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August 18, 2004



Hi! I love your site. I have never made Chinese steamed buns, but here's what I know about bread making. Because you're using yeast, you WANT to develop the gluten. That's what gives the bread structure. In fact, a lot of breads use bread flour (higher gluten) to make the dough rise higher. This process is different from making pies, cookies, or cakes where the absense of yeast makes gluten bad.

Also, the lack of fat will not contribute to the bread's poor volume. Fat in bread just helps it keep longer. As an example, artisan breads (such as crusty french bread) do not contain fat, but they are not dense. However, because artisan bread doesn't have fat, it stales quickly.

Skins don't mean your bread is dry. Puddings have skins, as does french bread.

Maybe your water was too hot (killed the yeast) or too cold (didn't activate the yeast)? It's supposed to be 120F or test, I dip my finger in and make sure it's a little warmer than my body tmperature.

Maybe your yeast is bad? Also, adding salt directly to yeast will kill it. Typically you mix salt with the rest of the flour and then add the mixture to the yeast.

Also, drafty areas are bad for proofing dough.

I do hope you're able to make good pork buns; I love them and want to try myself!


Thanks for the advice! It's helped to clarify things quite a bit.

For the longest time I've been confused about when I should be developing gluten. I have a feeling that my problems are kneading and proofing-related, but I'll try a new batch of yeast just in case. Hopefully I'm not too many attempts away from making white and fluffy char siu bao.

Btw, if you do make them, please let me know how they turn out!


Quick comment, you've probably been eating Cantonese buns, which seem to be made from
rice flour and baking powder, not wheat flour
and yeast. Discovered this by mistake,
when I asked about bao at the Vietnamese store
in town :D The Internet hasn't been any help,
though, in finding a recipe for these :(

Now what to do with that 2 kg sack of rice flour :D Haar gao, of course!

Happy New Year!


did you ever find a solution? I've tried to make them twice, but the dough hasn't quite worked out.



Hi Kim - Sorry for my incredibly slow reply. Thank you for the tip. I'll try to find a recipe using rice flour too.

Hi Duncan - No, I haven't tried making them since August. However I would like to try making them again taking into account Jessica and Kim's advice. My ultimate goal is to make the pear-shaped sow-bow, that are served on birthdays. Please let me know if you're successful.


Hey got to be kidding right? You said that cantonese steamed buns are made from rice flour and baking powder. But all the recipes say things like all-purpose flour etc...and never rice flour. I will have to check this out and give it a try (with rice flour), but I got a feeling that it's not right....since even the asian recipes don't tell folks to use rice flour.


I just found this comment about steamed bun flour on this site..

It says something about 'superfine' flour, which is 'highly' bleached for making white steamed buns.


I managed to try the rice flour immediately, but it didn't work that well for me. I could get a bun out of it, but the dough had similar characteristics as wheat-starch dough. That is, you roll it into a ball, and it feels hard. But once I let the 'hard' ball rest, it then turns into a liquid ooze. So in the end, I had to add some all-purpose flour to try make the dough retain its shape when left alone. After steaming, the bun looked ok, but wasn't very puffy at all, so the texture was like a cup-cake when I ate it. Mine was slightly yellowish-brown on the inside, maybe due to the all-purpose flour that I added.

I'm pretty sure that chinese/cantonese/japanese steamed buns are typically made of wheat flour. Just that you have to get the right kind of flour in order to get the bun to come out pure white. Here's a link to a product called 'red sports car', which may be used to produce the desired pure white steamed buns.


Hi Kenny - Thanks for sharing your bao experiences and advice. I've actually been thinking about making them again soon, so I'm glad you left your comments. I think most of my problems may have more to do with technique than ingredients, but I'll definitely use bleached flour next time I try. Please do let me know if you're able to make fluffy, white bao.


Hello, I just happened to be surfing around and found this site. I've made Chinese steamed buns a few times and each time I have gotten them to get whiter. The one thing I do know is that you have to add some vinegar to the steam water, (a Chinese chef told me this) and on my last batch I also added some to the actual dough itself...not alot just one TBSP....the vinegar taste will not be noticeable but the over all buns came out a lot whiter..but still not quite as white as the restaurants....sorry hope this helps a bit...I am still working on mine too.


Hi dunno wot all this secrecy for making the White buns is..
Chinese are just selfish people and dont want to tell us how its made..!!!
Im still experimenting ...........


By the way Im chinese, I try to make the buns cos in england we pay about 10 times the price for a bun compared to Hong Kong!!!


In your account of how you dealt with the dough, I noticed that you mentioned just one rising period.

Steamed buns require at least two rising periods- one, after the dough is needed for about ten minutes and two,after the circles are filled with the meat. This is crucial and possibly you might have omitted the second rising period.


Hi just got a new recipe, use ammonium bicarbonate instead of yeast and self raising flour


Hi there!

First just wanna say that I love ur site :) very creative & artistic...

I made steamed buns yesterday, they came out pretty good, not as white as those in restaurants, but definitely not yellow. I use warm milk instead of water, which makes the dough very light, soft & fluffy. I also add some melted butter to the dough. Or u could use lard if u like. Lemme know if you'd like the recipe :)

About the flour, I use cake or all-purpose, sometimes even unbleached. The color's not very important for me, as long as they're fluffy :) However, some Chinese stores carry flour made specifically for steamed buns, they look pristine white!


Hey everyone!
I just stumbled upon this site and I actually found it quite interesting. I actually have learned a lot about making buns. I hate using the computer becasue I can't find the perfect recipe. I have been trying to make barbecue pork buns forever, they turn out okay I suppose but nothing like the restaurants. I was just hoping that someone out there would be kind enough to share their recipe. I keep finding one from Stephen Ciederburg or something. That one I followed but it doesnt turn out the way I want it to. I really love the steamed bleached white bbq pork buns so if anyone can share the recipe I'd be so grateful. And I dont mind the baked ones either. I love them! Thanks


Hi everyone,

I was reading this thread yesterday, as I was planning on making steamed buns last night & I thought I'd post my findings. I found three types of bun recipe on the net - yeast leavened, baking powder leavened, and yeast *and* baking powder leavened. I tried the last two. The baking powder only version was not good, very dense & didn't rise much at all - I wouldn't bother with it again. The yeast & baking powder version, however, was brilliant - just like yum cha restaurants (as we call then in Australia). Anyway, I basically used this recipe :

250g Bread Flour
175 ml Warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vege. shortening (or lard).
1 sachet dried yeast.

I mixed it all up in the KitchenAid with the dough hook for about 10 minutes.

Let it rise until doubled in size. I then punched it down & rolled it out to a square about 30 cm by 20 cm, and then sprinkled over about 2 teaspoons of baking powder, rolled it up & put it back in the machine to knead for another two minutes.

Then I rolled it into a log 2 in thick & cut it into 2 in portions. Rolled these into circles, filled with my pork & put onto squares of paper as per usual. I then let the dough rise again, & then steamed in bamboo steamer over a wok of rapidly boiling water for 20 minutes.

This made pretty large buns. They were very delicate & light. They were not exactly as white as the commercial buns, but you wouldn't notice the difference unless you were looking for it.


hope that helps.


Hi everyone - Thanks for all your suggestions and stories. I've been meaning to try them again for sometime. There are a few good threads on making pau/bao at Jo's Deli Bakery.

Pocahontas - I'd love to see your recipe, if you don't mind. Could you please send it to me at [email protected]? Thanks!

Matthew - Thanks for your recipe. I'll give it a try!

Angel Mercury

Make sure you're placing the dough in a relitivly warm place during both rising times. Typically, at least when I make bread, I will turn my oven on and rest the rising dough near the heat exhaust (My aparmanet can get a bit cold). This tends to increase the amount my dough rises noticably when compared to when I don't do this at other peoples places, and I usually will rotate the bowl the dough is in about halfway through the rising time.

Also, The Seccond rising period is very important! Make sure you're doing that ^.^

You could always try using Bread flour...

Angel Mercury

Ah, I had a question I was trying to find out!

What's the best recipe for the BBQ Pork filling? Should you do all the mixing of all those sauses or can you just go with Cha Siu sause and skip all the mixing of the filling. I'm trying to find this out since there are so many recipes that say, take BBQ Pork and then mix this and this and so on, But doesn't the Che Siu sause have that in it? I need a little clarification ^.^;


Angel Mercy - Thanks so much for your tips. I'll make sure I follow them next time I try. In terms of filling, I like to give the cha siu bits a brief sear before adding a few other sauces to it. I've never used Cha Siu sauce myself, but I assume if it tastes good to you, then you should go for it! I'd be interested to know how it turns out.


Hello All,

Great reading about the successes and failures of many dedicated BAO'ers.

Because the closest Yum Cha restaurant is 2hrs drive away for us, I regularly get serious cravings for dim sums.

Yesterday I decided to have my own Yum Cha night and spent the whole afternoon making char siu bao and Xiaoji (pot stickers), but I went and bought frozen sticky rice parcels in lotus leaves, har kau and siu mai (cheating i know). I do make these myself when I have time.

Yes, my bao goes slighty yellow using flour, yest and baking powder recipe however my wife and children consume these with great gusto (even for their breakfast if any left). The dough will rise but have never tried the 2nd rising. Iwill try it this afternoon as I have plenty of BBQ pork and lap cheong (chinese sausages) mixture left.

As I don't have ready access to BBQ pork, I use a mixture of groung pork and chinese sausages (these make the mixture superb).

Good luck and keep striving for the perfect BAO.

Richard from Napier, New Zealand.


Hi Richard, thanks for sharing your bao experiences with us. I hope to try making them again soon. Let us know how your's turn out!


Well when I turned to use up the left over bao filling, I found to my dismay that my wife and daughter found it in the fridge, heated it up in the microwave and ate it all with rice... :-(

Never mind another weekend coming up and I feel a strong need to steam some fresh buns! :D


I have a Dim Sum cookbook from a Taiwaneese author. She had kindly put 2 dough recipes techniques in the book, one for home cooking and one for restaurant cooking.

This is my analysis from the 2 recipes in her book and from what I've learned in making them.

The home recipe in the book is pretty much similar with what most of you had used which uses a high content of yeast for a quick rise period.

What is the color of yeast? Yes, this is why your dough results in an off-white color. As long as you use a high content of yeast, you can't achieve the restaurant white appearance.

With the restaurant dough recipe, once the basic dough recipe (home recipe) was made, a small portion is saved and let it sour overnight. This becomes a starter dough. Then, it is mixed with flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar etc. to create the restaurant dough for the steam bun. The restaurant recipe didn't add anymore yeast than what was already in the starter dough. Therefore, the dough content was mostly of white ingredients.

Once this dough had risen, a small portion is taken and become the starter dough for the next batch of dough. This starter dough can be refrigerated up to 1 week. If you had made yogurt at home, you'd understand this technique.

Unless, you plan to make steam bun daily or at least once a week, the restaurant dough recipe is too much time consuming to make. It is called for an 8 hrs. of rising time.

Perhaps, this is why the restaurant technique recipe is not posted nor usually shared in home cooking recipe books.

If you have the patience and would like both recipes, just send me an e-mail.

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