This is a Steamed Pork Big Pau from my local Hokee outlet:
Note that the walls of the pau above are uneven, and that it has a generous amount of filling – these are the hallmarks of a hand made pau.
I sometimes disparage machine made supermarket pau. The mass produced ones are cheaper than the hand made variety, and the taste is really not that bad – nowhere as bad as the difference, say, between a McDonalds flavour free burger and a really good steak. But if you want to try a good pau, the best that you can find, go to a HDB coffee shop or a chain of local pau makers like Hokee.
I have to say that my current breakfast favourite at home is Hokee’s big pau – they have a dozen outlets all over the island, including Tampines Mall nearby.
Individual vendors aside, there are many varieties of pau to try in Singapore – my favourites are:
- Char Sui: BBQ pork in a sauce
- Tar Sau: sweet yam paste (brown or a surprising purple in colour)
- Chicken: usually a ball of minced chicken that holds together like a dumpling inside the dough.
- Big: Big Pau are, well, big, usually minced pork and or chicken inside, and usually contain half an egg (sometimes a whole egg, halved).
You’ll notice the word “usually” in this post – the different combinations of main ingredient, flavouring, additions, and dough texture are quite numerous. The meat (or vegetables, as there are vegetarian versions) may be minced fine or chopped coarsely, there may be eggs included, the eggs may be of the ordinary hard-boiled variety or century/tea eggs, the dough may be plain or flavoured/coloured, and so on.
Eating pau, especially a good juicy Big Pau, can get messy – the ingredients move about as the dough gets smaller, and the juice will drip – not a task to be undertaken lightly if wearing a white shirt with a silk tie
If I am heating pau at home I prefer to use a bamboo steamer like the one shown above. These can be obtained from BHG department stores for SGD16 – the size they carry fits perfectly into a 9 inch saucepan, and comes with two trays. I think that if it is good enough for hawker centre dumpling vendors and Din Tai Fung to use bamboo, then it is quite good enough for me I am on my second bamboo steamer now, the first one served me well for close to a year before unraveling completely. The trick with using them is to provide sufficient water such that it doesn’t boil dry, but not so much water that it bubbles up into the pau. A word of advice – steam is hot, and the bamboo steamer gets very hot too.
There would be few food courts or coffee shops on the island that did not have someone providing pau. Find one, grab a cup of Teah O to wash it down, and enjoy.