March 21, 2011

Char Siu Bao and Gai Lan

This was our dim sum dinner a few weeks ago- one of several we've had and probably the best one so far.  We had char siu bao made two ways, umami eggs, and sauteed gai lan, which might be my new favorite kind of greens.  Really the only problem with this meal came at the end, when we were left to suffer a persistent lack of green tea ice cream despite our endless whining about needing some.  

If you've never had bao before, and you can't readily pick some up at your local Asian grocery (or are afraid to because there may have been glandular things in them the last time you tried that), you can very easily make them at home.  The dough is really simple, and when it steams, you get a soft and fluffy bun that goes great with meat and vegetables (or just one or the other), even soup and sweet pastes.  Our bao were unusually brown, but they were still pillowy soft. This discoloration didn't happen last time, so I'm not sure what we did wrong... But we'll work on it next time, and there will most certainly be a next time.  The two types of buns we made each used the same dough- the dough was either steamed to become plain bao or wrapped raw around the pork filling before steaming. (You may be able to find the dough at an Asian market, making this a much easier and quicker meal.)

The buns and pork make great leftovers, and I seriously dare you to get sick of them.  We ate them for about 5 meals in a row, breakfast included.  The combination of sweet, salty, and spicy is just addicting. And we still never got our green tea ice cream.  Any Raleigh locals know where we can satisfy these cravings in a pint-sized form?
Char Siu
adapted from Momofuku for 2
2 pounds pork butt/tenderloin cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons brown sugar 
3 tablespoons honey or white sugar 
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
several grinds of pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4-5 cloves of garlic, sliced

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together.  Pour over the pork, tossing the pieces to coat with the marinade, and refrigerate overnight.  

When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350F.  Remove the pork from the marinade and shake off any excess.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes (this will depend on the size of your cut meat).  Check after 30 minutes for doneness (temp should be around 160F). When the meat is done cooking, turn your oven to broil (or the highest setting) and brush the meat with honey or sprinkle with white sugar.  Char the meat, turning as needed to get each side nicely crisped.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before slicing. 

Bao Dough
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour

Combine yeast and water and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then add the water/yeast mixture.  Stir together with a spoon until a ragged ball forms.  If your dough is too dry, you can add some more water by the tablespoon to bring it together. Turn the ball of dough out onto your counter or work surface and knead until smooth. The dough shouldn't be sticky (add a sprinkle of flour if it is) and should spring back when poked. 

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.  Remove from bowl, and cut into 10-12 pieces, then form each of these into balls.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  

For stuffed bao: Roll out or hand-flatten each ball into a circle so that it's thick enough not to rip when manipulated. This will be about 3-4 inches.  Fill with 3 tbsp. of filling and bring the edges. Place each bao on a square of parchment paper or directly onto par-steamed cabbage in the steamer.  Steam for 15 minutes, then cool slightly before eating. 

For plain bao:  Roll out or hand flatten each ball into an oval.  Brush one side lightly with sesame oil and fold over.  Place each bao on a square of parchment paper or directly onto par-steamed cabbage in the steamer.  Steam for 15 minutes, then cool slightly before adding filling and eating.  
We used half of our meat to make filled bao.  We diced the pork, then made another batch of the marinade, adding a dash of teriyaki and a good amount sriracha, to stir with the pork, and used it to stuff your raw dough.  

The other half of our thinly sliced char siu was layered onto steamed plain bao with pickled daikon and carrot, sliced cucumbers, and a good drizzle of ponzu.  E's kind of famous for his ponzu.  It's an amazing dipping sauce, I found myself going back for another bun just so I had something to dunk in the ponzu.  You can use it as a sauce for seafood, dumplings, vegetables, or even your own fingers.  I wouldn't judge you. 

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/2 orange (or grapefruit)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, allow to cool, and serve.  
Sauteed Gai Lan (because every dinner needs a little green!)
1 bunch gai lan
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp grapeseed or vegetable oil

Rinse and dry the gai lan.  Chop into small pieces, using the stems (they taste great and add crunch).  Heat the grapeseed or vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add the gai lan and allow to wilt for a couple minutes.  Add the sesame oil and soy sauce, and continue cooking until the leaves are completely wilted.  Remove from heat, and serve.  

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