These Chinese 'Paus' is an absolute delight to nibble and munch during tea time. If this part of the world has dinner rolls, muffins and donuts, the Asians have their 'Paus' which can be baked or steamed. The varieties of fillings is endless and the joy of seeing these steamed versions coming straight out from the steamer, all piping hot with steam clouding your vision is just part of the fun. Biting into a hot one with soft fluffy texture and slowly working through the fillings gives the mouth and palate the feel of a mouthful goodness!
When I was little, I was fed the BBQ pork or Char Siew Pau whenever my parents patronised the Dim Sum places. Partly due to the fact that it is easy for little hands to hold and the idea of giving me a complete meal of protein and carb at the same time, all in one package saved my parents the trouble of feeding me while they happily used their chopsticks and picked all the other goodies!
Making these 'pau' is an art in itself, from the forming of the dough to the pleating of the patterns and the stuffing of the fillings. But somehow I find it easier to do than baking bread and it is all about practice to achieve the best pleat. Normally, the making of the bread dough requires more steps if the usual flour is used and as with all other convenient products born from the mass production era, I used the instant Bun flour that I got from the Asian groceries. Needless to say, there were lots of frozen pau varieties too in the frozen section but I still prefer to make everything from scratch as I believe the making process is also the fun part besides the eating.
The fillings can be savory and sweet. The ones that I have in my hometown are giant enormous ones with steamed pork and egg, chicken meat and shiitake mushroom and also sweet red bean paste. Perhaps now, the craze of the famous Shanghai "Xiu long Bao" has got a hold of the food aficionados back there with its hot broth squirting out at the first bite but I still prefer these steamed paus that I can snack away happily with my hands. All these are normally eaten as snacks and perhaps sometimes as lunch meals for those office ladies who watches their weights all the time!
For my first attempt, I made 2 fillings, one sweet with lotus nut paste and the other savory with turkey ham. I would very much love to improve on this pau making and hopefully to produce more professional ones in future. At the meantime, I made these little versions for my kids' teatime treat and needless to say, they enjoyed it as much as I had enjoyed my first Char siew pau. The instant Pau flour did its job perfectly. The fluffy strands were already obvious when the dough was completed and yet to be filled. Once steamed on medium high heat, the paus expanded in size and I learned that sizing and weighing the dough for each individual pau is very important before making the pau itself in order to get a uniform size.
These paus can be eaten on its own without any fillings too and sometimes I would forgo my bowl of rice and go for the steamed 'Man Tou' at Shanghainese restaurants or any Chinese restaurants that serves it. Dipping it with dishes that has heavy sauce in them is also a way to eat it. Sometimes, the most plain and simple thing is the best and these paus are certainly one simple and nice food to eat at all times.