Pandan Custard Dumplings – Nai Wong Bao

I wanted to make these steamed buns (dumplings) already for so long now. They are filled with my homemade pandan custard and they are called in Chinese (phonetically translated): nai wong bao or lai wong bao.

Maybe you are familiar with bapao; steamed buns filled with meat like pork, chicken or beef.

Nai wong bao is eaten as a snack or as dessert after dim sum. These bao or pao are usually filled with yellow custard, but I like them with my homemade pandan custard! 😉

Nai Wong Bao - dumplings filled with pandan

Recipe for 16 pandan custard dumplings

Pandan custard filling


  • 80 grams of shredded santen (coconut cream)
  • 50 grams of sugar
  • 5 fresh pandan leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pandan extract
  • 100 milliliters of water
  1. Make pandan water by cutting 5 pandan leaves into 1 cm pieces and blend them (emersion blender) with 100 milliliters of water.
  2. Strain by pouring contents into a tea towel and squeeze out 100 milliliters of pandan water.
  3. Add egg, salt, cornstarch, pandan extract, pandan water, sugar and the shredded santen in a bowl and stir with a whisk.
  4. Heat au bain marie and keep stirring with a whisk until the custard gets nice and thick. Go on until the whisk makes stripes in the custard. The custard turns even denser when it cools.
  5. Place in the refrigerator and let it firm up.
  6. Remove the pandan coconut butter that has set on the top.

Dough for 16 nai wong bao

  • 200 grams regular flour
  • 7 grams of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 80 milliliters coconut milk
  • 20 milliliters water
  • 25 grams sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • A small plate of milk to rub the buns before steaming
  1. Mix flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder, salt, coconut milk and shortly heated water (microwave) together and gently knead to a dough.
  2. Knead for at least 8 minutes to relax the gluten.
  3. Let the dough prove for 30 minutes under tea towel.
  4. Meanwhile, make 16 balls of about 25 grams each, out of the pandan custard.
  5. Cover and store in a refrigerator.
  6. Divide dough into 16 pieces by making a roll and cutting it in two equal pieces until you reach 16 and cover the dough.
  7. Make a small piece of dough into a ball and roll flat with rolling pin.
  8. Place pandan custard ball in the middle and close the bun.
  9. Place on baking paper in steam basket.
  10. Let it prove for 15-30 minutes with a lid on the basket (in the meantime fill the other pao)
  11. Steam, when all pao are filled, for 15 minutes.

I start with the pandan leaves.

I cut them and with a glass of water I grind them fine with my emersion blender. I sieve it through a towel and squeeze it out. The smell of the pandan water is amazing.

Making custard is not difficult, really. I pay extra attention when heating my custard au bain marie. If I do not stir well and continuously, the egg can turn into a scrambled egg.

I keep moving my custard for about 20 minutes. In the beginning, you think nothing happens, but then all of a sudden the whisks form clear lines that hold in the custard. The custard has become a lot thicker too.

Continue until the custard had become really thick and when you move it the custard holds its shape.

Keep in mind that the custard will thicken even more while cooling. If the custard is not thick enough you can place it in the freezer to become firm. Fill the buns with the cold custard.

The coconut cream can be so fat that the oil from the coconut surfaces. I let that solidify in the fridge and I take it off before turning my pandan custard into balls. This makes the custard less fat and sticky.

I’ve made many pao recipes on this blog. For Chinese pao, the dough must be extraordinarily light, so the flour is enriched with baking powder and yeast.

The flour also needs sugar and some butter. But because this is a sweet bun, I use coconut milk instead. Coconut milk is fat too and will make the bun tender. Coconut milk goes through the custard as well, so the flavors come together in the end beautifully.

Knead 8 minutes

It is bread, so I need to knead really well. I usually work the dough for at least 8 minutes until it turns into a beautiful, elastic, shiny, texture.

Prove for 30 minutes

When I make other bapao, I do not let the dough prove separately because I normally make 24 bapao at one time, so the dough has plenty of ‘waiting’ until all the buns are filled and folded.

But for this recipe I ‘only’ make 16 nai wong pao so there is less waiting time.

I, therefore, let my dough rest now for 30 minutes under a towel.

Meanwhile, I can roll my pandan custard balls. They are about 25 grams each.

Let’s roll!

I divide my dough into 16 equal pieces by making a sausage and dividing it in two each time.

I knead the dough well before rolling it out into a flat circle.

The filling is of course beautifully compact, which is different than with minced meat; folding is therefore pretty easy. I use the method like in the pictures below.

I make a few different shapes because I like to experiment.

My ‘clouds’ are new; seen on a Chinese blogs. It is a matter of pushing a dough cutter in the bun gently. To get a strong effect press the same spot again after the pao has proved.

I rub some regular milk on each bun before steaming; they will shine beautifully. A nice shiny top fits well with this sweet snack, I think. But it is not absolutely necessary.

Prove for 30 minutes

With the lid on the bamboo basket I let the pao prove again but I do not wait, I keep filling up the rest. When I’m done, the first basket is ready to steam!

Steaming for 15 minutes

On top of a wok filled with boiling water, I steam my sweet lai wong bao for 15 minutes.

When they are done I take the basket of the wok, but leave the lid for another 5 minutes. This keeps the top of the bun nice and firm.

lai wong bao

I’ve given this bun an extra push to form the cloud after proofing. The effect is clearly visible.

The buns are small, just as a snack should be. The filling is just enough for the size of the bun. I do not like a big bite of custard. This way it stays a fluffy, cloudy bun with a sweet core.

I let the bao cool down completely on a rack and then they can go into the freezer. Perfect to occasionally take one or two out for tea! ENAK!

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *