Shay Shay Tien’s Pow

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


Appears in

Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago

Sweet Hands

By Ramin Ganeshram

Published 2018

  • About

Although a relatively small part of the Trinidadian population, Chinese Trinidadians have made an indelible mark on the country’s cuisine. Steamed meat buns, called “pow” (an adaptation of the Chinese term bao) are a particular favorite and it is widely agreed that the ones made at Shay Shay Tien, Trinidad’s oldest Chinese restaurant, are still the best. Owner Johnson “Chin” Achong was kind enough to share their recipe.



  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 star anise pod
  • ¾ pound boneless pork butt or shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground anise
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black bean sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring


  • teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ½ cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon
  • ½ cup warm water (100°F)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon shortening melted with 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 20 (5-inch) squares of waxed paper


Make the Filling

Bring 3 cups of water, the salt, and anise pod to a boil in a large pot. Add the pork and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove the pork, cool, and cut into ¼-inch cubes. Discard the anise pod.

Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and garlic and fry until dark brown and then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and discard. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the dark brown sugar to the seasoned oil and let it caramelize for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pork and stir well. Brown the pork on all sides.

Add ground anise, hoisin sauce, and black bean sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until nearly dry. Add the red food coloring and mix well, so all the pieces of pork are evenly colored. Cook until totally dry. Remove from the heat and cool completely. (The meat may be made up to one day ahead and stored in refrigerator.)

Make the Dough

Place the yeast and ½ teaspoon of sugar in a deep bowl, and add the warm water. Set aside until foamy. Combine the flour, baking powder, and remaining sugar together in a bowl. Add the yeast mixture, egg white, and melted shortening. Mix at high speed for 4 minutes, then at the lowest speed for 6 minutes. The dough should be smooth and highly elastic. Test the dough by pressing it with your finger—it should spring back without leaving a mark.

Flour a clean dry work surface. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. With your hands, roll the pieces of dough into long ropes about 3 inches in diameter. Cut each rope into 5 pieces. Knead each piece for 30 seconds, then form into a ball. Set the dough balls on a floured surface.

Make the Pow

Flatten one ball of dough into a 3-inch disk. Place a heaping tablespoon of the pork mixture in the middle of the disk. Gently pull the edges of the disk around the filling and pinch together to form a sac. Then gently twist the edges together and push down into the dough ball. The pow should be a smooth, round ball. Place the filled pow, seam side down, on a square of waxed paper in a bamboo or metal steamer insert. Repeat until all the pow are filled. (Do not crowd the pow in the steamer tray; allow 2 inches of space around each pow. If you do not have a bamboo steamer with more than one tray, set some of the pow on waxed paper on a flat surface.) Allow the pow to rise until their diameter has doubled. If your kitchen is warm, this will occur by the time all the pow are stuffed. If not, cover the steamer trays with damp towels and set aside in a warm place.

Set the steamer trays in a wide pot with enough water to rise a quarter of the way up the bottom tray, being careful that the water doesn’t seep into the tray and touch the pow. Bring the water to a simmer and steam the pow for 15 minutes. Serve warm. (Note: Pow can be reheated in a microwave for 45 seconds on high or in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes.)