I woke up this morning and decided it was going to be a lazy Saturday so I didn’t put my contacts in. My grandparents arrived in the morning to get help filing taxes, my grandma bundled in her hot pink parka, my grandpa in his Golden Gate Bridge windbreaker, rolling backpacks atow. They brought pineapple buns and Cookie Crisp for me as if I were a seven year old, and I yay’ed like I was a seven year old. We went out to eat at a Wuhan-Chinese restaurant (where I learned that duck necks are the trendiest thing to eat in Wuhan right now, usually savored with a bottle of beer) and I came back refreshed after a post-lunch nap in the car.
Since I didn’t want to spend another weekend watching Downton Abbey until my butt feels numb and didn’t feel like starting homework just yet, I headed out to plant the heirloom seeds I got last weekend, among them the seeds of buttercrunch lettuce, brussels sprouts, and round Parisian carrots (Trader Joe’s sells frozen Parisian carrots they call an “international phenomenon” so how could I resist). Our vegetable garden is actually a corner of our former back-yard lawn which has long since lost the war to the ferocious weeds. It’s hard work tangling with those monsters but a few unflattering tan lines later everything was in the ground.
After a shower I decided to whip up some 馒头 (mantou, steamed bread) because I’ve always found making bread to be soothing. My dad bought some ground pork though so I made these pork buns instead. We had them for dinner alongside spinach blanched in duck broth.
Happy Saturday everyone.
Steamed Pork Buns Recipe
Dough adapted from Baking’s Corner
Filling from Dad’s suggestions
The dough makes fantastic mantou (plain steamed buns) as well. Just divide it into sixteen pieces, roll each piece into a ball, let them rise for half an hour, then steam for 20 minutes.
I used this bleached (and I suspect high gluten) flour but I’ve used unbleached all purpose as well and it turns out just fine. It will not be so milky white but it maintains the sweet flavor of wheat.
4 leaves Napa cabbage, washed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound ground pork (coarse ground, if possible)
4 scallions, sliced
1 inch knob of ginger, minced
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon 十八香 (a medley of eighteen spices ) or five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder
[for the dough]
240 grams (1 cup) warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
450 grams (3 1/2 cups) flour (see note)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon oil
- In a medium bowl, toss together the chopped Napa cabbage and the sesame oil. This will (theoretically) form a barrier around the cabbage pieces, preventing it from releasing too much cabbage juice into the filling. Since nobody likes soggy buns.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add in the cabbage and mix well. Cover and set aside while preparing the dough.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Let it sit while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and oil. Pour in the yeasty water and stir with a big spoon until it comes together in a shaggy mess. Dump everything on a clean work surface and knead the dough for 8 minutes. It should be smooth and not sticky. Let it rest for five minutes.
- Divide the dough into sixteen equal pieces. Mine were about 45 grams each. Smush one piece of dough into a circle and roll it out to 1/8 inch thick. It should be slightly thicker in the center than it is on the edge. Hold it in the palm of your left hand and cup it slightly. Spoon a tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper then, working counterclockwise, pleat the edges. Put the finished bun on a square of parchment paper or on a steamer liner. Repeat for the remaining dough and filling.
- Let them sit for ten minutes then steam for 30 minutes. After turning off the heat wait for 5 minutes before carefully opening the cover.