Jillian R.
Today I made Chicken Char Siew Pao (Barbecued Chicken Steamed Buns). This is my first attempt at making these popular Chinese buns and I'm happy to say that they turned out quiet well.


(Chicken Char Siew Pao)

Pao or steamed buns; often with filling (savory or sweet) are the Chinese version of filled pastry in my opinion as ovens were not very common in an Asian household. My mom's answer to every baked recipe is steaming. I remember telling her once that I needed to use an oven for a school cooking project and she said "Oven is broken, can you steam instead?"

Anyway. Char Siew Pao is a very popular Dim Sum dish. Char Siew is really always pork but due to my laziness to go to the supermarket at the other side of town to get pork loin, I used chicken breast which is readily available nearby. The filling did not turn out as flavorful (no surprise here) - but what can you do? 

Common pao fillings in Malaysia are (besides Char Siew); Tua Pao or "Big Bun" with chunky pork and boiled egg, Tau Sar Pao with sweet black bean paste, and Kaya Pao with sweet coconut custard/jam. Sometimes although not as common, you can find Chai Pao with savory jicama or turnip filling (my favorite!) or Eah Pao with sweet shredded coconut.

Steamed buns are, although a very simple dish; not very easy to make. The chicken was marinated in a homemade Chinese-style barbecue sauce overnight, then cooked in the oven until fork-tender. Then they are chopped and cooked again in oyster sauce. The meat is then filled into dough that had been proofed for about an hour. As I was filling each of the 20 buns with meat, the remaining ones kept rising, hence I had to work fast, creating sloppy looking buns. Unlike western yeast dough, pao dough is lighter in color and has an "airier" texture when cooked. Once the filling is wrapped in their individual bundles, they were steamed for about 12 per batch.

I ran out of chicken filling 13 buns in, so I quickly shredded some carrot and made a veggie filling.

(My version of Chai Pao - with carrot!)

My parents and I lived with my grandmother till I was six. Grandma's favorite breakfast place was a Dim Sum restaurant which is also a tea house located about 10 minutes' walk from our house. Yes, we are Chinese, we prefer a savory breakfast. I remember going there a few times a week with her and my parents and she would tell my mom to peel the "skin" off the pao before giving it to me. Because they are not baked, the buns do not have a brown, thick crust like regular bread but instead, they have a thin, delicate crust that you could peel off with your fingers.

(Pao crust that you could peel off easily)

Most Chinese moms (mine included) think that the crust is dirty because it has been handled by the chef/waiter/etc, therefore, you need to peel this layer off before eating. I've always liked this "dirty" crust! It has no special flavor or texture, but I just like it. I don't know why.

So yeah, making and eating pao takes me way back to those childhood days when my mom would peel the crust for me and when she wasn't looking, I grabbed and ate them!
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2 Responses
  1. jamieywrites Says:

    share the recipe please? :P I wanna make paos too


  2. Jillian R. Says:

    Oh my recipe is from an old Chinese Cookbook - really very good recipe. It has yeast in the pao mixture. You can try this one as I think all the items can be found easily http://lilysbest.blogspot.com/2012/03/velvety-sauce-char-siew-paubao.html


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