Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chinese Steamed Gooey Coconut Custard Bao, Lau Sah Bao, 流沙包

I have written a post on Chinese Steamed BBQ Pork Bun or the dim sum favorite-Char Siew Bao, about two months ago. Being raised by my Chinese family in Malaysia, steamed bao is one of the breakfast staple or mid-afternoon snack that we looked forward to as a kid. Steamed, fluffy soft bao is the next best thing after sliced bread (Oooppss! It is still bread, right!)

Steamed Bao is the Chinese answer to a baked loaf of bread in the West. Except that our bao comes filled with either savory or sweet filling and it is the perfect food for a light meal or as part of a multi-course Chinese brunch, yes, Dim Sum!

I have noticed recently food bloggers in Malaysia can't seems to stop mentioning about a steamed gooey custard bao or 流沙包, being served in a lot of dim sum places in the country. I remembered vaguely having had that steamed bao when I was visiting Hong Kong. Correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure the bao is a common dim sum staple in HK. Upon reading more food blogs, I found that it is also a favorite among dim sum enthusiasts in Canada and the West Coast, which is not surprising as there are more Hong Kong-born dim sum chefs residing in Canada and the West Coast compared to the East Coast.

I have been to most of the dim sum places in Boston's Chinatown but have yet to find one that offers the most-talked-about-lately steamed gooey custard bao. I tried to google for a recipe on the internet but most of the recipe I found was for the regular Steamed Custard Bao, Lai Wong Bao or 奶黄包. When I finally found a recipe online for the lao sah bao, it seems like steamed salted egg yolk is one of the major recipe for the above mentioned bao. 

See, I am not a big fan of Chinese salted egg or 100-year old egg. My grandma has tried to introduce me to Chinese pickled vegetables, fermented tofu, preserved eggs, salted fish and all the said good stuff but I have never liked it. It is a matter of personal preference, I suppose. Since I am not into salted egg at all, I created my own filling using coconut for the bao instead. 

The verdict: These steamed baos are AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steamed Chinese Gooey Custard Bao (流沙包)
(Makes 24 baos)

For Bao Dough
1 16oz steamed bao mix (you can find it easily in any Asian grocery store)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp oil

For Gooey Coconut Custard Filling
1 cup dried coconut flakes, unsweetened

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup custard powder
1/4 cup milk powder
1/4 lb butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup evaporated milk

Step 1: Prepare the filling. Combine softened butter, sugar, custard powder, milk powder and coconut flakes. Stir in evaporated milk and mix till all ingredients are combined. Place filling in freezer.

Step 2: Prepare the bao dough. I used ready mix steamed bao dough as they are easier to find than Hong Kong flour here and make the whole bao making process easy.
Combine milk, sugar and oil in a large bowl. Stir in the bao flour until a dough is formed. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rest for 30 minutes. Dough will be sticky at this point.

Dough looks like this after resting.

Step 3: Knead dough for 5 minutes till it is smooth. Dough will no longer be sticky after the kneading.

Step 4: Shape dough into a log.

Step 5: Divide dough into four equal pieces.

Step 6: Shape dough into log again.

Step 7: Cut dough into smaller portions. You should get 24 pieces of dough.

Step 8: Place dough in between wax paper. Flatten dough with a rolling pin.

Step 9: Roll dough to form a circular shape, thicker in the center and thin at the circumference.

Step 10: Remove filling from the freezer.

Step 11: Place a tablespoon of filling at the center of dough.

Step 12: Crimp edges together to seal.

Step 13: Place dough on a piece of wax paper and proceed to shape it into a smooth round with the palms of your hands, gently molding it to a round.

Step 14: Place shaped bao on a 2x2 inch piece of wax paper.

Step 15: Heat water in a steamer. Steam bao for 12-15 minutes, till done. Serve warm.


  1. You're absolutely right, the custard bao is quite a staple dim sum item in HK and Canada. The best I've had in Canada so far is in Vancouver. Edmonton's dim sum is nothing compared to Vancouver's. Then of course Vancouver's dim sum is nothing compared to HK's. HK is a foodie's paradise. Haha. Your coconut custard buns look delicious. What a great idea to use coconut, Reese! Great step by step instructions too. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  2. @ Le Quan: My pleasure! My family is still talking about that sesame chicken recipe of yours from last nite :)

  3. thanks for the recipe! I think I'll leave out the coconut flakes (I don't particularly like it's texture) and will increase the rest of the filling ingredients a bit as a result and also substitute some coconut milk in place of the evaporated milk.

  4. that is nice. Let me know how it turns out!

  5. Reese, i would like to make Lau Sah Bao this weekend for our son but he does not like dried coconut, if you i want to use salty egg, how many do i need & how do i do.
    Thanks you

  6. Kim, I will recommend that you try Aunt Lily's recipe if you want salted egg yolks as the filling ingredient.

  7. If you're still looking for this type of bao in boston, winsor cafe in chinatown have this on their menu.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I have tried the bao at Windsor Cafe and at another place in Boston Chinatown. They are both good.

    2. There's another place in Boston's Chinatown? Do you know the name of this place? Please enlighten me!

    3. Yup, head over to Great Taste bakery on Beach Street.