When you buy groceries late at night, as I do, you miss out on important cultural opportunities only offered in store during rush hour. Imagine my surprise when I shopped Saturday afternoon at Marina and discovered
(a) crowds. I hate crowds, and with the possible exception of Harry Potter movie premieres, I will go out of my way to avoid throngs.
(b) my pet peeve of leaving one’s cart in the middle of the aisle between the dried fish and salted duck eggs, rendering normal grocery traffic patterns moot, is alive and well.
(c) they give Samples! a la Costco! Pressed tofu, ramen, frozen dumplings. The sample frozen packaged dumplings were as good as or better than mine. I find this totally depressing.
Undeterred, I finally found the frozen banana leaf and one of two types of glutinous rice flour I was looking for. My mission: make two new dumplings, to make up for the last couple of dumpling-free weeks. I chose Char Siu Bao, the most popular of dim sum treats, and Banh It –-a Vietnamese steamed sticky rice dumpling, because, well, it sits on a bamboo leaf, and How Cool Is That? Both recipes are from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings cookbook. Once again, her instructions are quite detailed and helpful, and mine are not.
Char Siu Bao
1 1/2 tsp yeast
3/4 lukewarm water
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
Sprinkle yeast in water and stir. Let it sit a few minutes, allowing it to form a foam on top.
Mix flour, sugar and baking powder together, then add oil and yeast and stir, then knead a few minutes. Place in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place till doubled in volume, about 1.5 hours
Char Siu filling:
Char Siu, purchased. Her recipe calls for a half pound; I used 3/4 pound and felt it was not enough. Next time use a whole pound. I trimmed all the tough connective tissue away before dicing
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt (unnecessary as it was too salty)
pinch of white pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce (use less, it was too salty)
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp rice wine
Mix above together.
Mix 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water
Stir fry the diced char siu and green onions in a bit of oil, then add the seasoning sauce, and finally the cornstarch, stirring to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. I made this the day before.
Punch the dough down, then knead a minute or two and cut dough in half. Roll one half into a 12 inch log, and cut into 8 pieces. Flatten each piece and, using a small diameter rolling pin, roll one piece into a flat disc, rolling from the side and turning the disc, leaving the center thicker than the edges. Repeat until you have 8 discs. Place 2 tablespoons filling in center of disc, then gather and pleat until you have a nice round dumpling. Take care to pinch the dough together in the middle; it tends to form gaps otherwise. Place each on a small square of parchment. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Place in steamer and steam 15 minutes. Makes 16 Char Siu Bao.
Note the thicker center in photo below.
keep your left thumb in the center, pushing the edge of dough with LEFT thumb and forefinger and pleating with your RIGHT thumb and forefinger
Critique: While the store bought baos sit tall and proud, with a sweet bun and almost sweeter pork filling, my baos were flat and relaxed, as if the Pillsbury Doughboy himself had flopped over for an impromptu nap. The bun was more porous and springy—quite good, and the third time I’ve made this dough (see previous post on Sheng Jian Baozi) but definitely different in texture from store bought. The filling was a bit salty, otherwise flavorful. I liked the flecks of green onion, and the quality control—lack of gristle in the bao—is a definite plus. Since char siu bao is not a favorite of mine, time will tell if I’ll make this one often. I like juicy fillings–the kind that run up the dry cleaning bill—better. These are great to grab when I’m running out the door, though.
Well, here we are and I’m out of time. Banh It will have to wait for another post.