Waking up on a cold Sunday morning, my parents used to take the family to an authentic dim sum restaurant just to have heaps of Char Siew Paus.
I guess you could say the fluffy buns hold a special place in our childhoods, especially on days where the weather dipped, reaching for a Char Siew Pau was a no brainer. Served in traditional wooden baskets, Honey Char Siew Paus was the epitome of comfort in every bite. The fluffy white exterior gives way to a steamy inside that is filled with flavourful char siew pork, achieving the perfect balance between sweet and savoury.
What is Honey Char Siew Pau?
A Cantonese delicacy, Honey Char Siew Pau can be found in most dim sum restaurants throughout the year. Sitting among other dim sum dishes in a giant silver steamer, Honey Char Siew Pau is usually shelved with other paus in wooden baskets.
Contrary to baozi, the dough of a steamed Char Siew Pau makes use of both yeast and baking powder to achieve a dense yet fluffy texture for its exterior.
In the centre of the bun is a generous filling of sweet, slow-roasted pork pieces. The char siew bits are diced and mixed into a gravy mixture of oyster and hoisin sauce, roasted sesame seed oil, rice vinegar, sugar, and cornstarch – the latter to give it an almost slimy consistency. Some specialised recipes also call for the use of Chinese rice wine or dry sherry for a sweet, tingling aftertaste.
History of Honey Char Siew Pau
Honey Char Siew Pau stands in a long line of dishes that shares the same culinary origin. In fact, the invention of pau (Chinese buns) stretches back to the era of the Three Kingdoms (200AD) when Zhu Ge Liang – a famous politician instructed his soldiers to create dough buns to throw in the river to fool the deadly God of River during a special quest.
The dough buns are known in Mandarian as mantou evolved across time and culture, with housewives and cooks adding their own spin to the plain bun. Char Siew Pau was a result of that evolution and it grew popular as a hearty source of sustenance for travellers and workers frequenting the Silk Road, not to mention incredibly convenient thanks to its fist-size shape.
Today, Char Siew Pau is a norm to all Chinese food lovers, but food experts do believe that it will evolve into more variations in the future. After all, we’re seeing baked variations and pig-shaped buns during special occasions like Chinese New Year as chefs continue to add their unique spins to the classic bun.
Variations of Honey Char Siew Pau
Speaking of fresh takes on the beloved Char Siew Pau, most dim sum outlets do come with pork-free alternatives to cater to the Muslim and vegetarian community.
For example, Vegetable Pau is a popular option for those adopting a meatless lifestyle. The ingredients for its filling include shredded turnips, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and soaked black fungus. A mouthful of vegetables in every bite, the Vegetable Pau is definitely the healthier alternative as compared to the regular Char Siew Pau.
But for meat-lovers among us, Chicken Pau is another halal variation of the Char Siew Pau. Instead of using char siew pieces as the filling, marinated chicken strips are used as substitutes. However, this method requires more cooking time as the chicken needs to sit in the marinade overnight to soak up the flavours.
Where to Find Honey Char Siew Pau
With all that said, it’s impossible not to crave a warm Char Siew Pau this instant. Fear not as this dish is ubiquitous in the city, with dim sum chains like Din Tai Fung serving them fresh every day. Alternatively, use the foodpanda app to find the nearest Char Siew Pau and have them delivered to you instantly!