 hours, or in the fridge? Thank you for sharing this recipe. I can't wait to try it.


lilyng said...

asty and anonymous

just leave the dough covered well for 15 hours in room temperature.

Wendy said...

Hi Lily, What is pau flour? Why is it used for the pau? Is it available in the U.S.? Thanks. Wendy

lilyng said...


pau flour is available in 50 lbs from the restaurant supply stores. Pau flour is bleached and with very low gluten thus making very fluffy paus.

Wendy said...

Thanks, Lily. I will go to an Asia restaurant supplier and ask for "pau flour". I made this bread before and it turned out yellow and was not soft at all after 2 days. I can't wait to try your recipe.

Carris said...

Hi Lily,

Thank you for sharing your char siew pao recipe, I have tried and it came out quite satisfying but one question, do we need to proof the dough before steaming and will this step help to lighten the pao texture?



LuceFLY said...

What's the purpose of substituting pau flour with wheat starch?

lilyng said...


i did not sub pau flour, it is either pau flour or bleached all-purpose plus wheat starch. Pau flour like cake flour has been bleached and has lower gluten content. so if you are going to use bleached all-purpose, the gluten level will be higher, so take some away and replace with wheat starch which has no gluten at all.

Carris said...

Hi Lily,

Can i use bread maker for this recipe?

Thank you.


lilyng said...


it is not necessary to knead that much so a bread maker is not necessary.

Carris said...

Hi Lily,

It's me, Carris again, have you tried using tangzhong method in this recipe? Though of trying but not sure how much tangzhong to add in, any suggestion?

Thank you.


lilyng said...


here is the pau recipe using tangzhung

just use char siew filling

Anonymous said...

I Fiona, I have tried your recipe up, it was very nice but my pau was not smile as big as yours.It just a little cracked. How do I make it smile or blossom bigger?

Thank you.

lilyng said...


use very very high heat so that the steamer is really boiling hot, then it will smile better. another factor is, when you wrap the pau, make sure you roll out the dough into a bigger circle, so that when you wrap it up, there will be more dough on top of the pau and this will give a better smile.

Anonymous said...

Hi, mdm lily
Thank your for your reply. Sorry to bother you ,It me again, I had tried up so many times to have my steamer with very boiling hot water and the result still the same. Do you mean the bottom dough is least and thin, the top with more dough? I will try again!

I also want to learn how to make hakka chai kueh(with sengkuang inside), can I know is tang mein fen same as ting fen , or it just a two different flour?

My chai kueh skin turn hard after one hour and I do not know how to make it softer and can be lasting longer until next morning which we bought from outside. Would you advise.Thank you very much.

lilyng said...


yes, try and pleat the pau with a bigger cirle of dough so that the top of the pau has more dough than he bottom.

i think ting fen is tan mein although i always hear the taiwanese mention it and thought it wound cheng fen

if your chai kueh is hard, perhaps there is not enough of liquid/water in your dough

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