January 29, 2007

Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 oz active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in 1/2 cup water, water reserved
1 1/2 cup char siu
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
12 4-5 inch wide wax paper squares

You need to make the char siu the night before you want to make the char siu bao.

For the dough:
In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the milk and water. Sprinkle in the yeast and allow to sit 10 minutes. Mix in the remaining sugar, 2 cups of flour and the salt. Mix until the dough is no longer sticky, adding additional flour as needed. Place dough on a floured service and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile....
To prepare the filling:
Chop the rehydrated mushrooms, reserving the liquid. In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil saute the mushrooms with the ginger, garlic, and green onions. Add the mushroom liquid, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, cornstarch and sugar. Stir until the sauce thickens. Stir in char siu. Allow to cool.
Back to the dough:
Punch the dough down, roll it into a cylinder. Cut it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Then roll each ball into a circle about 4-6 inches in diameter. Place 1 tablespoon (or slightly more) of filling into the center of the circle. Pull the edges of the circle up over the filling, pinch in the center to seal. Place the buns seam side down on a waxed paper (or parchment, we used waxed paper, but I think parchment would work just as well, if not better) lined cookie sheet
and repeat for each circle, leave a 2 inch space between each bun. Cover and let rise until puffy and light. Bring water to boil in wok or saucepan. Place buns (still on waxed paper squares) in a bamboo steamer. Place over water and steam* about 15 minutes or until glossy and smooth.
Serve immediately.
Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers. Leftover char siu bao can be reheated in the microwave (for about 2 minutes) with great success.

Note: leftover char siu is good hot or cold. Add it to wonton soup, use it in egg rolls, serve over fried rice.
*No steamer? Just brush the tops with egg yolk and bake for about 18-25 minutes in 350 degree oven.
My thoughts:
Unfortunately, there no real dim sum restaurants in Baltimore, so we rarely have the opportunity to indulge in some of our favorite treats. What are char siu bao lovers to do? Make your own! Which is exactly what my husband did this weekend. It is time consuming (I was a char siu bao widow for hours) but well worth the effort. They were amazing! While the thrill of pointing out what you want on a cart was missing, the taste was dead-on. The best part of making your own is being able to put as much or as little pork in each bun as you want and being able to tweak the recipe. The recipe Matt came up with is tailored to our tastes: more ginger and lime was added, the ketchup (which I loathe) that is often a part of recipes for char siu was entirely eliminated in favor of golden syrup. Despite the finagling of the ingredients the flavor is near identical to that of the char siu we've had at various Chinatown establishments. Beyond delicious and well worth the work.