Tau Sar Bao and Matcha Anpan

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.

Tau Sar Bao and Matcha Anpan
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 10 buns
  • 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
  • ⅔ (160ml) cup warm low fat milk, about 110°F (43°C)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp matcha**
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Prepare 8 pieces of 2x2 inch wax paper on a large platter.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Remove lid carefully to avoid water from dripping onto buns. Serve immediately.
  7. 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! 😎

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  1. says

    Hmm, this is too good, next time i also want to make matcha and red bean bao as my kids love matcha flavours. Thanks for sharing your review with difference type of flour, so far, I only make with bao flour and Hong kong flour..

    • Biren says

      The matcha flavor is quite mild and it gives a really nice color to the buns. The ones I ate in Kamakura were very good but small and it wasn’t enough for me. Good thing about making it at home is that I can make them bigger or have a few more if they are small. :) I divided the dough into 10 portions for these matcha anpan.

  2. says

    I like the Matcha Anpan bao, hungry just looking at it…I think I still have some matcha powder that I can use:) Printing this recipe:) Thanks for sharing your experiments with the different flours.

    • Biren says

      Thanks! It is really good with a cup of tea. I love tea and always have it with my snacks and desserts. :)

  3. says

    OMG…Red bean sweets!!!!!!!!!! I need to move in with you. Seriously. I would never (never say never, but at this point “never”) make this from scratch. I love anko… Biren, you really know what to share on your blog FOR ME. It’s too bad I can’t have taste this. I use to buy this red bean one at a convenience store on the way home from school… It was like Y105 or something like that…very nostalgic. :-)

    • Biren says

      I think the price hasn’t change cause I remember it was still Y105 when I visited last year. The steaming bins are always just next to the oden trays and I have a hard time deciding which to get. I love oden too. I should have added some black sesame seeds but I forgot in my excitement. :)

  4. says

    Bravo Biren! The steamed buns look great. Regarding the cake flour, it’s some kind of chemical reaction. I’ve seen blogger facing the same problem too but still not sure why. As far as I know, commercial cake flour is normally added in baking soda or baking powder…other than these 2, not sure what else they’ve added in! Curious, right??? Me too! Hopefully, not something bad to our health.
    Happy Monday!

    • Biren says

      Yes, it must be some kind of chemical reaction. I was quite shocked when I saw brown baos in the steamer…LOL! Baking powder should not be the culprit as some people do add baking powder in their baos. Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be using cake flour again for baos as I did not like the eggy taste and chewy texture.

  5. says

    Your pau looks good. It’s still best to use pau or Hong Kong flour. The best pau flour I’d tried is Blue key brand.
    And for 300gm flour it’s better to use 2 tsp yeast + 2 tsp double action baking powder. Then use 35gm shortening instead of oil,
    you’ll get a soft, fluffy & white pau. Have a nice day.

    • Biren says

      Yes, I think so too. Bao or Hongkong flour is the best but I will have to continue to look for alternatives as I can’t get them here. Thanks for your recipe. I will try it the soon as I am thinking of making some char siew bao.

  6. says

    Biren…those paus looks good and you are truly good at making them. Summer is the best time to make them with the hot weather, they will rise well :) Thanks for sharing the recipe. Time to make some too for the family:)

    • Biren says

      Bread making can be a little tricky here with the different seasons. The dough takes a much longer time to rise in the winter as the temperature in the house is only in the 60’s. A lot of times I lose patience waiting for the dough to rise. That is why I like using my bread machine as the temperature is controlled in there.

  7. says

    Biren, the paus looks so white and soft. I thought of using cake flour to make it too but after seeing the results of yours turning brown I have to forget the idea. I wanted to lug some pau flour from Malaysia the last time I went home but after much thoughts I decided not to. Afraid I might have problem with the US customs because they are a big bag of white powder :) :)

    • Biren says

      Yes, the white powder thing did cross my mind but I figured that they can easily test it. I really wanted the bao flour especially after testing the different kinds of flour here and not getting the results I wanted. I will try pastry and spelt flour next and post my results here. :)

  8. says

    Biren, I love char siew pau and tau sar pau very much. Your tau sar pau looks so soft and white, making me hungry again by looking at it :)

  9. says

    Thanks for sharing these bao experiments! Great to know what you think about the different types of flour! It’s so funny that you shared this now since last week I shared three dim sum recipes on my blog! The only one I DIDN’T share was the baked bao I made, haha. I have been wanted to try bao with red bean paste filling, it is definitely on my list of dim sum to make :)

    • Biren says

      Thanks for letting us know that char siew bao is known as manapua in Hawaii. I like both the tau sar bao and matcha anpan. They did not last long. :)

  10. says

    I love all sorts of steamed buns. I like red bean and the char siu. I actually like the all-purpose flour one with the char siu filling. Is it the same recipe? Your buns all look so perfect.

    • Biren says

      It is a slightly different recipe for the dough. I am constantly trying to simplify, improve, and stardardize the recipe. I kind of like this tau sar bao once as it is pretty simple. I will be making some char siew bao soon. :)

  11. says

    Both the baos look delicious. I’ve tried making bao with the Vietnamese premix as per your picture, in Melbourne. Added some vinegar in the water before steaming the baos, colour was ok but not as white as those from the dim sum restaurants but they weren’t yellow either. I quite like the texture though, a bit chewy. But sometimes if the baos are very white, I’ll have second thoughts.

    • Biren says

      I was told that adding a little vinegar to the water helps whiten the baos but I always forget to add the vinegar. Will have to try it next time.

  12. says

    I’m with Tigerfish – savoury then sweet, er, savoury then sweet LOL My whole family is pao crazy! Definitely yes to the matcha anpan and gyokuro! I actually like the look of your cha siew pao :)

    I haven’t yet tried making pao, though I will be rolling my sleeves up and throwing myself in the deep end of the pao pool soon (research, research!). The cake flour pao is quite shocking isn’t it?? I think, like Kristy, that there are probably a few additives in cake flour we don’t know about – I used cake flour recently to make lapis and I notice that it has a different smell from plain flour – slightly chemical like…

    • Biren says

      My boys love it too! You will be seeing more baos on this blog. They really like the vege char siew bao. :) Can’t wait to see what you come up with in your research. Perhaps you can shed some light on the shocking cake flour bao. I was really taken aback when I peek into my steamer and saw those brown baos…LOL! The boys and hubby are really kind and they all said it tasted good but I di not like it as I thought it had an eggy taste and smell. I don’t think I’ll be using cake flour in future recipes, even for cakes.

  13. says

    Koreans have similar steamed buns, but I have never made them at home. Red bean buns are my favorite. Your buns look so delicious, and thanks for sharing the recipes. I am now all inspried to make them at home.

  14. says

    We’ve tried the char siew bao but not these with the red bean paste, they sound so scrumptious and love the matcha ones too. Junior would definitely want to try to make these.

  15. says

    haha and I thought I was crazy filling my luggage with ikan bilis etc when I go back to London. 2kg of flour, definitely worth it though, your buns look so good. I love tau sar pau. the matcha version sounds even better because I love green tea. I like paus with a thin outside and lots of filling(:

  16. says

    Nice color of your Matcha Bao and I used to love Tau Sar Bao! Come to think of it, it’s been a very long time since I last had it! lol
    You’re really a talented cook and baker Biren! I just love every recipe here and had bookmarked almost all the recipes! 😀

  17. Louise says

    Thank-you for this wonderful recipe. It’s our family’s dessert every Saturday night. My 3 kids absolutely love it. Usually we have bean paste left over they eat all of that too

    • Linda says

      You are welcome, Louise! I am happy to hear that your kids love tau sar bao. It is one my favorite breakfast and snack.


  1. […] Biren currently lives in Twin Cities, Minnesota, but she grew up in Malaysia where home cooking was an eclectic mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisines.  After moving to the US and having her own family, she started baking and cooking more diverse recipes.  On her blog, she shares Western, Japanese, and other East Asian cuisines like these delicious Chicken Curry with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Tau Sar Bao and Matcha Anpan.  […]

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