Monday, July 12, 2010

Bao Buns

My first experience with dim sum was with my in-laws at a now-closed restaurant called Triple Crown Seafood. It was next to this great Chinese supermarket where we could stock up on everything we would need for my husband to cook all his specialties. It is so much fun to sit down at a table and have cart after cart filled with bamboo steamer baskets pass with every type of dim sum imaginable – bao buns, pork shu mai, even chicken feet. There are no menus, you simply order by sight and smell.

Dim sum is so dangerous for me – there are three to four dumplings in each steamer basket, and after a while, I always seem to lose track of how many steamer baskets have been cleared off of our table. I know I should stop eating because I’m getting full, but I can’t stop because the food is just so amazingly delicious. I really need to work on my willpower.

My favorite dim sum is a Bao Bun. The bun itself is very light, but has a slight chew to it. It encases a small portion of filling, most classically one using Chinese barbecue pork. But there is a restaurant in Chicago serving the classic Char Siu Bao as well as the buns filled with anything from curried chicken to coconut custard. And let me tell you, the coconut cream filling is killer.

At a Chinese supermarket downtown, I found an entire aisle dedicated to flour. Glutinous rice flour, bao flour, dumpling flour, all types. Because I couldn’t read the labels, I bought a flour that had a picture of the bao bun on front, hoping it would work for me. We had also picked up some barbecue pork on this trip, so I found a filling recipe that incorporated this.

Unfortunately for my bao, I think my yeast was dead since I didn’t get a nice, puffy bao. I was really disappointed, until my husband said two things. First, he told me I nailed the filling. That was encouraging. At least I have half of the recipe right. Second, he mentioned that even though it wasn’t a bao bun, it was still a delicious dumpling – the dough had more of a pot sticker consistency. Despite having dead yeast and not getting a good rise out of my dough, I still ended up with something delicious, and we ate every last one of them.

I can’t wait to try again, and this time I will make sure my yeast blooms before I throw it all in the pot. And if the buns still fail, at least I know whatever comes out will be delicious, despite not being what I had planned on.

My moral is even if things don’t go as planned, go with it. I was so sad that my dumplings didn’t turn out anything like I had expected that I completely ignored the fact that I had managed to make something tasty.

Even failures can be delicious.

I’ll share the recipe for the filling, since that was so good, but I’m going to wait until I have success in the bao department before sharing the dough recipe.

Char Siu Bao Filling
Adapted From:
Char Siu Bao

Yields ~8 steamed pork buns.

1 tablespoons oil
1 scallion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/4 pound barbecued pork cut into small cubes
1 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water or chicken stock

Heat 1 tablespoons oil in wok. Stir fry scallion and garlic 30 seconds. Add pork. Stir fry 1 minute. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar.

Pour in dissolved cornstarch. Stir fry quickly until pork is glazed. Remove to bowl and allow to cool.

If you have dough you want to make into Bao Buns, continue on with the recipe.

On a floured board, knead dough 1 minute and roll into one long, sausage-like roll 2 inches in diameter.

Slice the roll crosswise into 1 inch pieces.

Flatten each piece with the palm of your hand and roll with rolling pin into 3 inch rounds.

Place 2 tablespoons of filling in center of each round.

Gather dough up around the filling by pleating along the edges.

Bring the pleats up and twist securely and firmly.

Place each bun on 2 inch square of aluminum foil on steamer tray. Cover with a towel. Let rise 1 hour, until dough springs back when touched with finger. Remove towel.

Steam over briskly boiling water 10 minutes.

May be prepared in advance. May be frozen. Thaw out in plastic bag and resteam 10 minutes.


emily said...

i can't believe you made these! they're so delicious but i always find dumplings so intimidating. the wrappers never stick together and everything always fall apart. I really admire you!

Caroline said...

Thanks! If you look at my first attempt, I wasn't very successful - but that's how I learn. It may be frustrating to not have them turn out like you hope, but I was so excited when I finally made bao!

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