Posted: 03/06/2017 09:16:00 AM
Today we’re here to talk to you about buns—the food-related kind, that is. And specifically, Asian buns.
With their light, pillowy outsides and delicious meaty (or non-meaty) insides, buns are truly one of the most mouth-watering dishes in Asian cuisine. There are variations of buns in many different Asian cuisines, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Filipino, and Vietnamese. Each country adds their own delicious twist: Korean food has steamed pork buns called jinppang-mandu, Vietnamese food also has steamed pork buns but they are called banh bao, and Chinese food has mantou, a classic staple in Northern China.
Read on for a round-up on some delicious bun creations from three fantastic food bloggers.
Chinese Steamed Pork Buns (菜肉包)
When making the dough, you can use water or milk. The steamed buns can be kept in the freezer for as long as two or three weeks. They don’t need to be defrosted; when you steam them again, their softness and freshness returns naturally.
Prepare 10 6cm x 6cm baking paper/wax paper.
Nikuman (Japanese Steamed Pork Buns)
Makes 8 buns
1 tablespoon rice vinegar, for cooking (optional)
1. To make the dough: Sift the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. Whisk the sugar into the flour. Pour the warm milk into the flour gradually, while stirring the flour with a wooden spoon, or your hand. Knead the dough until it becomes soft and smooth, about 15 minutes. Cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
2. To make the filling: Put the ground pork, onion, bamboo shoots, and ginger into a large bowl. Add the chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Mix the ingredients together until well incorporated and the meat becomes sticky.
3. Assemble the buns: Take a ball of dough and flatten it between your hands. Then, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a circle that is about 5 to 5 1/2 inches in diameter. Using your fingers, pinch the edges of the dough to make them thinner. Divide the meat mixture into 8 balls. Place one ball in the center of the dough and wrap it by bringing the dough up around the meat to the top, forming little pleats with the excess tough, then slightly twisting the dough to close it, then pinching it firmly to join it. Put the bun on a small square of parchment or wax paper. Repeat the process with the rest of the dough and meat.
4. Cook the buns: Put the water in the steamer base, along with 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar (optional). The vinegar will create whiter-looking buns. Preheat the steamer on high heat until it starts steaming. Place the buns on their squares of parchment/wax paper in the steamer and cover. Steam for 15 minutes on high heat. Remove from the heat and serve.
Pork Bulgogi Baozi
Julie from Willow Bird Baking shares this twist on classic pork buns by adding bulgogi, a classic Korean dish consisting of marinated slices of beef or park grilled on a barbecue or stove-top griddle.
To make the pork bulgogi: Whisk together marinade ingredients (soy sauce, garlic, green onions, onion, sesame seeds, sesame oil, pepper, honey, pepper paste, and pepper flakes) and toss pork in marinade. Cover and let the pork marinate overnight in the refrigerator (for at least 8 hours).
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add vegetable oil. When oil is shimmery, add some of the pork mixture (don’t crowd the pan — I cooked about 4 slices at a time) and cook, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until brown and done. Remove this pork to a cutting board. Cut all pork into small bite-sized pieces and place it in a bowl. Toss in chopped Korean pear.
To make the sauce: Whisk all sauce ingredients together except green onions. Pour about half of the sauce over your pork bulgogi (you want it lightly coated, not swimming in the sauce) and reserve the other half (with green onions sprinkled in) for dipping.
To make the bāozi: Sift together the flour, wheat or potato starch, and powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and gently combine the yeast, vinegar, and warm water in the well. Let this sit and proof for around 10 minutes before slowly mixing in the surrounding flour mixture bit by bit, forming a dough. Add in the shortening and then knead (on a KitchenAid mixer at about speed 4-6, knead for about 4 minutes; by hand, knead for about 10 minutes) until the dough is smooth and elastic. It shouldn’t be sticky to the touch.
Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly coated with vegetable oil. Cover it with a damp cloth and place it somewhere warm to rise (I always put mine into an oven that has been warmed for a few minutes and then left open to drop to just above room temperature) for 30 minutes. I never noticed too much rise, so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like a huge difference.
After 30 minutes, dissolve the baking powder completely in the water and sprinkle this mixture over the bao dough. Knead it in to fully combine it (I used the dough to mop up any of the mixture that was still on the bowl and kneaded it in well — an uneven distribution of baking powder can cause discoloration of your buns). Recover the dough and let it rest for 10 more minutes.
To fill and shape your buns: Turn the dough out onto wax paper and pat it into an even width. Use a dough cutter or sharp knife to divide it into 12 roughly equal sections. Take one section and gently roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick with a rolling pin (I keep the sections I’m not working with covered with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.) Holding the dough in your non-dominant hand, place the pork bulgogi filling in the center and carefully pleat the edges of the dough together at the top, turning the bun as you work, until it is fully closed (see the video below for a demonstration of to shape the buns — and jokes about the word ‘buns,’ of course). Place each bun on a square of wax or parchment paper.
To steam your buns: Preheat your steamer by boiling water and a teaspoon of vinegar over medium-high heat in a saucepan with your steamer on top. Preheating the steamer ensures your buns will fully rise. Once it’s steaming, place buns in each tier (being careful not to crowd them), spray them with a bit of water (this help ensure a smooth surface), and close the steamer. Cook for 12 minutes without opening the lid. Remove the buns to a cooling rack to let them cool. Serve warm with reserved dipping sauce.
And there you have it, bun lovers. Choose the recipe that looks the most delectable to you, or try all three! Happy cooking!