These flaky-crust pastries, shaped like little buns and filled with a BBQ pork mixture, are simply delicious! They originated in the city of Seremban, in the southern part of Malaysia, and soon became popular throughout the country. I first tasted them in the early 90’s, during one of my visits to Ipoh, Malaysia. I had never even heard of them before then, but I guess they were all the rage at the time because I remember my uncle always buying them in the evenings after dinner (yes – Malaysians love to eat and going out to night markets and buying street food from hawkers is a favourite pastime).
The funny thing is, in my subsequent visits to Ipoh over the years, I don’t remember having Siew Pao or even seeing them sold anywhere. Maybe there were just too many other things to eat and I somehow forgot about these tasty snacks! But on one of my visits there a couple of years ago, I really wanted to have Siew Pao again after all these years. I asked a few relatives but they didn’t seem to really know where I could find them. And they were nowhere to be found in the popular eating spots and night markets. It was so strange – like they just disappeared! Then an aunt said she knew of one place which sold them. So off I went, the night before I was to leave Malaysia, to buy Siew Pao and check it off my list. But to my disappointment, I arrived too late and the place was closed for the day. And here I was, already looking forward to snacking on Siew Pao in the airport!
Ever since, I’ve been craving these delectable pastries. I never thought I could ever make them at home, until I found this recipe from Malaysian blogger Jo of Sugar & Everything Nice. I was amazed – these taste just like the ones I used to eat in Malaysia! It does take some time to roll out the two different doughs, but I think it’s totally worth it, especially if, like me, you can’t buy these where you’re living.
(Adapted from Sugar & Everything Nice)
SEREMBAN SIEW PAO
200 g all-purpose flour, sifted
100 g water
50 g vegetable shortening*
50 g icing sugar, sifted
200 g all-purpose flour, sifted
100 g vegetable shortening*
*I prefer to use lard, which is non-hydrogenated
300 g Chinese BBQ pork (Char Siew), diced (you can substitute with BBQ chicken)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup of green peas
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. water
1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
Egg wash: 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten & mixed with an equal amount or less of cream (for darker colour use less liquid)
sesame seeds for sprinkling on top
To Make Filling
1) Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl and stir to mix well.
2) Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Stir fry BBQ pork, onion and green peas until fragrant. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, cornstarch and sugar mixture and stir well.
To Make Pastry
1) Put all the ingredients of water dough in a food processor and pulse until it forms a soft dough, or knead by hand. Cover it in a bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.
2) Repeat the same with oil dough.
3) Divide the water dough and oil dough into 18 equal portions and shape them into balls.
4) Roll out a piece of the water dough into a flat circle.
5) Place a piece of the rounded oil dough in the centre of the flat circle.
6) Gather the outer edges of the water dough circle and wrap up the oil dough ball. Pinch and seal the edges.
7) With the heel of your palm, gently press the dough down to flatten it lightly.
8) Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into rectangular shape.
9) Roll up the dough Swiss-roll style. Turn the rolled dough 90 degrees.
10) Repeat steps 8 and 9. Then, holding the ‘swiss roll’ upright, press it down. Roll out into a circle. The pastry is now ready for filling and shaping.
11) Preheat oven to 375F.
12) Place approximately 1 tablespoon of filling in the centre.
13) Gather the outer edges of the dough circle and pleat and pinch to seal well.
14) Brush egg wash on the surface and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
15) Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.