These baked BBQ buns or commonly known as Siew Pau or Siu Bao have a flaky and buttery crust that’s perfect for an afternoon treat. This savory snack is a veganized version of the popular Seremban Siew Pau ‘芙蓉烧包’.
Seremban is a city about 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. One of the most well-known food is the flaky baked BBQ pork buns – Seremban Siew Pau ‘芙蓉烧包’. Unlike its fluffy bun cousin, these have a buttery flaky crust that is baked to perfection with a sweet and savory filling. It was a big hit for afternoon treats when I was a kid. Almost every franchise store had a long line of customers waiting as soon as the oven starts heating.
What makes these Siew Pau so special? It’s in the crust and filling. The crust is made from a combination of 2 types of dough: water and oil. They are normally filled with meat and peas that were cooked down with sauces to create a sweet and savory taste.
How to make Baked BBQ Buns – Siew Pau
Making Siew Pau is fun and yes, it requires some time but is definitely doable and totally worth it! Let’s get started…
First, you’ll need to prepare the filling so that it has enough time to cool off. I used tofu as the protein and a mixture of vegan ‘oyster’ sauce, soy sauce, seasoned with 5-spice powder, sugar, and white pepper. If you can’t find store-bought vegan ‘oyster’ sauce, feel free to use my homemade Easy Vegan Stir-Fry sauce as the umami seasoning.
Then, make the water and oil dough in separate bowls. The main ingredients for water dough consist of flour, salt, water, and some kind of oil in which I used vegan butter. I also added a little baking soda to create a light texture.
On the other hand, oil dough is simply mixing the flour with vegan butter or shortening. The amount of oil needed varies upon the type of oil used. For example, if the shortening that you use has a higher fat content, you may not need the same amount of vegan butter in this recipe. To check, as long as you are able to bind all the flour together and knead it into a soft dough, then, you are good to go.
Let the doughs rest for at least 30 minutes. Then, divide each dough into 12 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. Set aside for 15 minutes.
How to combine water and oil dough
Take a water dough and simply flatten it with your fingers.
Place an oiled dough in the middle of the water dough, wrap to seal, then slightly roll it into a ball. Set aside then continue with the rest of the doughs. Let them rest for at least 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, dust a cleaned surface with flour and work with one mixed dough at a time.
To create the flaky layers, roll out the dough into an oblong shape. Start by rolling the dough from the middle to the top then middle to the bottom, do this step twice or thrice to get a 6-8″ length sheet.
Then, take the bottom side and roll it up to the top like a swiss roll, turn the rolled dough around so that the swirl is facing you. Flatten it again using a rolling pin.
Then, roll it up again and pinch the side to seal. Mold it into a ball and set aside for 15 minutes. Continue with the rest of the dough.
To make the buns, take one dough from above and roll into a circular disk wrapper. Place one to two tablespoons of filling in the middle and pleat to seal.
Transfer the wrapper buns to a baking pan and cover it with a towel to prevent the buns from drying out. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Brush buns with a layer of vegan ‘egg’ wash and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove and brush the buns again with another layer of vegan ‘egg’ wash and top with sesame seeds. Then return the buns to the oven and bake for another 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
Let them cool on a cookie rack and serve with a cup of coffee or tea. The crust will turn crispier once it’s cooled down.
Baked BBQ Buns (Siew Pau) FAQ
- Can I store these buns? Yes, once they are baked and cooled down, you can refrigerate the buns for up to 3 days. Just toast them in a toaster oven to warm it up before serving.
- What are the other options for the filling? I used firm tofu in this recipe as my protein choice. Alternatively, you can use jackfruit, chickpeas, or seitan for the filling.
- What type of vegan butter to use? I find that vegan butter for baking works the best. Shortening made from coconut oil is another good option, but you may need to adjust the amount for the recipe. Add enough to combine the flour together into a soft dough.
- Can I make these ahead of time? Yes, you can make the filling a day before. For the dough, once you placed the oiled dough into the water dough, wrap them tightly and refrigerate. When ready, thaw the dough to room temperature and roll it out as usual.
These Baked BBQ Buns (Siew Pau) are
- Flaky with buttery crusts
- Perfect for afternoon treats
- Best for make-ahead meals
- Easily customizable with your preferred choice of filling
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Baked BBQ Buns (Siew Pau) – 素芙蓉烧包
- 200 g all-purpose flour
- 1½ tablespoons powdered sugar or 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda *see notes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter = 55g
- 100 ml water
- 160 g all-purpose flour
- ½ cup [113g] vegan butter
- 14 oz [397g] firm tofu
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¾ cup frozen green peas about 100 g
- cornstarch slurry (mix 2 tablespoons in ¼ cup of water)
- oil for cooking
- salt to taste
- sesame seeds
Seasoning for the filling
- 1½ tablespoons vegan 'oyster' sauce
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
Vegan 'Egg' Wash
- 50 ml unsweetened plant milk
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or liquid sweetener of choice
Make the Filling
- Press tofu to remove as much liquid as possible, then cut them into tiny cubes.
- In a heated non-stick pan with 1 tablespoon of oil, pan-fry tofu until golden brown and transfer to a bowl.
- Using the same pan, add a little more oil and sauté onion until they turn translucent. Add in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
- Place the tofu back in, give it a quick stir, and season with all the seasoning ingredients.
- Fold in the frozen green peas, give it a quick stir and swirl in the cornstarch slurry and mix until well combined.
- Dish out and set aside to cool until ready to use. This can be prepped ahead of time and refrigerated until you need it.
Prepare the dough
- To make the water dough, place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- Rub the flour with butter using your fingers and slowly add in the water then knead into a soft dough. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- To make the oil dough, knead both ingredients until well combined into a soft dough, then cover and let it rest for 30 minutes as well.
How to make the bun wrapper
- Transfer water dough to a dusted cleaned surface and roll it into a log.
- Divide the log into 12 equal portions and roll each one into a ball. Set aside, cover them with a towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Repeat the same steps for the oil dough.
- To make the bun wrapper, take one water dough and pinch to make it into a large circular disk, then place an oiled dough in the middle.
- Bring the sides to the middle and seal, then roll it into a ball. Set aside for 15 minutes.
- To create the flaky layers, take the prepped dough and roll it into an oblong sheet. See notes for tips on how to roll this properly.
- Lift up the bottom side and roll it up like a swiss roll. Turn the rolled dough around so the swirl is facing you.
- Flatten it again with the same method as above. Repeat the swiss roll, and pinch both ends together to create a ball. Set aside for 15 minutes.
How to make and cook the buns
- After 15 minutes, take out one dough and flatten it using a rolling pin into a circular disk, about 4" – 5" diameter.
- Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle and pleat to seal.
- Transfer buns to a baking sheet pan.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Brush the buns with a layer of vegan 'egg' wash and bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove, and apply a second layer of vegan 'egg' wash and top it with sesame seeds. Note: Work with one bun at a time so the 'egg' wash won't dry out which prevents the sesame seeds from sticking to the bun.
- Return the buns to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes until golden. Note: Oven temperature varies, so please adjust accordingly.
- Serve these buns with coffee or tea for a yummy afternoon treat or store them once they are cooled down.
- How to roll the dough into an oblong shape:
- Flatten the mixed dough with your palm.
- Then, rub the rolling pin with flour, place the rolling pin in the middle of the dough. Flatten the dough by rolling it away from you to the top. Bring the rolling pin back to the middle and roll the dough towards you. Repeat this a few times until you get a 6-8″ length sheet.
- Now, bring the bottom side up and roll it up like a swiss roll.
- Turn the dough around with the swirl facing you and flatten the dough again using the same method above.
- Roll it up one more time and pinch both of the opened sides together and try to tuck them under to create a ball.
- For homemade vegan ‘oyster’ sauce, you may use this Easy Stir-Fry sauce for this recipe.
- Baking soda normally needs acid or brown sugar to activate it and I used it in this recipe to create the yellowish crust. If you have tried other recipes that call for baking soda and resulted in a bitter aftertaste, please feel free to use brown sugar or other acidic ingredients to neutralize it. Mine had no bitter aftertaste even the next day. Only use up to 1 teaspoon.
Thank you so much for this recipe. I made them yesterday and everyone absolutely loved them!
Just wondering if you could freeze the non-baked buns then when ready to eat bake them?
That’s so awesome, Angela! Yes, you can freeze them and you increase the baking time when you are ready to bake them. 🙂
Hi, can I ask what GF flour I can use as a replacement for AP flour?
Delicious recipe, my family loved it. Used baking powder instead of baking soda. When reheating bao, Woon says to toast the bao and that is definitely the right way to go. Make sure your filling is very flavorful because it’s balancing the bao dough. Made a bit of a riff for my filling because I didn’t have all of the ingredients (hoisin, broccoli, carrots, onions, tofu and bamboo shoots, soy sauce, sugar and white pepper). Any way, Woon Heng’s recipe’s are always delicious and I’ve been loving getting a bit more adventurous with new cooking techniques that I know will taste good.
Many, many thanks Zuri. Baking powder is a great sub, thanks for sharing. I love how yours turned out, really pretty and yummy. Super grateful for your kind words and thank you for stopping by to leave me a review. Much appreciated. Hope you get to try some other recipes soon. Best, WoonHeng
Absolutely delicious! The crust is flakey and buttery, the filling a perfect contrast. Thank you for a beautiful vegan recipe!
Most of my buns popped open while baking(doesn’t affect taste!) – do you think I have an issue with one of the doughs or poor pleating skills?
yay, thanks so much Alexis. So happy to know you loved it. When you roll it into a wrapper, you can make the round edge a little thinner and be sure the side doesn’t have any filling touching it. Hope that helps. It’s normal to have some burst. 🙂 let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks again. Best, WoonHeng
Amazing recipe, thank you Woon Heng 😀👍🏼
Hello Parul, thanks so much for sharing your feedback. Super grateful. Best, WoonHeng
Hi Woonheng – quick question was wondering why you featured baking soda instead of baking powder when making the water dough recipe? From my understanding baking soda can only be activated if there is a presence of both liquid and acid. Without the acid element the pastry is left with a ‘soapy’ / bitter aftertaste which was what happened with my siew paos.
I still enjoyed the bake and really appreciate your time and efforts in veganising Malaysian recipes so thank you! x Christine
Hello Christine, thank you for your wonderful feedback. Yes, you are correct, baking soda needs either ACV or lemon juice or brown sugar to get activated. 🙂 Feel free to use baking powder, I wanted to create that yellowish crust especially when I am not using egg. Mine came out perfectly fine, no bitter taste even after I reheat them the next day and the dough was thin enough. I am not sure about the content of baking soda from other countries though. Also, you can take a look at the type of vegan butter you use, maybe that helps as well. I’ll also add this note to my blog, thanks again! Best, WoonHeng
Thank you for the lovely recipe. We enjoyed the Siew pau thoroughly, full of yumminess. Is there any tips to make the pastry crispy again after it’s been in the fridge for a few days? What temperature to heat up and how long to make the pastry from soft to crispy again? Looking forward to your reply. 😊
Hi Shinyi, I use a toaster oven with the toast setting, but if you are using oven, I would do it at low temp such as 300F. Thanks, WoonHeng
You did it again! These look so so delicious. One of my favorite childhood foods. Thanks for the detailed recipe and video. Love it!
thanks so much, really glad that you loved this recipe. ❤️ Have a wonderful day!