Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cook: Hong Kong Style Ma Lai Gao (Steamed Egg Cake)

Ma Lai Gao :) Yum!
Soft and fluffy!
My second attempt-more soft this time
Difficulty: 4/5

I am in search for a Tim Ho Wan lookalike and taste-alike Ma Lai Gao recipe because it is my daughter's favourite dim sum! Everytime we visit she ate at least 2 servings and then will takeaway one piece home. Each piece cost $3.80 and it is certainly not cheap.

A lot of recipe that I find online doesn't require fermentation and after steaming, it certainly doesn't look like the one at Tim Ho Wan. Not sure whether it taste alike but the look definitely doesn't. If i were to serve that to my daughter, don't think she can relate to her favourite Ma Lai Gao... so, after searching for sometime i found this recipe with fermentation and the look definitely very close to the one we had at Tim Ho Wan (Ma Lai Gao )...This is definitely not a quick recipe, it takes at least 1 1/2 days before you can enjoy the labour of your love. 

What I did was to make the starter paste on Wednesday night, let it ferment for 24 hours. Then add the rest of the ingredients (except baking powder and bicarbonate soda) on Thursday night, let it ferment overnight in fridge and steam them on Friday morning.

I did not reduce much sugar for this recipe as sugar is the "food" for the yeast!

The texture is soft and fluffy but doesn't have as much air pocket as the one served at Tim Ho Wan. Taste-wise, according to my MIL and SIL who are die hard fan of Tim Ho Wan's Ma Lai Gao, they said its nice but if compare to Tim Ho Wan, it lacks a certain unique taste, they are guessing  maybe Gula Melaka? I am not too sure but will definitely give it a try with Gula Melaka and see if it works :)

** UPDATED: Upon hubby's request, made a second batch. This time round, i fermented for 48 hours instead of 24 hours. The texture is softer this time with more air pocket, also it takes shorter time for steaming to achieve the brown colour, 1 hour compare to the previous 1.5 hours.

***UPDATED AGAIN: Received a feedback recently that Tim Ho Wan Steamed Egg Cake doesn't use yeast as fermentation. Instead they used natural fermentation... so far, i haven't find a recipe that uses this other way of fermentation but if i do, i will try it out and share :)


Starter paste
1. 160g of Hong Kong Flour
2. 35g white sugar
3. 1 teaspoon of instant yeast
4. 75ml of warm water

Hong Kong Flour-low protein flour
Cake mixture
1. 150g of white sugar
2. 35g of bread flour
3. 35g of custard powder
4. 20g of milk powder
5. 5 eggs
6. 50g of melted butter
7. 100g of vegetable oil (tasteless oil)

Before steaming
1. 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
2. 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda


Starter paste
1. Mix flour, sugar, yeast and water together to form a dough (as shown)
2. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with cling wrap (Do note that the dough will increase in size about 2-3 times so put in a bigger bowl).
3. Let it ferment at room temperature for 12-48 hours. ( I ferment mine for 24 hours but i did notice that after 12 hours there is not much changes in the paste in term of size so i guess that is why the minimum time to ferment is 12 hours)

Initially, this is how the dough looks like after mixing the ingredients together.
Cake mixture
1. After 24 hours, you will notice that the paste has become more soft will lots of hole and has at least increase in size by 2-3 times (as shown)

After 24 hours of fermentation
Closer look-can see a lot of hole
And this is how it looks like inside, lots of air pocket
2. Sieve the flour, custard powder and milk powder. Set aside
3. Place the starter paste in the mixing bowl and mix using a stand mixer at low speed for 1-2 minutes (I do not advice using hand mixer because it was quite hard to mix as the mixture is quite sticky based on my personal experience)

Mixing the starter paste
4. Add sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes on low speed until sugar is incorporated.
5. Add flour mixture spoonful by spoonful and beat to mix well. Once the dough started to get really sticky, add one egg. Then continue to add more flour and beat, adding eggs in between once it gets too sticky.
Super sticky mixture
6. After all the flour is added, add the remaining egg, one by one and mix well.
7. After all eggs are incorporated, scrap the side and bottom of the mixture as a lot of thick mixture still stick to the sides and bottom. 
8. Turn the speed to medium and mix for 5-10 minutes until the mixture smoothen. 
9. Add butter and oil, mix well at low speed.

After adding eggs, butter and oil, mixture is smoothen.
10. Cover with cling wrap and ferment in fridge overnight or 12-24 hours.
11. After 12 hours of fermentation, you can see that the mixture thickens slightly, also can observe a lot of small bubbles. There is no significant change in size after second round of fermentation.

Bubbles forming after overnight fermentation
Thicken mixture, compare to pre-fermentation overnight in fridge
12. Before steaming, add bicarbonate soda and baking powder. Pour into a bowl and steam. Do note that the cake will rise to almost double its size.
13. Steam for 1 to 1.5 hours or until the cake turns brown.
Slowly, the yellowish cake is turning brownish
14. Do not attempt to open the lid at least 30 minutes during the initial steaming stage. Monitor water level and add if required.
15. Cool down for 5-10 minutes, cut and serve.
16. Enjoy and have a piece!

Have a piece, or probably more :)


  1. Tim Ho Wan's chef told Dr Leslie of ieatishotipost that no yeast is used in their MLK. Just long fermentation.

  2. Dear Vien,

    Thanks for the insight :) i didnt know that.. read about the yeast fermentation from another blogger ...

    By the way, do u happen to know how long is the long fermentation used? Thanks for sharing!