Tau Sar Bao or steamed red bean paste bun is very popular in East Asia as well as among the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. These simple yet delicious buns are a common dim sum offering and they are eaten throughout the day. In Malaysia, steamed buns can be easily found in the coffee shops. I used to eat two Tau Sar Baos for a quick, delicious, and satisfying breakfast. Most days, I prefer them over the char siew bao (barbecue pork buns).
I do make bao occasionally, using all-purpose flour but have not been satisfied with the results. Baos made with all-purpose flour which has a higher gluten content, are not as white and soft as I would like them to be. Unfortunately, low gluten bao or Hongkong flour is not found in my part of the US. Last summer during my visit to Malaysia, I decided to lug two kilograms of bao flour home. You would have thought that I would get to work as soon as I got home but somehow I never got round to it until this weekend. I kept the flour sitting in the fridge.
I am glad to say that lugging the two kilograms of bao flour half way round the world was worth it. These baos met my expectations. They were soft, light, and very fine textured. The color of the baos were white as snow!
We had a guest over for lunch this weekend and not wanting to turn on the oven, I decided to make some steamed buns instead. It was time to use some of the flour. I started with the Tau Sar Bao and while I was at it, I decided to recreate the Matcha Anpan I ate in Kamakura, Japan some years back. I made a second batch by infusing the dough with matcha which gave the buns a really nice color.
Steamed savory buns are gathered at the top while sweet buns have a rounded surface. Tau Sar Bao is often marked with a red dot to distinguish it from other types of sweet buns.
To simplify the work, I used canned red bean paste. All I had to do was to concentrate on the dough which was not difficult. It just needed a little elbow grease but you can let your stand mixer do the kneading if you prefer.
- 1 cup (300g) red bean paste
- Red food coloring (optional)
- 2¼ (300g) cups bao flour or all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp (28g) sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp dry yeast granules
- 2/3 (160ml) cup warm low fat milk, about 110°F (43°C)
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp matcha**
Sift flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Mix in yeast and pour warm milk over flour mixture. Stir until flour comes together. With clean hands, knead dough in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Add canola oil and knead to get oil incorporated into dough. Remove from bowl and continue to knead on a flat surface for another 8 to 10 minutes until dough is nice and smooth. Put dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours or until double in size.
Prepare 8 pieces of 2x2 inch wax paper on a large platter.
When dough is ready, remove from bowl. Gently punch down and divide into 8 equal portions. Form into balls and flatten into disks of about 3 inches in diameter. Add a rounded tablespoon of red bean paste in the middle of dough. Gather up the sides to seal. Place seam side down onto wax paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with plastic wrap and allow prepared buns to rise for another 45 minutes.
Prepare a steamer and allow water to come to a boil. Mark buns with a red dot using a toothpick dipped in red food coloring, if desired. Place buns in steamer, place lid on, and steam for 12 minutes.
Remove lid carefully to avoid water from dripping onto buns. Serve immediately.
Leftover buns may be kept in the freezer. When required, re-steam frozen buns for 8 to 10 minutes.
**If you are making Matcha Anpan, matcha should be sifted together with flour, sugar, and salt.
Remove and serve immediately. Tau Sar Bao is delicious with a cup of jasmine pearl tea. I would drink gyukuro with Matcha Anpan.
Here are pictures of my previous attempts using different kinds of flour. These pictures were taken some time back.
The bao below was made with all-purpose flour. I found the texture a little dense and the bao was not as white as it should be. I made this in the winter. Perhaps it needed a little more yeast or a longer proofing time. I will definitely give it another try. I remember the texture of the bao using all-purpose flour was lighter in Colorado (high altitude) because of the lower atmospheric pressure allowing the dough to rise better.
I was really surprised with this attempt using cake flour. While cake flour is supposed to have a lower gluten content, the steaming caused the color of the flour to change to a golden brown color. Initially I thought the filling leaked out but that was not the case. The texture was a little chewy and it had an eggy taste although no eggs were used in the dough.
Another attempt using this flour as per the packaging instruction yielded almost the same result as using all-purpose flour. I will try using pastry flour and white spelt flour when my bao flour runs out. Please do let me know if you have a flour and formula that works well. Thanks!
This is my second entry to Sharon for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #13.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!