Corner Café

March 18, 2009

Basic Pau Dough

Filed under: Basics,Dim Sum — SeaDragon @ 12:00 am
Tags: , ,

A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my neighbourhood Asian supermarket, I saw a few bags of 5kg special white flour on their shelf. Now this is a rare occasion as they usually only carry even bigger bags of this flour for commercial buyers. So I grabbed a bag (selling for AUD$10 per 5kg-bag) so I could make steamed buns with whiter dough.


This is just one version of the generic dough for the Chinese steamed buns. Here I have chosen to use instant yeast to make the dough which is faster and quicker than the traditionally way of using a starter dough.
This dough can be used to make basic plain steamed buns (e.g. mantou, silver-thread rolls, etc.), or filled steamed buns (e.g. sweet buns like red-bean paste buns, or savoury buns like pork buns or vegetable buns, etc.). Please note that this dough is not the Cantonese-style pau dough for making char siew pau.

Makes approx. 12 to 20 steamed buns, depending on size

2 1/2 cups (375g) special white flour *
1 1/2 teaspoons double-action baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
200ml lukewarm water, adjust as necessary
2 teaspoons lard, or canola oil

Baking paper, or patty-tin paper cases

* Use normal plain flour if special white flour is unavailable, but the resultant steamed buns will be yellowish in colour.
1. If you are using the baking paper as bases for the steamed buns, cut the paper into rounds about 8cm in diameter (20 pieces for standard-size buns, or 12 pieces for bigger buns). Set aside.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar onto the working surface. Add instant dry yeast and stir into the flour mixture; mixing well. Form the flour mixture into a well. Gradually add just enough lukewarm water to form into a slightly sticky, soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes, adjust with more flour or water if the dough feels too wet or too dry.
3. Knead in lard or oil until incorporated. Form the dough into a round ball and let it rise until double in size in a large greased bowl, cover with cling film (should take about 1 hour in warm weather, longer in winter months).
4. Punch down, knead briefly and form into a rough log shape. Then divide the dough into 30g each (should get about 20 pieces) or 50g each (should get about 12 pieces). Form each piece into balls and let rest for 15 minutes, covered loosely with cling film.
5. Shape and/or fill the dough pieces according to the steamed buns you want to make. Place each bun on a piece of the prepared baking paper round, or patty-tin paper case. Cover the bun doughs loosely with cling film, and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until they feel puffy and airy.
6. In the meantime, start boiling water in a steamer, adding about 1 teaspoon white vinegar (this is optional, but wisdom is that it will help to whiten the colour of the buns) to the water.
7. Steam the buns for about 10 minutes (for smaller standard-size buns) to 15 minutes (for larger buns) over moderate heat. Serve hot.

Comparison of the pau sizes from just after shaping to after steaming (excuse the mis-shaped pau as I was learning to wrap/shape the dough with a small opening on top).
Pic #1: The finished pau after shaping and ready for final rise before steaming.
Pic #2: The pau after rising for 30 minutes, they have become puffy and airy.
Pic #3: The pau after steaming.

Here’s a tutorial I found on YouTube showing how to fold/crimp the pastry for sealing the pau.

Taste: Billowy soft and fluffy steamed buns
Consume: Best within one week
Storage: Store in airtight container in the refrigerator, re-steam until hot before serving
Recipe References:


  1. sd

    i would like to know how to wrap pau with the circle opening on top? any good tips?

    Comment by lily ng — March 18, 2009 @ 8:33 am | Reply

    • Lily,
      I’m still learning also. But what I learnt after doing these pau are that when rolling out the wrapper, make sure the wrapper is as round as possible. This helps in getting a good round hole in the centre. To get the hole, the last pinch/fold should end at the first pinch/fold, making sure not to pinch towards the centre which will close the hole.

      Comment by SeaDragon — March 20, 2009 @ 7:19 pm | Reply

  2. grr why didn’t i come across this earlier!

    i was trying to make this yesterday. however, i used the wrong yeast (no experience using yeast in my life) and didn’t proof it.:P me, being the ignorant teen thought my parents wise words were wrong when they told me to proof the yeast (cuz it didnt say so in the recipe…now i know better).

    but thank you very much for this recipe!:) yours so much more clear to me especially with the ingredients. will try this again.xD

    Comment by theepanda — March 21, 2009 @ 1:41 am | Reply

    • Hi theepanda,
      You can use active dry yeast, just need to increase the amount by 1.5, then dissolve the yeast in a small amount of lukewarm water until bubbly and proceed as per recipe.

      Comment by SeaDragon — March 24, 2009 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

  3. SD, I am making pau trm but it is char siew pau. Once i get it right, my next aim will be silver-thread rolls. hehehe Wish me luck.

    Comment by Edith — March 22, 2009 @ 2:15 am | Reply

  4. SD, I live in Doncaster and wonder which Asian store I could get the four. If you do not wish to post the name of the shop, could you please respond to my personal email. This will be greatly appreciated.



    Comment by Chan — April 18, 2009 @ 8:42 am | Reply

    • I got mine from KFL (Tatsing) supermarket in Flemington. There is another one in Box Hill, the address is here. Look for it where they put all the big, large bags of flour for commercial buyers, they might not have the 5kg all the time though.

      Comment by SeaDragon — April 18, 2009 @ 11:25 am | Reply

  5. Hi SD,

    I’ve made a vegetarian pau using the recipe above, however mine turn out a little bit sticky? Is that the problem of the flour that i used? Some people combine pau flour with the normal flour, what’s the difference? What’s the function of pau flour? Also mine is also a little bit denser compare to those selling outside. Could you please kindly tell me why is that so? Thank you.

    Comment by lee — April 28, 2009 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

    • Hi lee,
      From your question you didn’t specify what flour you used? Also when you mentioned pau flour, was it the premixed pau flour, or the Hong Kong flour for making char siew pau? If so they’re the wrong flours which caused of the problem.

      Comment by SeaDragon — April 29, 2009 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

      • i’m using the all-purpose flour. As for the pau flour, i dont think it’s premixed pau flour, i think it’s some low protein flour. I tried my 2nd attempt today, which is mixing the all purpose flour with corn flour to lower the protein. However, the pau turned out to be flour-y. No idea why.

        Comment by lee — April 29, 2009 @ 11:59 pm | Reply

        • lee,
          Ap flour should work well. But you have to adjust the water according to the absorption capability of the flour. What you have done is probably add too much water the first time.
          Please don’t lower the protein for this pau recipe, the only pau you need to lower the protein/gluten level is the Hong-Kong-style char-siew-pau-type recipes, which this recipe is NOT.

          Comment by SeaDragon — May 2, 2009 @ 11:01 am | Reply

          • alright, thank you. I will try to add lesser water next time.

            Comment by lee — May 2, 2009 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  6. Hi SD,

    Great website you have here. The pictorial guide is really a great help.Is double action baking powder different from the normal baking powder used in this basic pau dough? Looking forward to your reply. Thanks. Janet

    Comment by Janet Yong — June 22, 2009 @ 2:36 am | Reply

    • Hi Janet,
      The Ward’s brand baking powder on the market is double-acting (I checked their website); not too sure about the White Wings’ brand though, but I expect it to be double-acting as well.

      Comment by SeaDragon — June 22, 2009 @ 8:48 am | Reply

  7. Juliana,
    In answer to your question you asked under the Taro Paste post, the chewiness of your pau is due to either the dough not being kneaded enough, or that you did not fully prove the dough. Making this type of pau is the same as making bread, kneading and proving the dough is crucial in getting a soft and fluffy pau. HTH.

    Comment by SeaDragon — August 1, 2009 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  8. Hi,
    I do not have double action baking powder.Can i use a normal one? I live in Germany,where can i find double action baking powder??Thanks

    Comment by Helen — October 18, 2009 @ 5:30 am | Reply

    • No, you need to use the double-action one, as the dough need to prove.

      Comment by SeaDragon — October 24, 2009 @ 7:37 am | Reply

  9. Hi there,

    Can we get double action baking powder in australia? Do you get it from Coles/Woolworth?


    Comment by evangelyn — August 9, 2010 @ 1:02 am | Reply

    • See reply to comment #6 above. I think the baking powders here are all double acting already…

      Comment by SeaDragon — August 13, 2010 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  10. Hi

    Does the kneading requires to reach the windowpane or just till combined?


    Comment by Mel — September 15, 2010 @ 3:26 am | Reply

    • You can try to achieve windowpan if you can but I think it will be harder as pau uses plain flour and not bread flour so less gluten. I just knead until the dough is smooth and feel elastic…

      Comment by SeaDragon — September 15, 2010 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

  11. I tried making the pau, it was pretty successful (at least on the outside), but the inside is very dry. Are there any tips you can offer to make it moist and juicy? Thanks. =)

    Comment by Sara — October 25, 2010 @ 3:59 am | Reply

    • Hmm, I don’t quite understand what you mean by dry inside. I have never encountered that before. Do you mean dense inside? If so, that means you did not prove or knead the dough properly.

      Comment by SeaDragon — October 29, 2010 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

  12. Hi there – thanks for sharing this recipe. I’ve tried it and it gave me beautiful steamed buns, even though I cheated and used a bread maker to knead. I made them with vegetable filling and they were totally fab 😀

    Comment by sugarplumgal — February 12, 2012 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

  13. hi… i don’t know why my pau turned like crumple not smooth texture after it was steamed! it looked very nice, smooth before i steam it… tq…

    Comment by SALBIAH — February 28, 2012 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

    • Did you prove the dough properly, could be overproving? The other reason could be you used too high heat to steam which caused the rough surface.

      Comment by SeaDragon — March 10, 2012 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  14. Nice n soft buns; enjoyed the orange cake recipe too!

    Comment by Angela — November 2, 2016 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  15. So I’m new to making these, but if I don’t stuff them the dough turns out perfect. If I put pork filling in them, the dough is flat and… Well.. Doughy. Any tips? I want them to be light and fluffy like the pau I’ve eaten before.. Thanks

    Comment by Hannah — June 30, 2017 @ 9:53 am | Reply

  16. Where to buy Pau flour

    Comment by Erie Allen — January 13, 2019 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  17. Hi, if I use premixed Paul flour does it mean that I don’t had to add the baking powder and dry instant yeast?

    Comment by Teresa — June 4, 2020 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

    • Yes, just follow the instruction on the premixed pau flour.

      Comment by SeaDragon — June 4, 2020 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  18. How do make my finished pau round? Most of the pau after steamed become odd shapes.
    Anyway method to have more rounded pau after steaming. Thanks.

    Comment by Daniel Tan — June 29, 2020 @ 9:54 pm | Reply

    • Hmm, maybe when you roll out the dough, it is not even thickness? So some part thicker than other, after proving and steaming, the thicker parts expand more.

      Comment by SeaDragon — June 29, 2020 @ 10:33 pm | Reply

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