Red Bean Buns

Red Bean Buns (An Pan, Hong Dou)

red bean buns in muffin trays
red bean buns in muffin trays

Why isn’t Brisbane’s Asian food scene as colourful, plentiful, happening or as glorious as Sydney with its ample supply of Asian eateries, food halls, quirky noodle bars and chinese bakeries? This meant I’ve had to learn to bake even my own Asian-style bakery bread selections. Thank God we at least have the Bread Top (not to be confused with ‘Bread Talk’ from Singapore) franchise all over Australia now, but even then, who relishes having to pay so much for a piece of bread when you can produce so many more for a fraction of what you’ll pay, fresh and piping hot from your oven at home. I might add that often the quality varies from one franchise outlet to another.

One of my super favourites from a good Asian bakery would be red bean buns, also known as ‘An Pan buns’ (Japanese) or ‘Hong Dou’ (Mandarin for red bean).

Some awful ones in Sunnybank sell for an arm and a leg here and yet taste rather like leather purses.  You know what I’m talking about–we want our buns like how they are back in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of Asia: soft and spongy, sweet to the bite and some maybe still want just that teensy bit of crustiness to the surface for that teensy extra bit of texture but not overdone.

In years of experimenting with different recipes and styles of Asian bread making, I went through great pains to fine-tune this ultimate recipe, pinching bits from different recipe sources until I managed to perfect the ultimate red bean bun I so adore. Here’s my ‘secret sauce’ for the softest, fluffiest Asian-bakery-style bread you can now make at home! The secret I discovered is a special technique used in these Asian bakeries where ‘Tang Zhong’ (water roux) is added in the dough mix. Making tang zhong involves mixing a portion of the flour pre-cooked with water to make a slimey paste of roux, before being cooled and added to the rest of the ingredients in your bread recipe. This is it. Trust me, you’ll be so astonished it is possible at last to have pillowy, fluffy bread!

I hope you’ll try it and send me comments on how you went with this recipe. After you’ve mastered the perfect dough recipe you could virtually add any type of filling to your buns…I’ve even made kaya (egg yolk and coconut custard), lotus paste,custard or savoury ones like curry chicken, sausage and tuna ones. It’s so good, you could even eat it plain. Just YUMMMMYYY.

Kat's soft fluffy bread made using tang zhong 'asian bakery buns'
Kat’s soft fluffy bread
made using tang zhong
‘asian bakery buns’

KAT’S RED BEAN / ‘TOU SHA’ AN PAN JAPANESE BUNS – makes 12 small buns
Using a Bread Machine

125g Full Cream Milk (warmed slightly), less than ½ C
75g heavy cream (warmed), less than 1/3 C
½ tsp + ¼ tsp salt
1 large egg (room temp)
1/2 C ‘tang zhong’*
40g sugar
300g plain flour (+ 1 C plain flour during middle of cycle)
1 tsp yeast
3 tsp milk powder

Recipe for mixing ‘tang zhong’:
Tangzhong (water roux):
1/3 c. bread flour
1 c. water
1.  Make the Tangzhong:  Blend the flour and water in a small sauce pan, and heat over medium while stirring with a whisk.  As soon as the mixture thickens, and swirl lines appear, remove from heat with a heatproof spatula (I use a silicon one) and allow to cool.  (This recipe will provide a double batch of tangzhong – store the unused half in the refrigerator for your next loaf, for up to 3 days.)


1. Load all the ingredients into your bread machine (liquids before dry ingredients), set it to the dough cycle.
2. When dough is ready, remove from the machine and punch down to release air.
3. Divide dough into 12 pieces, roll into balls and flatten.
4. Add filling to middle of flattened piece, then seal with fingers and roll into a bun shape.
5. Transfer buns into lined muffin tray and proof for further 25 min with a spritz of water in the oven for 30 min till doubled in size.
6. Bake at 170 degrees for 15 min.

Glaze for bun:
Mix 2 T melted butter with 1 T sugar till dissolved, brush on tops of buns.
Sprinkle on some sesame seeds before sugar glaze dries. Shake off excess seeds and let it set and dry.

Red Bean Filling:
1 ½ C small red beans* (the kind for red bean dessert)
4 C water
1/4 C vegetable oil or 50g butter
1 C castor sugar or less according to your preference for sweetness

Method: Boil till beans are soft, drain, then puree. Transfer to medium bowl with oil and sugar to make a thick gooey paste. Cool before filling the buns.

*do not use large kidney beans, they won’t taste good as filling!

red bean buns
red bean buns



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