Char siew bao is a common food that almost every Singaporean has at least heard of. From a primary school recess snack, to an adult pick-me-up, char siew bao could be eaten at any point of the day. Even my grandmother eats it; she’s 80 years old, and still loves char siew bao as a light bite in between meals.
As for me, I am a massive fan of bao for sure. I’ve eaten it since primary school as an after school snack before my tuition class—so Singaporean of me, I know—to having it for breakfast before my 8am lecture in polytechnic. I certainly have a profound love for the dish. It is no shocker that even my name has the word ‘char‘ in it, which explains why I love it so much.
Today I would be sharing with you my personal picks for the best char siew bao one can find around our sunny island. Thus, in no particular ranking, here are the top 10 best char siew bao‘s in Singapore!
1. Chin Sin Huan 振新园
Chin Sin Huan is actually a new shop located in the basement of the food hall at Takashimaya Shopping Centre. You may recall the original branch which is located in the heart of Tanjong Rhu. A shop that sells homemade bao‘s, and a variety of dim sum delights, this is a must-have if you are craving a cheap and delicious char siew bao while shopping in town.
The bao‘s are all served mini-sized, or as I liked to call it, fun-sized. The char siew bao (S$1.60) tasted liked an ordinary steamed bun, but the filling was what took the whole bao up a notch. It tasted like bak kwa, with its charred bits inside the bao which really elevated the taste of a char siew bao.
Do note that you have to buy a minimum of two bao‘s as they are all mini-sized.
Address 2: 391A Orchard Road, Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Basement 2 Stall 14, Singapore 238873 | Opening Hours: 10am – 9.30pm (Daily)
2. Crystal Jade 翡翠
Crystal Jade is a renowned family restaurant when serving Chinese cuisine, with dim sum as their speciality in particular. With over a multitude of accolades, including a Michelin Star from 2016 to 2018, this is certainly one not to be missed.
I bought this Char Siew Bao (S$1.40) over the counter. Unlike most restaurants, Crystal Jade has a bakery that sells dim sum off the shelf, which is something that I particularly enjoy. Eating dim sum need not be overpriced, and Crystal Jade offers you both quality and quantity without needing one to break the bank.
I loved this char siew bao as it had a fluffy exterior. It resembled the texture of cotton candy and literally melted in my mouth the moment I bit into it. The filling was not too sweet either, which balanced well with the fluffy bao skin.
3. Ho Kee Pau 和记包
I would consider this a hidden gem, given that there are only 10 outlets in Singapore. Ho Kee Pau sells a variety of dim sum snacks at an affordable price. A fun observation about Ho Kee Pau is there are no outlets located in central Singapore, with all their outlets only in the heartlands.
Interestingly, the thing that distinguished this Char Siew bao (S$1.20) from other brands is its filling. Usually, a char siew bao will only contain char siew and that’s that. But the filling of this bao contains a very intriguing ingredient—coriander.
I was surprised by the first bite as the bao did not turn out like what I expected. For someone who loves coriander, I loved this bao. But I can see many people out there who would totally despise the herb and will not be keen on trying this bao.
Nevertheless, if you are neutral to coriander, give this bao a try!
Ho Kee Pau 和记包: Outlets
4. Honolulu Cafe 檀岛香港茶餐厅
Honolulu Cafe is famed for its egg tarts ever since it set up shop in Singapore in 2016. As an avid egg tart lover, I do enjoy the egg tarts from this cafe too. But more importantly, I was there for the Char Siew Bun (S$1.90).
Unlike the usual steamed edition of char siew bao, Honolulu Cafe served their Char Siew Bun as a bun. Why do I enjoy this? The bun is a normal sweet bun, and the filling has a sweet barbecue sauce, which gave the whole dish a nice sweet touch.
It tasted more like a dessert version of a char siew bao, which probably explained why I enjoyed it too.
Honolulu Cafe 檀岛香港茶餐厅: 176 Orchard Road, The Centrepoint, #01-33F/G , Singapore 238843 | Tel: +65 6734 6609 | Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Daily) | Facebook
Address 2: 3 Gateway Drive, Westgate Mall, #02-06, Singapore 608532 | Tel: +65 6250 3858 | Opening Hours: 11am – 1opm (Daily)
5. treasures by Imperial Treasure Noodle & Congee House
Imperial Treasure is a high-end restaurant which serves Chinese cuisine at its finest. The Imperial Treasure Group has myriad of awards under its belt, including a total of seven Michelin stars across their restaurants all over Asia. So, it’s no surprise that treasures by Imperial Treasure Noodle & Congee House has one of the best bao‘s money can buy.
I entered the restaurant and only ordered a portion of Char Siew Bao (S$5). I had eyes all staring at me because I only ordered a single dish. No shame in ordering just one dish folks! As the bao‘s were steamed freshly, I waited for over 15 minutes. Patience is a virtue as my mother always told me, so when the bao finally arrived, I had a Lion King (opening scene) moment.
Soft on both inside and outside, this char siew bao just melted in my mouth like butter. Biting into it felt like I was biting into a cloud. In fact, biting may seem like too aggressive of a word to describe me eating this bao. I was not exaggerating when I said, this was probably the best steamed Char Siew Bao you could find in Singapore. It was worth every dollar.
6. Nam Kee Pau 南记
Nam Kee Pau is a place for comfort food for many Singaporean teenagers, or at least to me it is. Priced below a dollar for a bao, this is as economical as it gets for bao‘s in Singapore.
If I had to describe this Char Siew Bao (S$0.90) in a word, it would be simple. A basic char siew filling with a delicious outer bun layer, this is what most Singaporeans recognise char siew bao to be. I consider this char siew bao to have the perfect bun-to-filling ratio.
7. Peony Jade
Peony Jade is renowned for being a Michelin star restaurant that serves Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine. But how would they fare in the world of dim sum, in particular, char siew bao?
I am going to be brutally honest, it really was a simple and ordinary Char Siew Bao (S$6.20 for three). Similar to the char siew bao from Nam Kee Pau, it had a sweet, charred filling that char siew bao is known for. However, if you happen to pop by Peony Jade, it is a decent Char Siew Bao that you could still enjoy alongside their other dishes.
Address 2: 10 Bukit Chermin Road, M Level, Singapore 109918 | Tel: +65 6276 9138 | Opening Hours: 11am – 2.30pm & 6pm – 10.30pm (Mon to Fri), 10.30am – 2.30pm & 6pm – 11pm (Sat, Sun and Public Holidays)
8. Tai Cheong Bakery 泰昌家饼
Tai Cheong Bakery is also another Hong Kong Bakery that took Singapore by storm when it entered Singapore in 2016 too. More commonly known for their egg tarts, Tai Cheong Bakery often has long queues at both their stalls and their cafes.
Unlike the conventional steamed char siew bao, Tai Cheong Bakery had their own rendition of a char siew bao—Char Siew Bolo Bun (S$2.75). For those who are not sure what a bolo bun is, it is a Hong Kong-style Chinese pineapple bun. It had a sweet crust and a soft interior, similar to a Japanese melon bun.
For those who prefer the steamed version of a char siew bao, this might not suit your liking. The filling lacked the charred and barbecued taste that one expects in a char siew bao. However, the overall taste of this bun was a complementary taste of sweet and salty. If you are a fan of such a flavour combination, do give this a try!
Tai Cheong Bakery 泰昌家饼: 391A Orchard Road, Takashimaya Food Hall, Singapore 238872 | Tel: +65 8223 1954 | Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm (Mon to Fri), 9am – 9pm (Sat & Sun) | Website | Facebook | Instagram
Address 2: 31 Lorong Liput, Singapore 277742 | Tel: +65 9828 1954 | Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm (Mon to Fri), 9am – 9pm (Sat & Sun)
9. Tim Ho Wan 添好运
Tim Ho Wan is dubbed as the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world, yet their char siew bao is the most expensive on the list.
Being the only baked Char Siew Bao (S$6.30 for three) featured on this list, this was also the most prized dish of Tim Ho Wan. Crowds flock to Tim Ho Wan for this dish in particular, and it lives up to its reputation as one of the best char siew bao ever made.
A sweet crusted bun filled with the delicate barbecue filling of char siew, this was the perfect harmony of sweet and savoury in a bite. This was also my absolute favourite char siew bao on the list.
10. Tiong Bahru Pau 中峇鲁包点
Tiong Bahru Pau is nostalgic for many Singaporeans. Since 1969, it has been serving Singaporeans classic bao‘s like char siew bao.
A unique difference that this Char Siew Bao (S$1) has from others is that there is the addition of spring onion in the filling. For many, this might be an instant turn-off. But it gives the entire dish an added crunch, which might appeal to those who like texture in their bao.
Tiong Bahru Pau: 237 Outram Road, Singapore 169041 | Tel: +65 6222 7656 | Opening Hours: 8am – 10pm (Tues to Sun), Closed on Mon
Address 2: 32 New Market Road, People’s Park Food Centre, #01-1038, Singapore 050032 | Opening Hours: 12pm – 7pm (Tues to Sun), Closed on Mon
Address 3: 190 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, #01-550, Singapore 310190 | Tel: +65 6356 0496 | Opening Hours: 12.30pm – 8.30pm (Tues to Fri), 9am – 4pm (Sat), 12.30pm – 9pm (Sun), Closed on Mon
Address 4: 30 Seng Poh Road, Tiong Bahru Market, #02-18/19, Singapore 168898
There you have it! The top 10 best places in Singapore to go to satisfy your char siew bao cravings—what do you think of my list? Do you agree with it? What is your favourite place to get your char siew bao?
If you have any other suggestions where I can find char siew bao, let me know!