Last Updated: June 3, 2019
There is no denying that with the influx of various fancy and creative pastries, traditional delights are losing their foothold. Foods such as handmade pau‘s are no longer as appreciated as they used to be; once upon the time, they were a staple go-to breakfast item.
Biting into them to get reach the filling was as exciting as how we dive into lava cakes and filled doughnuts these days. Sadly, many places do not make these buns by hand anymore, relying on machinery instead. Not wanting to lose that part of our history, I decided to go on a hunt to find 10 handmade pau’s in Singapore that will rekindle your love for this classic.
Nam Kee Pau holds a special place in my heart, especially this outlet as The Grandstand. Most of my touch rugby training and matches were held here, and this was my favourite place to get food. Turf City may not be the most accessible, but this place is constantly packed.
From the glass window, you can even watch the cooks swiftly moulding the doughs that would soon become fluffy pau‘s.
My favourite pau would either be the one with lotus or red bean filling, but they do an amazing Char Siew Pau (S$0.90) here. The meat filling is generous, with a good ratio of meat to fat. I like how the sweet barbecued pork is not too overwhelming, with a smoky and savoury taste for a well-balanced bite.
They are also known for their huge Amy Yip Pau (S$4), which was the size of the entire plate. It was packed with a hard-boiled egg, pork, chicken, Chinese sausages, stir-fried with onions and jicama. Albeit being so huge, the meat within was still succulent and the pau remained soft.
It was so satisfying and could easily be a meal on its own for one.
Nam Kee Pau: 200 Turf Club Road, The Grandstand, #01-09, Singapore 287994 | Opening hours: 10am – 10pm (Daily) | Website
Old Airport Road Food Centre has no lack of good food stalls, and Rong Yi Local Handmade Pau (榮意本地手工包點) is one of them.
They are popular for their Big Pau 大包 (S$1.60) which is their signature dish. That was good but I preferred their unique offerings such as the Coffee Pau 咖啡包 (S$0.80). The irregular shapes reaffirmed me that they were indeed handmade.
The pau itself was pillowy and thin, with the distinctively alluring aroma of coffee. I love coffee and appreciated that the paste within was generous. Rich and smooth yet not overly decadent, this definitely was a win for me.
I also decided to get the 3 In 1 三合一 (S$1.10), which consists of three fillings in one pau! Packed with red bean paste, lotus paste and salted egg yolk, I was curious as to how these flavours would marry. Thankfully, they complemented each other well.
The two pastes were both sweet and smooth. Hence, the salted egg yolk added a nice grainy texture and salty touch to cut through the rich pastes. If you are looking for special offerings, this is the place for you.
Rong Yi Local Handmade Pau (榮意本地手工包點): 51 Old Airport Road, Old Airport Road Food Centre, #01-01, Singapore 390051 | Opening hours: 7am – 10pm (Daily) | Facebook
Located in the same coffee shop as the famous Ah Hoe Mee Pok at Clementi, Fu Yuan Handmade Dim Sum (吉隆坡富园手工点心.包) is a one-man show. Hailing from Malaysia, the owner has over 30 years of experience.
I had to get their signature Liu Sha Pau 流沙包 (S$1 each), as their striking bright yellow was eye-catching indeed. The pau itself was pillowy soft, and it felt heavy in my hand. As I squished it a lil’, a delightful wave of salted egg yolk goodness burst out.
I loved how luscious it was, full of flavour from the rich salted egg yolk sauce. They nailed both the consistency and the taste; a pau I’ll travel back for.
If meats are more of your thing, their Braised Meat Pau 扣肉包 (S$1.60 each) may just be the thing for you. The owner braises the pork belly himself, and it was not only generous in portion but extremely delectable too. The pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth tender and packed full of flavour.
Fu Yuan Handmade Dim Sum (吉隆坡富园手工点心.包): 710 Clementi West Street 2, Singapore 120710 | Operating hours: 5am – 6pm (Daily)
Northies, this one is for you. Serving handmade pau‘s and dim sum items, Lian Bang Fu Zhou is pretty popular in Bukit Batok.
Their speciality is the Royal Chicken Pau (S$4) and looked like it was fit for a king. The huge pau is split into chunks, packed with sticky glutinous rice inside as well as char siew bits, chicken chunks, mushrooms, onions, and crumbs of salted egg yolk. I loved the combination of flavours, although the bun itself was a tad too dense for my liking.
I really liked their Liu Sha Pau (S$3.20 for 3 pieces), which was soft and fluffy on the outside. The molten salted egg yolk sauce in the centre was so generous, my cravings for salted egg yolk was definitely satisfied with this one. For those who like something different, they offer Bacon Dim Sum ($2.30 for 2 pieces) too.
Lian Bang Fu Zhou: Block 643 Bukit Batok Central, #01-42, Singapore 650643 | Tel: +65 8866 9140 | Opening hours: 6am – 8pm (Daily) | Facebook
This stall at Chinatown Complex Market has quite a large following. Hong Kong Mongkok Tim Sum (香港旺角点心) only sells six items, but they do it so well people are willing to queue for them.
While waiting, you can even catch the stall owners making their pau‘s from scratch.
The Char Siew Pau (S$2.30 for 3 pieces) was hands down one of the best I’ve had. They were huge and extremely fluffy, generously packed with filling.
The filling may not be the crimson red hue that I was used to, but it tasted exactly the same if not better than usual char siew filling. Packed full of flavour, the meat was tender too.
Hong Kong Mongkok Tim Sum (香港旺角点心): 335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex Market, #02-097 | Tel: 9735 6312 | Opening hours: 11 am – Sold Out (Wed to Sun), Closed on Mon & Tues
For those who tend to crave dim sum at night, this is the one for you as they are open 24 hours. Kuai San Dian Xin 块三点心 at Primz Bizhub Coffeeshop serves up cheap and decent dim sum.
They have a wide selection of dishes, and everything is handmade. Their Custard Pau (S$1.30) may not be the oozy kind I am used too, but it was eggy and sweet. It reminded me of an Asian version of caramel, which wasn’t too bad.
The Char Siew Pau (S$1.30) here was on the fattier side, but it had a good balance between sweet and savoury. The handmade pau‘s may not be the best here, but their other dim sum options are pretty well worth the money since everything is S$1.30.
Kuai San Dian Xin: 21 Woodlands Close, Level 1, Singapore 737854 | Opening hours: 24 Hours (Daily)
This is one of my personal favourites. I always head to Dim Sum Haus when my cravings strike, which is now pretty convenient with the emergence of the downtown line at Jalan Besar.
The dishes are all freshly made upon ordering, so you can’t get any more handmade than this. We took a little peek into the kitchen, and I was particularly attracted by the swirls that were perfectly piped onto the custard buns.
These Baked Salted Egg Custard Bun (S$4.80 for 3 pieces) are on my must-order list. If you have never tried this before, you are really missing out.
Instead of fluffy and doughy pau‘s, this rendition has a pastry-like crust to it, similar to the casing of Hong Kong baked char siew buns. It is filled with molten and savoury salted egg yolk sauce. This combination was flawless, and I loved the play of textures from the crispy crust to the viscous sauce.
Dim Sum Haus: 57 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208809 | Tel: +65 6909 0777 | Opening hours: 11am – 10pm (Tues to Thurs), 9am – 10pm (Sat & Sun) | Facebook
I always enjoy pau‘s as a tea time snack, and I chanced upon Yuan Ji Homemade Pau & Tim Sum by raccident as I was searching for one.
This Red Bean Pau (S$0.70) was affordable and hit all the right spots. Steaming hot and extremely soft, it was generously packed with gooey red bean goodness. I appreciated that it wasn’t too rich and cloying, but enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Yuan Ji Homemade Pau & Tim Sum: 18 Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, Singapore 310018 | Opening hours: 7am – 9pm (Daily)
Being a Teochew myself, I’m more than familiar with Teochew Handmade Pau 潮州自制包点. My grandma used to get pau‘s from here all the time, and we would have them for our breakfast or snack.
I must say, their buns are really tiny that can literally be finished in a bite. I usually have at least three at one go for me to feel satisfied. The ones I got this time were the Salted Egg Yolk Pau (S$0.60), Kong Bak Pau (S$0.60) and Char Siew Pau (S$0.60).
I exceptionally liked the Salted Egg Yolk Pau as it reminded me of mooncake. It had an entire yolk in the centre, covered with lotus paste. I liked the balance between the sweet and savoury in this one. However, their Char Siew Pau is really popular too, with pieces of sweet minced meat chunks within.
Teochew Handmade Pau: 127 Toa Payoh Lor 1, #02-02 Toa Payoh West Market and Food Court, Singapore 310127 | Tel:6254 2053 / 66595786 | Opening hours: 6am – 2pm (Tues to Sat), 6am – 12pm (Sun), Closed on Mon & alternate Tues| Website
Last but not least is Lai Kee Dim Sum, which has several outlets in Singapore. They serve up a variety of handmade dim sum and pau‘s, which even won awards for their fine culinary skills.
I had to give their ‘Ji Guo’ Pau (S$3) a try, which was recommended to me when I asked for their specialities. It is essentially a pau on the outside, stuffed with glutinous rice on the outside. It was definitely a hefty pau, fit to be a meal on its own.
The pau on the outside was soft like a sponge and absorbed the flavours of the rice. The glutinous rice itself had chunks of chicken pieces and mushrooms in it, which made for a savoury and filling meal.
I also got their Red Bean Pau (S$0.70) and Lotus Paste Pau (S$0.70) to try out. The pau itself, similarly, was fluffy which I really liked. It was of a hefty size too, which was a major plus.
The fillings were packed generously; a lil’ on the sweeter side but I ain’t complaining about that. The viscous paste complemented the pillowy buns perfectly. This would make for a perfect snack in between meals.
Lai Kee Dim Sum (Toa Payoh Outlet): 126 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-577, Singapore 310126 | Tel: +65 8128 9970 | Opening hours: 7.30am – 10pm (Daily) | Facebook
Pau‘s are one of my favourite dim sum items, but I must admit I never appreciated them as much as I do now. Handmaking these buns from scratch are no easy feat, as they are both tedious and time-consuming.
Amidst all the new and hype creations these days, let’s hope to never lose sight of something so integral to our food history. What is your favourite place to go for handmade pau‘s, or dim sum in general?