Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Smile Pau/Bao Improved

 I have just finished making another batch of char siew pau/bao and this time with a starter that i have left to ferment for more than 48 hrs - it was give and take 55 hours.  The starter dough did not look any different and did not smell sour or yeasty.  My conclusion is that if the starter is replenished with just enough water to make into a soft dough, the starter dough will not become foamy.  The first batch of Smile Pau was made with less starter dough and using  more dry flour cos the starter dough was more liquid to start with.  So, when adding the dry flour to the starter dough to make the main dough, it has to be adjusted according to the texture of the starter dough.  Although this Smile Pau/Bao gave the best grin, i feel that there is room for improvement, not only the texture, the appearance too.  I have tried my best to share my experience as i have made more than 5 batches of Smile Pau/Bao and they all SMILE, although sometimes not the way i would love the SMILE to be.  It has been quite fasinating to see the result of this Smile Pau/Bao, smiling how ever they like, they have attitute.  Perhaps it is me, i am not expert enough to seal the pau/bao and it will take many more batches of pau/bao making, even that too might not ensure that i will get it right.  But, what i do know is right, is that the WATER for STEAMING has to be ALOT(quantity) and VERY VERY HOT,  to create as much steam as possible.  This is the toughest combat that i have to face, steaming in high altitute. 

I have edited this recipe by replacing the wheat starch with pau flour as i have found that too much starch makes the pau gummy and sticks to the teeth.

300 gm Starter dough
A tiny drop of potassium carbonate & sodium bi-carbonate solution a.k.a. Kan Sui

90 - 95 gm sugar
1 tsp double action baking powder
1/4 tsp ammonium bicarbonate
1 tsp water
2 - 3 tsp shortening
5 tbsp pau/bao flour


Weigh 300 gm of Starter Dough

Add a drop of potassium carbonate a.k.a. kan sui


Add weighed  90 to 95 gm sugar to the starter dough

Mix starter dough, pottasium carbonate/kan sui and sugar until sugar dissolves

Put 1 teasponn double-action baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon ammonia in a tiny saucer

Use 1 teaspoon of water

Add the teaspoon of water to the baking powder and ammonia

Stir well until dissolved


Add dissolved baking powder and ammonia to the starter dough and sugar mixture


Add 2 tsp shortening to the dough and mix well

Picture showing only 3 tablespoon pau flour but the recipe should be 5 tbsp

This is the brand of pau flour that i use

Add to dough

Mix all the ingredients until well combined

Use 1 tbsp of pau flour as bench flour

Pour mixed dough onto counter and flour your hands, knead dough until smooth

Kneaded dough and ready for wrapping

Look out for the coming post of which i will share how to wrap the pau/bao


Fern Ng (Angie Khoo) said...

Thanks Lily, for sharing the tips and the improved method. I sure will try this out and hope to get wide grinning baos. Warmest regards from Penang Malaysia.

My Little Space said...

Congratulations lilyng! You finally did it. You're such a fantastic lady. It really took times to make the one you're looking for. So, kudos!
Bookmarked it to try out as soon as I am free. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.
Enjoy your day.

Vivian Pang said...

The steps are very details! Thanks for the photos. It really helps a lot.
You did mention this stater dough is not that yeasty. And I understand ammonia is to get fluffy pau texture. Since is homemade I prefer not to use any of them. Base on your experience is it alright to omit? Thanks!

lilyng said...


i have not tried not using the ammonia but i will try and see if the pau will smile without it.

Anonymous said...

hi Lily,

Beautiful paus.How and where you get that beautiful flour. I live in nyc and don't see that anywhere


lilyng said...


i have to get them from the restuarant supply, a whole bag of 50 lbs

Anonymous said...

Dear Aunty Lily,
I really enjoy visiting your website and love the recipes you've posted. Thru' it, am able to make Chinese food that I miss. I've been looking for your baked siew pao recipe but am unable to find it. I've looked under different titles but it's not there. Please can you repost it again. Thank you.

Angie Fern Ng (Mrs Angie Khoo) said...

Hi Lily, I tried your previous recipe and managed to get my paus to smile at me. Thanks for your tips to steam the paus at hot,hot,hot steams(I change my gas stove to the latest Turbo Burners stove, see how crazy I am!)

By the way, I noticed that your this new improved recipe uses more sugar, If I use less sugar, say 60g, do you think this will affect the way the paus smile? Please advise.

Thanks & regards from Penang Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lily
I have been searching the internet for a long time to find the receipe for pao like you made and "hurray" I found yours. Thank you for sharing your receipe.
Please advise if I can use plain flour or self-raising flour instead of pau flour. I have also just found out another type of starter dough which simply mixing flour with water and cooking to form a smooth paste over low heat. Hope you can help.
Thank you
Trissa - Townsville, North Queensland

lilyng said...


you can use plain flour, just remove 1 tbsp and replace with 1 tbsp of wheat starch(tung mein fun). For self-raising flour, you would have to omit the baking powder in the recipe. The paus might not be as white for these 2 types of flours but the taste will be there.

Your second question is the 'tangzhung' method and the recipe is here

Eulis said...

THi Lily
I tried posting my comment but it doesn't seem to get through. Can you let me know how long you need to prove the dough after each step..

lily ng said...


your comment did get through, i had to moderate it and then published - too many spams.

there is no more proving after the dough is mixed. The only proving is when you make the starter. I have a never improved version to this pau which i omit adding the wheat starch and use all pau flour

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lily,
Your paus look so yummy. I can't wait to try making them.


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