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What a gorgeous photo! I had one of these yesterday that was flavored with prahok.


Welcome back to this part of the world! Looking forward to your KL/Penang eating adventures :-D


When we were there almost 2 years ago I contacted you for cooking class info and a photo walk would have been great to do - if I return to KL I will certainly do one of Dave's photo walks.
Life work balance is difficult to achieve when you freelance/consult and you are wise to give yourself time to reflect on what is best for you. The result is that we, your readers are rewarded with fabulous insightful stories and photo documentation of your travels.
Keep on doing what you do. I'm so happy to have discovered your work.

Rasa Malaysia

Robyn (and Dave) - can't wait to learn more about your exciting project in Penang. 4-5 months, that's great, perhaps you can even consider renting a place there. :)

I plan to go back to Penang hopefully end of this year or early next for at least a couple of months. Hopefully we can meet up again!


I love this photo! The lighting is so different from what one would normally see in pictures of dim sum, very dramatic!


Lina / Spike - Thanks. I've been playing around with a new Ricoh GRD III point and shoot. Some learning to do but so far I've been impressed with the results.

Robert Danhi

Great shot David..looking forward to coming back to KL to share more food with you. Bee back in Jan/Feb 2011!


I am a Chinese borned and raised in HK and therefore think I know something about Chinese food (Cantonese food in particularly). Maybe I can correct you on the "Hong Kong style" Bao. The Char Siu Bao that one eat in Dim Sum restaurant in HK is originated from Canton, China. That kind of "super white and fluffy" Bao had been steaming in Canton and HK for nearly 100 years. Whereas elsewhere in China (mainly in the North) the Baos are different, more yeasty and chewy. The flour that used in Char Siu Bao is just normal all-purpose flour, not super bleached as you seem to hint. Since I never try the Baos in your photo, I can't say if it is delicious or not, but judgeing from the photo, it look like a Northern Bao to me. Not traditional Char Siu Bao at all. It can be good, but just not the real thing!

There is a HK style Char Siu Bao though. The dough for this Bao is similar to the western rolls, and so is the look. They are baked, not steamed, and you can find this in nearly every bakery in HK.


Sorry I made a mistake with my previous comment. Tradition Cantonese (or Guangdong) style Char Siu Bao dough should consisted of potato stater (with potato and all-purpose flour) and cake flour. Not all purpose flour. It should look like a roll with folded and cracked top, and the filling being exposed. Hope everything is clear


Lina - prahok! And pork? Or? Very, very interesting. I love prahok.

Thanks Pete!

Linda - so nice of you to say. Thank you.

Rasa - we'll see you in Penang, then.

Jodi - thanks for your comment. I'm familiar with northern-style bao, having lived in not-southern China for 4 yrs. I'm also familiar with dim sum, bao in Hong Kong, and baked bao (I love them), having lived in Hong Kong as well in the early 90s. As you probably know Shanghai also has its own style of baked char siew bun that has a more pastry-like than bready wrapper.

Technically speaking they'd be better called non southern-style bao rather than northern bao, because they are found not just in the north but in China's southwest as well. Maybe we'd be best off calling them non-Cantonese style, or non-Hong Kong style.

Char siew is of course Cantonese/southern Chinese, but northerners (and southwesterners, etc) have been eating bao that look like this for ages, filled with chopped pork instead of barbecued pork. I doubt that Cantonese introduced the concept of a stuffed bun to northern Chinese.

'Hong Kong-style' is a phrase used here in Malaysia. It is meant to denote the style of the food, not the "ownership" or "inventorship" of the food. I think that for many "Hong Kong-style" and "Cantonese" imply similar styles when it comes to food, whether it be steamed fish, congee, or bao. If I ever write anything on the place of origin of the char siew bao I will certainly consider Canton/Guangzhou.

I have to disagree regarding the flour though. It is sold here in packages (labelled with "Hong Kong flour") and it is in fact bleached. A maker of these white, fluffy char siew bao in Kampar specifically told me that he uses only flour shipped from Hong Kong because it is bleached and produces that super-white color on the bao wrapper. Much bread flour is in fact bleached, or otherwise treated to be white (that is why you can buy "unbleached" flour).

"Dim sum" are after all Cantonese words, so one might figure that dim sum was created, or at least capitalized upon, in a Cantonese-speaking city, town, or region.


Jodi, perhaps it is not so confusing if you refer the baked rolls as 叉燒(麵)飽 and the fluffy cakey buns as 叉燒飽. I know what you mean though. You get the former from bakery, but the latter in Dim Sum place.And I wouldn't call the baked ones 'Hong Kong style', I would have called it Western style Cantonese roast pork buns. But I am not from Hong Kong.

Also, do you mean corn flour? rather than potato flour? what did they use 100 years ago in Canton to achieve the white and fluffy?

I would probalby call the above buns in question 'none-Hong Kong style' Char Siew Bao' rather than 'Chinese style'--it does look rather 山东 Shangdong style (wheaty and substantial)! Not to rattle it any further :-)


Eh? Dim Sum are Cantonese words? I thought it means Dian Xin 点心?Yum Cai Dim Sum - 饮茶点心?little portion snacks and tea? It's to do with the tradtion of sampling, nibbling small portion of different dishes I think.

Not sure about this one.


Katy - yes, dim sum are Cantonese words, or Cantonese pronunciation of Chinese characters. Catch my meaning?


1/. I know that most flours are bleached, being a home baker myself, but I don't think that there is a "super bleached" variety from Hong Kong. I can be wrong, as I don't know any dim sum chef.

2/. Sorry I really don't know there is a baked char siu pastry from Shanghai. I have been to Shanghai but am not aware of this. But then I never lived there, so no expert. There is "char siu so" in HK that is using shortcrust pastry, and the shape can be half-moon, rectangular, or triangular. Is that what you mean? Are you sure that it is really from Shanghai? As you know, char siu is Cantonese food.

3/. I have a book about Dim sum, the different variety, the history, and recipes. According to the book, the fluffiness of Cantonese char siu bao is achieved (traditionally) by using cake flour (low glutten), and additional leavening (baking soda, potassium bicab and baking powder).

Hope I am not too rude in my tone! Cheers!


You must be getting so used to explain yourself with your Chinese readers – don’t you just love us ?!

I have an idea though here and maybe possibly avoiding argument of the sort in relation to this Bao – technically, ‘Char Siew Bao’ is a term used specifically for Cantonese/Hong Kong style white and fluffy cracked top bao. If you added one character at the end Char Siew-Bao Zi to refer to your type – you should get away with it, at least I wouldn’t think most Chinese feel the need to correct you. Bao Zi – a generic term refereed to any type of dough in any shape, form and filling from any region and used in the same way as Jiao Zi. It’s ‘politically correct’! It’s like when one mentions Curry Jiao (加哩铰), I automatically associate it with the SE Asian (or maybe more Singaporean) type of little curry ‘pie’ with sprinkled sesame on top(the short crust pastry). If you use any other type of dough with curry stuffing, call it Curry Jiao at your own risk because it’s just not the ‘real thing’, for me anyway where I come from. (Though I see no harm calling a mapo doufu with peas and chill! 呵呵)

It’s hard to imagine there is any connection between Canton and Central Asian –but I sometimes wonder why tea is called Cha, instead of Ti there. Cha as in the Northern part of China and used via Silk Road to Central Asia. And I don’t know how Cantonese greet really, I don’t think they greet by ‘Have you eaten rice’ like in many parts of China , but I don’t know if they greet by ‘Have you drunk tea?’


I wasn't alone in calling your type of buns 叉烧包子Char Siew Bao Zi!


Blame the language! :-)


Char Siu is Cantonese,
Bao is Chinese,
Char Siu Bao of fluffly and cakey bao is traditionally Cantonese.

Dim Sum dishes should be traditionally steamed or fried. Baked type is western influenced and non-traditional.

bao zi, western roll baked, short crust pastry with char siu filling can all be called Char Siu Bao if people want to, just hope the world understand that it's not 'THE' Char Siu Bao that came from Canton 100 years ago where it first got its name from.


BTW, I readily accept that the fluffiness of the Cantonese CS bao is achieved by cake flour. It has got that cakey texture, like English muffin. Though I would quesiton if 'traditionally' 100 years ago,that was used. Something starchy must be but not necessarily the 'cake flour' found in today's recipes.

Maybe this 'Hong Kong flour' you have there is white 'enhanced' cake flour??

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