Learn how to make soft and slightly chewy Hakka-style steamed buns with aromatic gula Melaka sugar.
The first Hakka hee pan I made was the pandan hee pan and ever since then, I can’t stop making hee pan. Hee pan has a texture combination of soft fluffy and slightly chewy (thanks to the glutinous rice flour in the dough).
The possibility of different flavors and colors are pretty limitless too. Gula Melaka version is one of my favorites because the aroma is just so good!
They are usually made plain, but you can also fill them up with your favorite sweet or savory filling, just like steamed buns.
Substitute for gula Melaka
Gula Melaka usually comes in blocks. If you can’t find gula Melaka, you can use coconut sugar or brown sugar. They work really well, especially the coconut sugar. It has the aroma and taste very similar to gula Melaka.
Only one-time proofing
Hee pan is pretty quick to make compared to most bread recipes or steamed buns recipes that require two fermentations.
1. Cut the gula Melaka into fine pieces so it melts faster
2. Wait for the gula Melaka mixture to cool down before you add the yeast or the yeast may die if the temperature is too hot
3. You don’t need a machine to knead the dough. The dough doesn’t need to be kneaded for a long time
4. The shaped buns will feel lighter after proofing and will gently bounce back if you press on them
5. It is important to steam hee pan over medium heat and to leave the lid ajar during steaming
6. Do not rush to open the lid after steaming. Let the steamed buns sit for 3-5 minutes before opening the lid and to let them cool down on the rack
How to store hee pan
1. Let the hee pan cool down completely
2. Keep them in air tight container at room temperature for a day or two. They may harden a bit, but a quick reheating for few seconds in a microwave or in the steamer for 5 minutes will restore their soft and fluffiness
3. For longer storage, individually wrap the bun with plastic wrap and store inside a freezer bag, push all the air out and seal. They can be kept for 1 month in the freezer
4. When ready to serve, simply reheat in the steamer without thawing
What is the correct texture for hee pan ?
Hee pan should be soft and fluffy like regular steamed buns BUT also has that slightly chewy texture thanks to the glutinous rice flour.
Why hee pan is dense and more like mochi?
If the texture of your hee pan is dense and heavy after steaming and chewy and stretchy like mochi instead of steamed buns, there could be a couple of reasons:
1. Please make sure you weigh the ingredients correctly. Use digital kitchen scale is the most accurate
2. Most likely the hee pan is not proofed sufficiently. Many recipes call for proofing for only 30 minutes. I have consistently found that this is not sufficient and I had been doing the same thing. Finally, once I proofed them for at least 1 hour and with evidence showing the buns are lighter, 50% puffier than its original size, the hee pan come out fluffy with pleasantly chewy texture every time.
3. You steam the hee pan over high heat and the hee pan will collapse when you take them out from the steamer and the texture turns really dense
Did you make this gula Melaka hee pan recipe?
I love it when you guys snap a photo and tag to show me what you’ve made 🙂 Simply tag me @WhatToCookToday #WhatToCookToday on Instagram and I’ll be sure to stop by and take a peek for real!
The recipe is adapted from MyKitchen101.
Gula Melaka Hee Pan (Xi Ban)
Activate the yeast (whether you use instant or active dry yeast):
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 Tbsp water
- ¼ tsp sugar
For the dough:
- 70 gr water
- 70 gr gula Melaka
- 85 gr all-purpose flour
- 85 gr glutinous rice flour
- 10 gr oil
You will need:
- Banana leaves
- Cut banana leaves into about 4 inch square and brush with some oil
Prepare the dough:
- Put the yeast, water and sugar in a small bowl. Stir to combine and then let it sit for 10 minutes. The mixture will turn foamy and bloom. This shows that the yeast is active
- Cut the gula Melaka into smaller pieces. Put them inside a saucepan along with the water. Let it simmer until the sugar melts. Let it cool down to at least lukewarm (so it won't affect the yeast)
- In another bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sticky rice flour, and activated yeast. Whisk to combine. Add this into the gula Melaka mixture. Add the oil. Stir to roughly combined and then knead until you get a dough. Cover and rest for 15 minutes. Then go back and knead into a soft and smooth dough
- There is no need to do bulk fermentation/proofing with hee pan. Divide the dough into 6-8 equal pieces. Oil both of your palms just lightly and pull and tuck each dough to form a round smooth ball. Place each ball on top of the banana leaf you prepared earlier. Gently flatten a little bit with your palm. Repeat with the rest of the dough and banana leaves
- Cover with a clean tea towel and put at a warm place to let them proof for at least 1 hour (no less). It may take longer than 1 hour in a colder climate. I found that if the dough is properly proofed, the hee pan will have fluffy with a slightly chewy texture. They will puff up to about 50% of its original size and feels really light. If you gently press with your finger, it will bounce back slowly
- Fill the steamer with enough water. Place the proofed dough inside the steamer, allow some room for the dough to expand. Close the lid. Turn on the heat to medium. If you are not using a bamboo steamer, wrap the lid of your steamer with a cloth to prevent condensation drips on the surface of the buns
- Turn the stove on and adjust the heat to medium. When the water comes to simmer, crack the lid open to allow some gap a bit to let steam escape. Start the timer and set it to 15 minutes and let them steam over medium heat with the lid slightly opened and DO NOT crank up the heat. When 15 minutes are up, allow 5 minutes before opening the lid
- Then gently uncover the lid and transfer the buns to a cooling rack. They can be served warm or room temperature
Hi Marvellina! How may I replace all purpose flour with other flour so that it is gluten free? What would you recommend? Thanks!
Hi Alyce, I’m not sure what exactly you can replace it with. Gluten-free recipe needs more experiments to be able to tell you for sure. I do have a gluten-free steamed buns recipe you can take a look at if you are interested https://whattocooktoday.com/gluten-free-chinese-steamed-buns.html