I got it into my head that I shall make the perfect char siew pao, just like the ones pushed out in carts at dim sum places, steamy hot with sweet gooey fillings. I’ve always known it wasn’t going to be an easy task so I was prepared for failure but wanted to do thorough research before embarking on the project so I don’t get too discouraged and throw in the towel on first try.
As luck would have it, a blog that I frequent, Su Good Sweets by Jessica did a post on baked char siew pao for Chinese New Year. Her char siew looked delicious so I followed Jessica’s recipe for the barbecued pork and filling. These are the product.
I actually selected the wrong cut of meat and ended up with way too fatty meat, so I had to cut most of the fat out after the meat was baked (Libby had a nice snack on that day).
Upon hearing my intention to make steamed char siew pao, Jessica was kind enough to offer a couple of dough recipes. I was going to try the recipe from I was just very hungry but the photo didn’t look like the typical dim sum char siew pao, so I decided to go with my friend Hsin-li’s mom’s tried and true family recipe.
I cut her recipe down to 2 cups of flour, necessitating the 3/5 conversion factor for everything else. Why I didn’t cut down the flour more and just make it half will forever be a mystery. The following is the recipe I used to make the dough:
2C (240g) flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp potato starch
1/2+ tbsp oil
3 tbsp sugar in 4 oz H2O
½ tsp yeast
1 ½ tbsp lukewarm water
½ tsp sugar
1. Combine ingredients A and B and knead for 10 mins. Cover with wet teacloth to proof for 1 to 1.1/2 hours. Punch down and knead at least 20 times. Rest dough for 10 mins. If the dough pulls back, the rest time is insufficient, extend the rest time.
2. Divide dough into 1 oz pieces and fill with chosen filling. As you pleat the closing, be sure not to grease the edges so that the dough will stick.
3. Steaming time: 15 mins for each 1 to 1.1/2 oz dough pao
* Wrap lid of steamer with teacloth to prevent codensation from dropping
This is when the paos are ready to be steamed, and the final product. Not too good looking because I was greedy and rolled the rounds too big, resulting in skin that’s too thin. Combined with the fact that I didn’t use a towl to catch condensation, some of my paos leaked, as you can see from the picture.
The verdict? I thought the filling was close enough to the real thing, although I prefer mine really sweet, so next time I will add more sugar. The dough, however, is still not the same as the dim sum pao, but it’s a whole lot better than the one I came up myself so I will definitely use it again. Jason, ever the critic, said I shouldn’t call it char siew pao at all because it was a completely different thing. Supportive, huh? Our friend Danny (Hsin-li’s husband) was more forgiving in his evaluation. Although surprised that he had never had homemade pao at his in-law’s house, he praised the pao dough but also admitted that it’s different from the dim sum version. He thought the filling was very good and almost the same as store bought ones but mine was leaner, therefore not as soft. Must be because I trimmed off all the fat before cooking the barbecued pork.
Now, where oh where am I going to find a restaurant recipe for the fluffy dough? I wonder if they put something really bad in it to make it fluffy like that, which is the reason they don’t want people to know.