Char siu bao
This is one of the best winter foods — sweet, fluffy bread, wrapped around a savoury, fragrant filling — especially when served with spicy chinese mustard. There are a lot of different kinds of bao (or mandu, or niku man, or banh) but the barbecue pork one is the archetype. They’re best eaten right away, but are good reheated, too, for breakfast or lunch. This recipe is a little bit labour intensive (sorry, not sorry), so if you want to make char siu bao, grab a bunch of friends, and start stuffing.
You can make this from commercially bought char siu (Chinese barbecued pork). Almost any China Town will have barbecue restaurants. Even Panda Express char siu is not completely terrible, if you’re desperate (this is the only thing you should ever buy at Panda Express — BRF). But with a little more effort, you can make your own char siu, and it’s much, much better.
Once you have the pork, the filling is easy. And the bun making process is a lot of fun!
– 2 tbsp (30ml) finely chopped green onion (white part only)
You’ll need to start the dough about 2 hours in advance.
Combine the hoisin sauce, rice wine and oyster sauce. Little-by-little add the liquid to the corn starch, and stir to incorporate (to avoid lumps). Heat this mixture over medium heat on the stove, or in the microwave, stirring occasionally. When it boils, thickens, and turns clear, take it off the heat, and mix the meat, sauce, and optional onion together. Let it cool down. Depending on how saucy you want it, you can add a little water, or a little more hoisin sauce at this point. If you’ve made your own char siu, it should be plenty salty, but taste and adjust, to be sure.
Take the dough, split it into 15 even-sized balls, and roll it out according to the instructions. Then stuff the buns (with about 1.5 tbsp of stuffing per bun), and put them on scraps of greased parchment paper, or leaves of cabbage, so they don’t stick to the steamer.
Let the buns rest for about ten minutes, and steam them. Don’t make them too big, or pack them too tightly. They’ll double in size approximately, and they need room around their sides to cook. Four or five should be plenty of buns for a single steamer tray. They will cook in about 15-20 minutes.
Alternatively, put them on a baking tray, and bake them in a 350F (180C) oven, for about 10 minutes. Brush the surface of the buns with a little wash of egg yolk and milk, to make them shiny. Let them bake for another 5 minutes (until they’re brown).
You’re best off doing this with a bunch of friends, and some beer or wine. Serve the buns with spicy Chinese mustard.