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Steamed Pork Buns (Banh Bao)

Steamed Pork Bun (Banh Bao) -- fluffy, doughy bun with a savory filling...now that's comfort food! | recipe from runawayrice.comI think I’ve discovered one of the most universally appealing snacks.  While working on this post, I was searching for a few alternative names for this fluffy, steamed bun filled with savory meats.  To my pleasant surprise, I learned these delectable buns are quite well-loved in Asian cuisine and are known by many different names.  Here are just a few: Bao, Bau, Tai Pao (Cantonese), Baozi (Mandarin), Nikuman (Japanese), Siopao (Filipino), Salapao (Sino-Thai) and Jjinpang Mandu (Korean).  (If you know this dish by another name, do share!)

Call it what you will, for me these sweet and savory buns are all about comfort food and childhood memories.  I remember my Mom filling my little hands with one of these piping-hot buns as a child.  I recall relishing the taste of the soft, slightly sweet dough in perfect contrast to the savory ground pork and Chinese sausage.  The hard-boiled egg was always my favorite–I’d eat that right away and then nibble my way around the rest of the bun…Yum!  Even today, these buns are still a special treat for me.  No doubt, they take a bit of time to make but I enjoy the entire process.  Now, my favorite part is watching my family and friends devour them….I think my Mom was on to something!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

Always use fresh active dry yeast.  If it’s close to the expiration date, don’t use it.  Unless you cook with yeast often, avoid buying the larger quantities of yeast in the jars.  Buy the single-use packages instead.  They will stay fresher longer.

The temperature of the milk should be warm around 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit.  If the milk is too hot it will kill the yeast.

For proofing the dough, the oven should be approximately 100 degrees.  Covering the dough with a kitchen towel prevents circulating air from affecting the dough as it rises.  It also helps to keep the temperature constant.

The dough should approximately double in size after the resting period.  If it hasn’t double in size after 1 hour, let it rest for awhile longer until it has doubled in size.

When steaming the buns:  to prevent the moisture in the lid from dripping onto the buns, one trick to try is to wrap the lid with a kitchen towel.  Otherwise, wipe the lid twice as I showed in the video.  When removing the lid, do it in a quick motion and try not to drip any of the water onto the buns.  If you see shiny blisters on the buns, this is from dripping water.

If you have time, steam the buns in a single layer rather than a double layer.  This way the buns will steam evenly.  Alternatively, you can rotate the trays about halfway through the steaming process.

Don’t skip the part about adding vinegar to the water pan.  I promise the buns won’t smell like vinegar.  The vinegar helps to keep the buns a nice, bright color.

Watch the video below for instructions.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like: Hot Pastry Pie (Pate Chaud) or Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Dumplings (Banh Khuc).

Ingredients

for the Dough
1 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 cups cake flour
1 cup bread flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

for the Filling
1 lb ground pork (or any ground meat of your choice)
1/2 cup yellow onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup woodear mushrooms, finely chopped
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cornstarch

3 Chinese sausage links
3 large eggs or 12 quail eggs hard-boiled

Other Items
12 cupcake liners or 3-inch parchment/wax paper circles
1/4 cup white vinegar

Directions

Preheat oven to 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit.  When it comes to temperature, turn off the oven.

Warm the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds, 45 seconds if the milk is cold.  Add 1/2 tsp sugar and active dry yeast to the warmed milk.  Stir together for 1 minute.  Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes until foamy.

In a mixing bowl, combine the bread flour and cake flour.  Take 1 Tbsp of the flour mixture and combine with the baking powder.  Set aside for now.  Add the remaining sugar to the flour mixture and stir together.  Stir the milk and yeast mixture and add to the mixing bowl along with the vegetable oil.  Use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to combine the ingredients.  Mix on Low speed for 2 minutes.  Increase the speed to Medium Low and mix for another 2 minutes.  Add the flour and baking powder mixture prepared earlier and mix for another minute.

Remove the dough from the stand mixer and gently knead by hand for 2-3 minutes.  Place dough into a large bowl.  Coat the dough with a thin layer of vegetable oil.  Cover bowl with a large kitchen towel and then place into the warm oven.  Let the dough rest for 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling (except the sausage and eggs).   Roll into 12 balls.

Lightly flour the work surface.  Gently knead the dough for a few minutes.  Divide the dough and then roll into 12 even-sized balls.  Cover the dough balls with a damp paper towel and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Cut each hard-boiled egg into 4 pieces.  Cut each Chinese sausage link into 12 thin slices at a diagonal.  Set aside for now.

Generously flour the work surface again.  Take one of the dough balls and flatten to a 5-inch circle using a rolling pin.  Flatten the edge of the circle so it’s thinner than the middle.  Place the dough on the work surface.  On top of the dough add 2 slices of sausage and then the filling ball.  Top with one piece of egg and another sausage slice.  Pleat the dough around the bun while pinching it together at the top making sure to cover the filling completely.  Twist the top of the bun to secure it.  Pat the bun to round out the shape.  Place the bun on the cupcake/muffin liner.  Continue making the buns until all 12 are made.  Place the buns into the steamer trays making sure to leave about 1-inch between each bun.

Prepare the steamer by filling the bottom basin halfway with water.  Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to the water and then bring to a rapid boil over High heat.  Add the steamer trays.  Wipe the moisture from the lid before replacing.  Lower the heat to Medium High and steam the buns for 10 minutes.  Carefully remove the lid and wipe out the moisture again.  Cover and continue steaming for another 10 minutes.  (Total steaming time is 20 minutes.)

Remove the buns from steamer.  Allow to cool slightly before enjoying.

These buns can be reheated in a steamer or microwave.  To warm in a microwave, wrap a bun in a moistened paper towel and cook on High for 1 minute.

Store any uneaten buns in the refrigerator.  They are best if consumed within the week.  The steamed buns can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Yields:  12 buns

Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen

Hearty and delicious Steamed Pork Buns | recipe from runawayrice.com*This post contains affiliate links.*

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Egg Rolls (Cha Gio/Nem Ran)

Pork and Shrimp Egg Rolls served with a Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce | recipe from runaway rice.com

This is my Mom’s recipe and I have to say, these egg rolls are the best I’ve tasted.  (Thanks Mom!)  I like the balance of meat–pork and shrimp, and vegetables in the filling.  This recipe uses carrots which is quite common.  The taro root is a differentiating ingredient and adds a nice mealy texture to the egg rolls.  There’s no cabbage in this recipe which I find makes the filling wet and gives the egg rolls that funny (you know!) smell.

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks
  • Make sure to remove any excess water from the noodles and vegetables.  Adding 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the filling helps to absorb any excess moisture.  This helps to reduce the chance of egg rolls popping and exploding when deep frying.  (We don’t want any oil splatters or burns!)
  • Peel off a small stack, about 5-7 egg roll wrappers at a time, fold in half to form two triangles, and then using scissors cut along the folded line.  I cut the entire package first.  When rolling, I take one of the small stacks, peel off the individual wrappers and then make the egg rolls.  To keep the unrolled wrappers moist, cover with a damp paper towel.
  • When I am short on time, I make the filling the night before and then refrigerate.  The next day, I roll and fry.
  • Any leftover egg rolls can be refrigerated and then reheated in a toaster oven.  They’re just as delicious as freshly fried!
  • Strive to have the same amount of filling in each egg roll.  Also prior to rolling, evenly distribute the filling forming a small log on the wrapper.  This way you will have an even amount of meat and wrapper and they will all cook at the same time.
  • Don’t let the egg rolls sit too long before frying.  The wrapper will get moist from the filling.
  • Make sure to use enough oil to completely immerse the egg rolls when deep frying.  If you use too little oil, the egg rolls will not brown evenly.
  • I find the egg rolls cook faster when deep frying in a single layer.  Double stacking or over-filing the fryer increases the cooking time.
  • I love the taste of peanut oil!  The egg rolls brown up really nicely and quickly with this oil.
  • If you don’t have an electric fryer, deep fry the egg rolls in a saucepan or wok.  Use a thermometer to get the right temperature.

Watch the video below for instructions.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like: Grilled Pork Sausage Fresh Spring Rolls (Nem Nuong Cuon) and Grilled Shrimp, Egg Rolls and Rice Vermicelli (Bun Cha Gio Tom Nuong).

Ingredients

1 lb ground pork or country style rib pork pieces
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lb carrots
1/4 lb yellow onions
1/2 lb taro root (fresh or frozen)
1-1.8 oz package bean thread noodles
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp cornstarch (optional)
1 package egg roll wrappers (25 square sheets per package)
1 Tbsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp water
vegetable oil for deep frying

Directions

Peel skins off carrots and taro root and rinse with water.  Pat thoroughly dry with a paper towel.  If using frozen taro root, cut into smaller chunks.  Use a stand mixer with a shredder attachment to finely shred the taro root and carrots.  Alternatively, use a food processor or mandoline to achieve the fine shreds.  Finely dice the onions.

Mince the shrimp by hand or use a meat grinder attached to the stand mixer.  If using pork pieces, grind the pork using the meat attachment as well.

Soak the noodles in warm water for 10 minutes to soften.  Blot the noodles dry using a paper towel.  Using scissors, cut noodles into short strands.

In a large bowl, combine the pork, shrimp, carrots, onions, taro root, noodles, sugar, salt, ground black pepper and optionally cornstarch.  Mix all ingredients well.  (I use my hands and this takes approximately 2 minutes.)

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water and stir until smooth.  We will use this mixture later to seal the wrapper.

See above for tips on cutting and peeling the egg roll wrappers.  Place a single wrapper triangle on a cutting board so the point is on top and the longest side of the triangle is closest to you.  Place 1 heaping tablespoon of filling on the wrapper centering it along the bottom edge of the wrapper.  Fold the left and right sides of the wrapper over the filling.  (The two folded sides should meet in the middle of the roll.)  Take the bottom edge and fold it over and then roll gently away from you.  Use firm pressure but don’t roll too tightly or the wrapper will tear.  When there’s just a 1/2-inch triangle section of wrapper left, dip a finger in the cornstarch/water mixture and dab the top triangle with the “glue”.  Finish rolling, sealing the wrapper edge well.  Roll a batch of a dozen egg rolls and the fry per below.

Heat the oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit in an electric fryer or saucepan.  Place the egg rolls into a fryer basket with the seam side down.  Put the basket in the oil so that it partially covers the egg rolls.  Hold the basket in place for 10 seconds.  (This seals the edges of the egg roll.)  Now release the basket into the oil completely.  Deep fry for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown.  If you like them crispier, fry for 13-15 minutes.  Remove the egg rolls from fryer and place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce as an appetizer.  Optionally serve with rice noodles, fish sauce dipping sauce, and fresh greens and herbs.

Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen

Yields:  35-40 egg rolls

*This post contains affiliate links.*

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Hot Pastry Pies (Pate Chaud)

These French-inspired savory hot pastry pies are filled with ground meat and vegetables and then baked to a beautiful golden brown color.  The typical recipe uses ground pork with a puff pastry dough.  My version is a lighter and healthier option.  Any ground meat works well in this recipe but I especially like lean ground turkey or chicken.  I also like a generous amount of vegetables in my filling and use onions, celery (which adds a really nice crunch) and the traditional wood ear mushrooms.  I swap out the puff pastry for refrigerated biscuit dough.  Why? The puff pastry, although delicious, is actually quite heavy with the ingredients listing “hydrogenated vegetable shortening as the third ingredient (pretty fattening!).  I like using biscuit dough because it’s a lot lighter in terms of calories and fat content.  I also find refrigerated biscuit dough to be perfectly portioned, much easier to work and much less expensive than the puff pastry.

These pastry pies make a wonderful quick appetizer or snack.  The best way to reheat the pies is in a toaster oven for 5 minutes.  If you’re short on time, pop them in the microwave for 45 seconds.

Watch the video below for instructions.

Ingredients

2 cans refrigerated biscuit dough (Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layer, 8 biscuits per can)
1 1/3 lb ground meat of your choice (I use lean turkey)
1/2 cup finely diced onions
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup rehydrated wood ear mushrooms (also called black fungus), finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp water

Directions

Soak wood ear mushrooms in a bowl of tap water for 10 minutes.  Drain well and then finely chop.

Finely dice celery and onions.  In a large bowl combine ground meat, onions, celery and mushrooms, salt and pepper and mix well.

To make the egg wash, separate the egg and put the yolk into a small bowl.  Add the water to the yolk and mix together.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle a thin layer of flour on your work surface.  Remove the biscuits from the can.  (Leave the other can in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.)  Take a biscuit and roll it flat using a small rolling pin.  Roll the dough in an oval shape approximately 6 inches long by 4 inches wide.  Scoop out approximately 2 tablespoons of filling and drop about 1/2 inch from the bottom edge of the dough.  Form the meat into a log using your fingers.  Gently lift the top edge of the dough and fold it over lining up the edges.  Press the edges together gently using your finger.  Use the fork to seal along the edge of the pastry pie.  Continue until all pies are made.  Place pies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Brush each pie with the egg wash.  Prick holes on top of pastry with a fork.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  About halfway through the baking process, rotate the baking sheets so the pies brown evenly.

Remove from oven and place on cooling racks.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Yields: 16 pies

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