It’s school holiday time so posting will be slightly erratic for the next couple of weeks. We’re also going to have a very busy weekend coming up, so I probably won’t post anything next Monday.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a look at today’s MM dish. It’s a baked version of the chinese pao or steamed bun. Instead of a yeasted dough however, the “bun” is actually a pastry filled with cooked meat. The state of Seremban in Malaysia is home to some pretty famous siew pao.
I’d bookmarked this recipe in Mum’s hand-me-down recipe books ages ago, but hadn’t the courage to tackle it until now. The dish is actually not terribly hard to make, but the pastry involves the oil dough/ water dough rolling technique that I mentioned in the kaya puff post. There seems to be so many variations of the oil/ water dough recipes, I wasn’t sure if the recipe I had was going to work.
Well, it did, and it didn’t. Mainly because I chickened out and instead of using lard/ shortening as specified in the recipe, I substituted with butter. Usually, butter works quite well as a shortening substitute, but not here. Done correctly, the dough should be quite crisp, yet flaky. My pao ended up flaky, but not quite crisp enough. Anyone who has ever made pastry using lard will know the difference I’m talking about.
The filling, on the other hand, tasted very close to the real thing (it’s been years since I ate a siew pao, so my memory is a bit fuzzy). The filling is usually pork, but can also be made from chicken for a halal version (and obviously omit the lard in the pastry). I was actually using offcuts from previous dinners, and ended up using half chicken and half pork. Oopsily, I didn’t make quite enough filling, so ended up a little pastry heavy.
(Oops, too little filling)
Overall, I was pretty happy for a first attempt because the pao did look (and taste) like the ones I remembered. Now I just need to sort out the texture issues :)
Have a great start to the week, and don’t forget, my friend Suresh over at 3 Hungry Tummies will be hosting the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday roundup (#10), so please send your entries over to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Siew pao (Baked pao)
Make the filling first:
Chicken or pork - diced. (I used about half a cup/ 120g, but this wasn’t quite enough. I’d aim for at least 3/4 cup next time)
1/2 cup (70g) or about half a large red onion, diced
scant tablespoon each of dark soy sauce (caramel sauce) and light soy sauce
half a tablespoon of oyster sauce
half a teaspoon of sugar (or to taste)
(mix the sauces and sugar in a small bowl)
1/2 tsp plain flour
salt if needed (I find that the soy sauces are enough for my tastebuds)
water if needed
vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoon frozen peas/ fresh if available and you feel like it.
(Dark soy sauce)
Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for about a minute and a half, or until translucent. Add the meat and fry until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes depending on heat. Add the sauces to the frying pan and stir. Then add about 2 tablespoons of water to the sauce bowl to “rinse” it out into the frying pan. Lower the heat, cover the pan, with the lid slightly ajar and simmer until all the sauce has almost evaporated and the meat is tender. This took about 15 minutes or so. Add the peas and stir well, then add the flour and stir until the remaining sauce thickens. Season with pepper (and salt if using). Cool and set aside until ready to use.
1 egg yolk mixed with a bit of milk for the eggwash.
sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
7 oz flour
5 oz lard or shortening
Mix the lard (I used softened butter) and flour together, using a spatula, then your hands if necessary, until a smooth dough is formed. Don’t overknead. Wrap in cligfilm until ready to use.
2 tablespoons sugar (I did think it wasn’t sweet enough and would probably add a bi more next time)
3/4 cup water
Mix the flour and sugar together, then gradually stir in the water and knead lightly until a soft dough is formed.
Divide both lots of dough into 8 portions, shaped into little balls. I found that I would have preferred smaller pao and would have perhaps made 10 or 12, but that’s just because I like mini things.
Flatten a water dough ball slightly, and carefully enclose a butter dough ball completely into it, and seal. try not to trap too much air. With a rolling pin, flatten the whole water/oil dough ball flat, then use your fingers to carefully roll up from the edge closest to you, so you get a cigar shaped log. Turn the log a quarter turn so that the opening or mouth of the “cigar” faces you. Roll it flat with the rolling pin, then repeat the rolling with the fingers process to get a shorter log. Give it a quarte turn, then repeat the flatten/ roll process one more time. You should now have a short log. Carefully flatten it out into as circular a shape as possible, making the edges thinner than the middle. Place a little of the meat filling in the middle, wet the edges of the circle with a bit of water, then gather them together to seal, then give the top a little decorative twist.
(The flattening/ rolling process looks a bit like this)
Preheat the oven to about 180˚C. Place the prepared pastries onto a tray lined with baking paper, eggwash the tops (don’t omit this step or it won’t look good, and the eggwash adds touch of crispness), and bake until done.