1. Tanjong Rhu Pau & Confectionery
It is known for its mini-sized steamed buns packed with ingredients. The tau sar pau and lotus paste pau are 60 cents each, while the char siew pau is 70 cents. While the skin for the big pork pau and chicken pau ($1.40) is on the thicker side, the meat is juicy and tasty, and you get a big wedge of hard-boiled egg.
Tanjong Rhu Pau & Confectionery is at 389 Guillemard Road, open: 10.30 am to 10 pm daily.
2. Tiong Bahru Pau
The popular chain’s char siew pau ($1) and big pau ($1.80) are not to be missed. The char siew is not an alarming red and you get nice chunky bits of the pork that are not too sweet. The big pau ($1.80) also has juicy chunks of pork.
Tiong Bahru Pau outlets include: #02-18/19 Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre; Block 208 New Upper Changi Road, #01-38; and Block 190 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #01-550, various opening hours. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Teochew Handmade Pau
The handmade bao are small and easy to eat. It is easy to eat many pieces of the kong bak bao (80 cents) – like a miniature pulled pork bun – at a go. An intriguing option is the Boy & Girl Bao ($1.20) – a delicious combination of salted egg yolk and lotus paste that is not too sweet. The stall also sells longevity peach buns (80 cents) filled with lotus paste.
Teochew Handmade Pau is at Block 127 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #02-02, open: Tuesdays to Sundays 6 am to 2 pm, closed on Monday.
4. Redstar Restaurant
The old-school dim sum restaurant, which peddles its items in pushcarts, serves probably the biggest of the big pau ($6) and with the most ingredients. There is a mix of chicken and pork, along with salted egg yolk, mushrooms, and lup cheong (Chinese sausage) – making for a very tasty combination. It is best to call the restaurant ahead to order before heading down.
Redstar Restaurant is at Block 54 Chin Swee Road, #07-23, open: 7 am to 3 pm, 6 to 10 pm daily. Call 6532 5266 or visit redstarrestaurant.com.sg
5. Dough Magic
Dough Magic specialises in handmade buns. There is no filling in their rose-shaped bao (two for $1), but they are probably the most Instagram-worthy ones. Other buns with no filling include longevity peach buns ($1), pumpkin (two for $1) and brown sugar (two for $1). They are best eaten hot and dipped into chilli crab gravy. These mantou-style buns are available for a limited time during the festive period. If you prefer buns with filling, Dough Magic has sour cabbage pork bun ($1), spring onion pork bun ($1), black sesame paste bun ($1.50) and braised pork bun ($1.20).
Dough Magic outlets include: #01-K99B People’s Park Complex, 1 Park Road; #B2-128 Northpoint City; and Block 763 Jurong West Street 75, various opening hours. Call 6904 9549.
6. Chop Hean Kuan (Toh Kee)
The handmade bao have thin and soft skin, even when it is cold. The char siew pau ($1) filling has a good bite and texture, while the tau sar pau ($1) paste is smooth and creamy.
Chop Hean Kuan (Toh Kee) is at People’s Park Food Centre, 32 New Market Road, #01-1018, open: 8 am to 9 pm, Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Monday.
7. The Bao Makers Cafe & Bakery
Putting a modern spin on the traditional kong bak bao, The Bao Makers offer chilli crab bao and salted egg chicken bao ($5.80 each) in the style of fried mantou. The mantou for salmon mentaiko bao ($5.80 each) and veggie bao ($4.50) is steamed. Go for the fried version, for that added crunch and texture.
The Bao Makers Cafe & Bakery is at 4 Jiak Chuan Road, open: Noon to 3 pm, 6 to 11 pm, Mondays to Saturdays, closed on Sundays.Call 6291 2330 or visit www.baomakers.com
8. Nam Kee Pau
The famous brand from Johor Baru is brought in by the Fei Siong Group, which runs food and beverage chains such as Let’s Eat, Encik Tan and the Malaysia Boleh! foodcourts in Singapore. Its Amy Yip Big Pau ($4) is a hefty bun filled with chicken, pork and hard-boiled egg. The skin of the bun is not too thick and remains soft without going too soggy. The steamed bun is named after the voluptuous former Hong Kong actress, who was active in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The chain also sells char siew pau (90 cents) and lotus paste pau (80 cents), along with noodle dishes.
Nam Kee Pau outlets include #B4-66 Ion Orchard; #B1-K17 Tampines 1; and #B1-04 West Mall, various opening hours. Call 6370 1155 or visit namkeepau.com.sg