Siopao is a savory meat-filled steamed bun. It originated from the Chinese Bao or Pao, which literally means ‘wrapped.’ I have already posted the Bao recipe here if you also want to try it. 😉
Siopao is a popular street snack in my home country, the Philippines, and is traditionally filled with chicken or pork. Here in Denmark, you can find bao buns in the frozen food sections in the Asian stores. Convenient as they are, packaged buns are never as satisfying as homemade ones – freshly steamed, chewy, soft, and filled with fragrant shredded pork or chicken.
For the filling, you can also make it by yourself.
Keeping it simple
The best and easiest Siopao recipe is made by stirring together: flour, yeast, baking powder, sugar, salt, water, and shortening. Then I let the stand mixer do the work, or you can also knead by hand. Regardless of the method, the result is fabulous.
If this is your first time making Siopao, don’t worry, I provided photos of the process and made a video tutorial so that you will be guided. 😊
The dough cooks up to an airy and fluffy tenderness but with a slight chew and doesn’t collapse under steaming.
Which type of flour for Siopao Buns?
My answer to this is all types of wheat flour works. However, the suitable type of flour for making Siopao is Pao or Bao or Dumpling flour. The low percentage of these types of flour will produce the optimum amount of gluten required for bouncy and soft buns. Both are bleached and can produce white buns.
If you use the standard all-purpose flour, the color of the Siopao will be slightly yellowish.
If you want fluffy and less chewy buns, use flour with a medium to low gluten level like cake flour. If you don’t have easy access to cake flour, there is a simple substitute. For every 1 cup of plain flour, add 2 tbsp of cornstarch. This will help to soften the steamed siopao compared to just using all plain all-purpose flour.
Yeast is used as a raising agent in Siopao buns, so don’t use self-raising cake flour.
How long to rest the dough?
To double the dough’s size, it can take as little as 45 minutes if the room temperature is high or up to 1.5 hours if it’s cold.
To accelerate this process, you can:
- Place the dough bowl in a warm room or area, for example, near a radiator or a preheated oven.
- Heat a glass of water in the microwave, put your dough bowl inside, and keep the glass in. Shut the microwave door.
- Cover your bowl with a damp cloth as humidity also affects fermentation.
After shaping the dough into individual buns, leave them to rise a second time before steaming, about 30 minutes this time.
How to avoid Siopao Buns collapsing?
The most common problem is that the wrappers collapse or wrinkle or harden after steaming. And this inconsistency of the cooked wrappers used to drive me mad too. So I’ve conducted numerous trials and kitchen experiments to overcome these problems. Now I’m happy to share my findings with you.
- Make sure you include a little sugar when making the dough. Sugar helps to activate the yeast, therefore, guarantee a good rise.
- Kneading affects the appearance of siopao buns. Extend the kneading time and make sure the dough is smooth before shaping.
- It is crucial to allow enough resting time during the dough fermentation process (2 times, as I explained above).
- Overproofing. When you let the dough proof too long, it will weaken the dough, and when you steam it, it will collapse and cause that wrinkle, and the buns will spread to the side, making them look wide and flat.
- Don’t rush to open the lid after steaming. Let the steamed siopao rest in the steamer for 3 to 5 minutes before opening the lid, so your steamed siopao won’t collapse and shrink due to a sudden change in the temperature.
- Too much moisture in the filling makes the bun wrinkles and collapse too.
Other tips to make Siopao
- Wrap the lid of the steamer with a cloth.
- Steam the Siopao buns over low heat.
- Make sure the yeast and baking powder isn’t too old.
Why my homemade steamed Siopao buns are yellowish in color?
The answer is because of the flour. To make siopao buns white, you will need to use bleached flour. You can buy this flour online or in chosen Asian stores. If you use the standard all-purpose flour, the color of the Siopao will be slightly yellowish.
Other reasons are because of butter or oil. It is also the reason why I use shortening, not butter, for my siopao. Shortening produces near-white buns. If you do not mind the color is a little yellowish, use butter. If you use vegetable oil, the Siopao will be slightly yellowish.
But don’t let the color fools you. Just because you produce some yellow buns, they can still be soft, fluffy, and delicious.
Does vinegar help to whiten steamed buns?
I tried that before several times and the answer is NO.
Give my Siopao recipe a try, and I am sure you will like it. 😉
For 6 servings of homemade Siopao, you will need:
For the yeast mixture
- 120 ml water, lukewarm
- 7 grams active dry yeast (or 21 grams fresh yeast)
- 1 tbsp granulated white sugar
For the dough
- 225 grams bleached flour or Bao Pao flour
- 3 tbsp granulated white sugar
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 15 grams shortening, softened and in room temperature
For the filling
- wax paper, for steaming
For the yeast mixture
- Only if you’re using fresh or active dry yeast in a bowl, combine water, yeast, and 1 tbsp sugar. Stir well until dissolved and let it stand for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture is foamy.
For the dough
- Using a stand mixer: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour (yeast, if you’re using instant dry yeast), the rest of the sugar, salt, and baking powder. Mix and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast mixture and shortening to the flour and stir to mix a little. Use a dough hook and knead the dough for 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky but not too much, and add a little bit of flour until it is no longer sticky to your fingers. Take the windowpane test.
- Transfer the kneaded dough into a large greased bowl. Cover with a plastic film and rise in a warm place for 1 hour to 1.5 hours (timing will vary depending on the room’s temperature), or until double in size. The dough is now ready to use. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate the dough until needed.
- While still in the mixing bowl, punch the down to remove air pockets. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a clean work surface, then hand-rolled into a cylindrical shape and cut into small pieces of approx. 50 grams. If you want all your dough to have the same size, weigh the whole dough, then divide the dough into how many siopaos you want to make. These dough pieces are rounded by hand.
- Each dough piece is flattened with the palm and sheeted into a circular piece by rotating and making the edges thinner than the center.
- Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of the dough piece. The filling is sealed in by pinching and pleating the edges of the dough together.
- Each bun is placed on a rectangular piece of wax paper, covering with a dry kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Arrange the buns in a steamer leaving 1-inch space between each bun, cover, and steam for 15 minutes. After steaming, take the steamer lid off and let the siopao rest inside the steamer for 3 to 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Serve warm with siopao sauce, or eat plain out of hand. Find inspirations in my posts – Pork Asado and Chicken Asado.
- When proofing yeast, make sure that the water is lukewarm, not hot, and I always add a little sugar sprinkle.
- If you’re using instant dried yeast, you can use it directly into the recipe (without the need of proofing), providing the other ingredients aren’t too hot.
- The suitable type of flour for making Siopao is Pao or Bao or Dumpling flour. Both are bleached and can produce white buns.
- If you use the standard all-purpose flour, the color of the Siopao will be slightly yellowish. And adding vinegar to the boiling water will not help your Siopao become whiter.
- You can also use cake flour, but if you don’t have easy access to cake flour, there is a simple substitute. For every 1 cup of plain flour, add 2 tbsp of cornstarch. This will help to soften the steamed siopao compared to just using all plain all-purpose flour.
- Kneading by hand: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly stir with a wooden spoon, moving from the center toward the rim, to work in all the flour. (Add lukewarm water by the teaspoon if this doesn’t happen with relative ease.) Keep stirring as a ragged, soft mass forms. Then use your fingers to gather and pat the dough together into a ball. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth, fingertip-soft, and slightly elastic. (You shouldn’t need any additional flour on the work surface if the dough was properly made. Keep kneading, and after the first minute or two, the dough shouldn’t stick to your fingers. If it does, work in a sprinkling of flour.) Press your finger into the dough; the dough should spring back, with a faint indentation remaining.
- You can use the dough immediately or refrigerate it overnight before shaping and filling it as desired.
- You can freeze Siopao. Leave to defrost in the fridge, then steam for 8 minutes to warm up, or 15 minutes without defrosting.
- Whenever possible, it is always recommended to use weight measurements instead of measuring cups when weighing ingredients.