The char siu bao is a dimsum staple. Sweet, juicy bits of Chinese bbq pork oozing out of the soft, sweet bun.
If you don’t have steamer baskets, use a wok or a big pot with a vegetable steamer (or an inverted bowl), but place the buns on a heat proof plate to steam, so to avoid being splashed by the water beneath. If you live near a Chinatown, you can easily get a steamer rack for less than a dollar (you can find them in the “aisle” outside the shop, by the sidewalk — what marketers would call term “the impulse buy placement”. Go figure.)
Chef’s tip: The secret to creating that char siu bao taste is to use dried onions (McCormicks). Also, when you are proofing the yeast, make sure it forms a foamy head, otherwise, discard and astart over. Like good beer, it should be “alive”.
1 portion of Basic Yeast Dough
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
3 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine / sherry
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
6 Tablespoons water
1 lb barbeque pork (char siu), diced small ¼ inch cubes
½ cup dried onion flakes soaked in ¼ cup of water
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, roasted
20 pieces of 2 x 2 wax paper.
Prepare the dough
1. Make 1 recipe of Basic Yeast Dough for Steamed Buns. Make sure you cover the finished dough with a damp tea cloth.
Preparing the filling
2. Mix all the sauce ingredients (oyster sauce, hoisin, soy, sesame oil, wine, sugar, cornstarch and water) together in a bowl. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add all the sauce mixture into the pan. Stir.
3. Add the diced pork to the saucepan. Cook on low until the sauce glazes the pork. Add the reconstituted dried onion and sesame seeds and toss together to mix. Let the filling cool before proceeding.
4. Take a dough portion, work into a round ball about 1 inch in diameter. Flatten it into a 4-inch round with a rolling pin about ¼ inch thick. Make sure the edges are half as thin as the center.
5. Place 1 heaping Tablespoon of filling into dough. Pull the sides to meet at the center, making a ruffled fold as you work. Pinch the top together and give it a twist to seal. Pinch off any extra dough at the top. Place onto a piece of waxed paper.
6. Place buns in steamer about 2 inches apart and cover with a damp cloth. Allow buns to rise in a draft-free place for about 20 minutes.
7. Place steamer over the simmering water for 15 minutes, or until bun is well risen. Add water if necessary so that wok is not dried out.
Serves: 20 buns
Basic Yeast Dough Recipe
This is a recipe for the dough of the fluffy white skins of the char siu bao and the shanghai cabbage buns. It’s truly versatile — you can use the same dough and fill it with sweetened mashed red beans or lotus seeds for a dessert treat. Or just steam it by itself to turn it into “man tou” essentially steamed white bread that is used to soak up the wonderful sauce of Sichuanese or Hunanese dishes. If you shape the bun into a flat disc, it becomes the base for peking duck.
The dough can be allowed to rise slowly, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before using. If you are not using the dough straight away, punch it down and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup hot water
1 1/4 cup cold water
6 cups unbleached “00” or high protein bread flour plus additional for kneading
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
Part 1: Making and proofing the dough.
1. Proofing the yeast: Dissolve sugar in hot water. Add cold water to make a warm solution (105 – 115°F). Dissolve the yeast in the sugar solution. Stir lightly, and let stand in a warm place until mixture develops a creamy foam, about 7 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
2. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and add yeast mixture and oil and stir to incorporate the flour until dough holds together and just come away from side of bowl. Add a little more water if needed.
3. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead. Lightly flour your hands if necessary. Knead (by using the heels of your hands and your body weight to push away from you, pull it back and fold in the sides of the dough towards the center. Turn the dough right angle every few kneads) until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form into a ball.
4. Very lightly oil a large bowl, put the dough into the bowl and turn the dough so that all sides are coated. Cover the bowl tightly with a plastic wrap/damp tea cloth and let dough rise in a warm (75-80°F), draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1-3 hours. The dough is ready when it does not spring back when poked with a finger.
Part 2: Finishing the dough – Using the dough
1. Uncover the dough, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
2. Flatten it and make a well in the center. Sprinkle baking powder in the well, gather up the sides and fold to the center to incorporate the baking powder. Knead lightly for a few minutes till it becomes a ball again.
3. Divide the dough into two cylinders about 1 inch thick. Cut each into 10. Make 20 1-inch ball portions. Cover dough with a damp tea cloth as you work.
4. Proceed with dumpling recipes
Note: This basic dough can be used for char siu bau steamed pork bun recipes, plain steamed man tou recipes, shanghai cabbage steamed buns, chicken steamed bun recipes.
Serves: Makes 20 pastry skins
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