Where’s the pleasure in cooking if you don’t try foods from different cultures? My most recent adventure in the kitchen was an attempt at making Cha Siu Bao for the first time.
The main ingredient in Char Siu Bao’s dough was Hong Kong flour. Though I had never used it before, I was determined to maintain some of the recipe’s authenticity and use the exact ingredients mentioned.
After a bit of a struggle to find this flour, I ended up with deliciously soft and fluffy homemade steamed buns. To save time, you can opt for another flour to substitute Hong Kong flour. Luckily, there are plenty.
The best overall Hong Kong flour substitutes are Pau flour, cake flour, and Superlite flour. Other great flour substitutes to use in cooking and baking include top flour and pastry flour. For homemade substitutes, you can use all-purpose flour with cornstarch or bread flour with cornstarch and baking powder.
For gluten-free alternatives, oat and brown rice flour, glutinous rice flour, or chickpea flour mixtures can be used.
In this article, we will dive into the different substitutions of Hong Kong flour. We will also address some commonly asked questions pertaining to Hong Kong flour.
Hong Kong Flour Substitutes
1. Pau Flour
Pau flour is most of the time a synonym to Hong Kong Flour, but not always. Unlike Hong Kong Flour, Pau flour is sometimes pre-mixed with added yeast. Pau Flour is one of the best substitutes for Hong Kong Flour.
Pau flour is also a very bleached flour. It is a low-protein flour which gives the buns a very white color and fluffy texture, just like Hong Kong Flour. Pau flour and Hong Kong Flour have about the same gluten content, but sometimes Pau flour is finer.
Like Hong Kong Flour, Pau flour is often used to make steamed buns called Pau. Pau, da bao, or steamed bun, is a larger version of mantou that contains filling.
Pau can commonly be found in Singapore and Malaysia. They are served warm right after being removed from the steamer.
Pau flour is an excellent substitute for Hong Kong Flour because it gives pau the same airy texture, soft gleamy surface, and snowy white color. Hong Kong flour, however, is sometimes whiter and more expensive than Pau flour.
The low gluten content of Pau flour is optimal for bouncy and soft buns. However, as the main difference between Pau flour and Hong Kong flour is the occasional addition of yeast, if you find it necessary, you can add even more.
For this substitution, you can replace the flour in a 1:1 ratio as they are very similar. Remember to read the ingredients of your Pau flour to see if it contains yeast.
Regarding the nutrition information of Pau flour, 100g consists of 346 kcal, 10g of protein, 1g of fat, and 73g of carbohydrates.
2. Cake Flour
We all know and love cake flour. It is a low-gluten flour that is finely milled and soft. Of all wheat flour, it has the lowest protein content. Cake flour is often the top-recommended substitute for Hong Kong flour.
Cake flour is similar to Hong Kong flour in that it is highly bleached. This bleaching process results in cake flour with toughened protein molecules that carry more sugar and liquid.
As a result, it is ideal for making cakes, especially biscuits and white cakes, that require a delicate and tender texture.
Cake flour’s protein level is lower than that of Hong Kong flour. Cake flour’s protein level is about 6-8%, while Hong Kong flour’s protein level is 8-10%.
Cake flour can serve as a great Hong Kong flour substitute in foods like cakes and Chinese steamed buns. In Pao, Hong Kong flour is ideal thanks to the white color it results in. Cake flour in Pao will leave a noticeable yellow tinge.
With this substitution, you will still have a soft and fluffy result. Replace Hong Kong flour with cake flour in a 1:1 ratio.
In 100g of enriched cake flour, there are 357 kcal, 7.14g of protein, 0g of fat, 78.6g of carbohydrates, 0g of fibers, 0g of sugars, and 0mg of sodium.
3. Superlite Flour
Superlite flour is also sometimes referred to as Hong Kong flour. However, this flour is mentioned more in recipes from Singapore and Malaysia. Superlite Flour is a super soft flour that has been bleached.
Depending on the brand, Superlite flour could be the same as Hong Kong flour, or it can defer with its ingredients. Therefore, it is not a surprise that Superlite Flour can substitute Hong Kong flour in your recipe.
Like Hong Kong flour, Superlite flour gives a very white color and a soft and light texture. Therefore, it can be used to make Japanese castella cake, Hong Kong-type steamed buns (bao), Malay sponge cake (kueh bahulu), etc. For this substitution, due to the similarities, you can use it in a 1:1 ratio.
100g of Nutty Yogi Gluten-Free SuperLite Flour contains 385.67 Kcal, 11.09g protein, 3.83g fat, 76.71g carbohydrate, and 8.6g fiber.
4. Top Flour
Top flour is a fine quality flour that results in smooth and fine-textured baked goods. This flour is mainly used in fine cakes, such as chiffon cakes, crepes, or swiss rolls.
Top flour is also highly bleached, resulting in a fine texture and white color. That is why it is a good substitute for Hong Kong flour. You might not get the same consistency, but it sure will be very similar.
For this substitution, you can use Top flour in the same manner you would use Hong Kong flour. So, for example, if a recipe calls for one cup of Hong Kong flour, you can replace it with one cup of Top flour.
In 100g of Prima Top Flour, there are 340 kcal, 9.5g of protein, 1.2g of fat, 72.9g of carbohydrates, 1.7g of sugar, 2.8g of fiber, and 2mg of sodium.
5. Pastry Flour
Pastry flour isn’t too different from cake flour, which is why it’s not a surprise it is on this list. The main difference is that pastry flour is not always bleached and has a slightly higher protein content.
Pastry flour is made from soft wheat flour and has a protein content of 8-10%, which is about the same as Hong Kong flour’s protein content. This protein content is essential as it helps with the elasticity needed to hold together the baked food.
Pastry flour has an ivory color. Usually, pastry flour is used to make tender and crumbly pastries such as croissants, pies, and puff pastry.
Pastry flour could serve as a great substitute for Hong Kong flour. However, since pastry flour does not have the snowy white color of Hong Kong flour, then, let’s say Pau won’t be as white.
In fact, it will have a yellowish tint to it. In addition, pastry flour won’t give the same texture to the Pau.
This substitution could be used with a 1:1 ratio. The amount of pastry flour you can use is the same as that of Hong Kong flour.
In 100g of enriched pastry flour, there are 359 kcal, 8.75g proteins, 1.64g fat, 77.2g of carbohydrates, and 1mg of sodium.
6. All-Purpose Flour
Almost everyone has all-purpose flour in their kitchen. It seems to do the trick in all recipes. However, for it to be a Hong Kong flour substitute, it will need an additional ingredient to achieve what we’re looking for.
All-purpose flour with cornstarch could be a possible, but not the best, Hong Kong flour substitute. It would not result in the snowy white color that Hong Kong flour would give. All-purpose flour will also have a slightly coarser texture.
All-Purpose Flour and Hong Kong flour have somewhat comparable gluten levels. Hong Kong flour, however, is finer.
To replace one cup of Hong Kong flour:
- take one level cup of sifted bleached all-purpose flour
- remove 2 tablespoons from it
- add 2 tablespoons (15 grams) of cornstarch to it
Next, you will need to sift it at least 3 times. This will help the mixture become lighter. One cup of this mixture contains 446.1 kcal, 11g protein, 1.04g fat, and 95.1g carbohydrates.
7. Bread Flour
Bread Flour is a high-protein flour that is ideal for making various bread and pastries. If bread flour is the only type of flour you have in your pantry, you can mix it with other ingredients to substitute Hong Kong flour.
Bread Flour has a protein content of 12-14%. This makes it great for bread-making since the addition of water allows it to become elastic and chewy.
If substituted for Hong Kong flour as is, it will result in chewy buns and a texture that is neither soft nor fluffy.
Even with additional ingredients, bread flour as a substitute for Hong Kong flour will leave you with less-than-optimal results. However, if you’re in a pinch and don’t have any of the other substitutes mentioned in this list, you can use bread flour.
You’ll need bread flour, cornstarch, and baking powder for this substitution. This is how what you could do:
- Measure out how much Hong Kong flour you would have needed initially, and use bread flour instead
- For every 100 grams, remove about 20 grams and then another 3 teaspoons
- Replace the 20 grams removed with 20 grams of cornstarch
- Replace the 3 teaspoons removed with 3 teaspoons baking powder
- Mix the ingredients
- Sift them three times until they are thoroughly combined
Cornstarch and baking powder will help reduce the protein content in bread flour, hence leaving the food with a softer texture. For the fairest shot, keep sifting a few more times as it will let the final product become a bit softer.
This mixture contains 391.2 kcal, 10.07g protein, 1.21g fat, and 76.22g carbohydrates.
8. Oat and Brown Rice Flour
Oat and brown rice flour mixed with starches could serve as a gluten-free alternative for Hong Kong flour. You can use this substitution when making gluten-free Chinese steamed buns.
This substitution calls for oat flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Note that the final product will turn out slightly yellow.
To substitute about 1 to 1½ cups of Hong Kong flour or the amount needed to make 8 buns with a 2½” – 3” diameter:
- ½ cup of brown rice flour
- ¾ cup of oat flour
- 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch
- 2 tablespoons of potato starch
This mixture has about 719 kcal, 17.1g protein, 9.3g fat, and 141.02g carbohydrates.
9. Glutinous Rice Flour
Glutinous Rice Flour could be used as one of 4 ingredients to substitute Hong Kong flour in recipes for Gluten-Free Steamed Buns.
For this substitution, replace the amount of Hong Kong flour you would use to make 8 large, steamed buns with:
- 45g (6 Tbsp + 1 tsp) glutinous rice flour
- 50g (6 Tbsp + 1 tsp) rice flour
- 88g (1/2 cup + 4 Tbsp) cornstarch
- 43g (4 Tbsp + 1 tsp) potato starch
These ingredients can be easily found and are not too expensive. Note that potato starch is needed and not potato flour.
This mixture consists of about 812 kcal, 6.19g protein, 0.75g fat, and 190.79g carbohydrates.
10. Chickpea Flour
Another gluten-free Hong Kong flour substitute is chickpea flour with 2 other ingredients. This substitute is great for gluten-free dumpling wrappers.
For this substitution, you can substitute the amount of Hong Kong flour you would use to make 36-42 dumpling wrappers with:
- 150g (1¼ cups) chickpea flour
- 125g (½ cup + 3.5 tablespoons) sweet rice flour
- 125g (¾ cup + 3.5 tablespoons) tapioca starch
This mixture has about 1437 kcal, 38.33g protein, 1.5g fat, and 312.46g carbohydrates.
Is Hong Kong Flour Healthy?
Hong Kong flour, also called Waterlily flour, is a highly bleached flour. It is fine, soft, and delicate and has a low-gluten content of about 8% to 10%.
This bleached flour is treated with a flour bleaching agent, such as chlorine or benzoyl peroxide, to whiten the naturally yellowish flour.
The bleaching process also breaks down more proteins, which makes it softer. That is why it provides a pure white color with a fluffy, cotton-like texture to the foods it is added to.
Hong Kong flour is ideal for Chinese food like dim sum. It is also widely used to make Hong Kong-type steamed buns (bao), steamed cake, Japanese cotton cheesecake, dumpling skin, Malay/nonya kuih, kuih bahulu, waffles, and other foods that require a soft and light texture.
Hong Kong flour results in a whiter appearance of the food items compared to the color standard kinds of flour results in. You can find Hong Kong flour in some supermarkets or specialist cake shops.
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How to Use Hong Kong Flour?
Hong Kong flour can be used as you would use any other flour. This flour is ideal for Hong Kong-type steamed buns (bao), steamed cake, Japanese cotton cheesecake, dumpling skin, Malay/nonya kuih, kuih bahulu, waffles, and other foods that require a soft and light texture.
As a nutritionist, I find a lot of value in knowing the nutritional information of the ingredients I add to my food. 100g of Hong Kong flour contains:
- 342 calories
- 5g of protein
- 7g of fat
- 5g of carbohydrates
- 7g of sugar
- 5g of fibers
- 2mg of sodium
How To Make Steamed Cake With Hong Kong Flour
Steamed cakes are delicious treats that look like muffins; however, they are not. These cakes are steamed instead of baked.
Japanese steamed cakes contain simple ingredients: flour, eggs, baking powder, sugar, milk, and oil. The difference between Chinese steamed buns and Japanese steamed cakes is the leavening agent that is used.
Chinese steamed buns use yeast as a leavening agent, while Japanese steamed cakes use baking powder.
Making Japanese steamed cakes is quick and simple. Here is what you will need:
- 70g of Hong Kong Flour
- 1 Egg
- 30g Milk
- 25g Sugar
- 5g Oil (you can use any kind of neutral-flavored oil like vegetable or rice bran oil)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Make a flour mix: combine the flour and baking powder
- Put the mixture aside
- Whisk the egg, sugar, oil, and milk
- Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mix and whisk till smooth
- Fill the cupcake molds 2/3 full with batter. Gently tap on the table to remove air bubbles
- Place them in a steamer for 8 to 10 minutes
- Serve and enjoy
Hong Kong flour is a highly bleached flour used in recipes for steamed buns, steamed cake, dumpling skin, and many others. However, many substitutes can be used in place of Hong Kong flour, if needed.
The best Hong Kong flour substitutes are Pau flour, cake flour, and Superlite flour. Other great flour substitutes to use in cooking and baking include top flour and pastry flour.
Homemade substitutes can be made using all-purpose flour with cornstarch or bread flour with cornstarch and baking powder. Oat and brown rice flour, glutinous rice flour, or chickpea flour mixtures can be used for gluten-free alternatives.
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