Saturday, June 4, 2016

Take Out Flavor at Home: Steamed Pork Buns

I always hesitate to post recipes for ethnic foods that I am new to cooking. I'm afraid that someone will read this who is an expert and be appalled at my amateurish attempt. How embarrassing. So, OK, I'm going out on a limb here, but I recently tasted a recipe that I have to share, and I hope that it will get the stamp of approval from most of you, expert or not.

Steamed pork buns are delicious little pastries filled with a sweet shredded pork filling. Steamed or baked, these buns are a favorite of dim sum lovers of which I count myself as one. I've eaten lots of pork buns in my day and think these are pretty darned good even if my assembly technique still needs a bit of work.

I wish I could take credit for this particular recipe but it is mostly courtesy of Sur la Table. I have made a couple of tweaks, most notably the quantity of pork. The original recipe calls for 2 pounds of boneless pork country-style ribs which I found to be at least 8 - 10 ounces too much for the amount of dough that the recipe makes. Of course you could always make 2 pounds which will leave you with plenty to nibble on.

I would love to give you a link to this recipe on their site, but unfortunately there just isn't one, so I am reproducing the recipe here in its entirety. To visit their site and access their other delicious recipes, please click here.

Steamed Pork Buns

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for oiling the bowl
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch of table salt

In a small bowl, combine the water and yeast; when foamy add the oil and whisk to combine.

Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl and make a well in the center, add the yeast mixture and mix into a soft, pliable dough. Turn dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth, pliable and elastic (Dough should not be sticky at this point.  Knead in small amounts of additional flour if it is.) Place dough into a medium size oiled bowl (or place on a Silpat and cover with the oiled bowl like in my photo), cover with plastic wrap and place it in the warmest part of your kitchen to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. Thank you for this tip Chef Celeste.

1 hour later . . .

Pork filling:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 - 2 pounds (2, if you like to have some extra to snack on), country-style pork ribs, bone in or boneless
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup hoisin sauce, divided
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (Sherry is a good substitute)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 tablespoons freshly grated gingerroot
Lettuce or cabbage leaves (of any sort) for steaming

Pressure cooker method:
Heat a pressure cooker to medium-high and add oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper. When the oil is shimmering, add the pork and sear on all sides until golden brown.

In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons of the hoisin sauce and the remaining ingredients, whisking well to combine. pour sauce over pork, lock the lid and cook for 45 minutes on high once pressure is reached.

Alternate Cooking Method:
Place salt and pepper seasoned meat into a pan that has been preheated with 1 tablespoon of oil. Brown on all sides, add hoisin mixture, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook until meat is fall apart tender, approximately 1 - 1/2 hours. This can also be done in a 325 degree oven.

Once meat is cooked, transfer to a medium bowl and shred the pork using 2 forks. Add 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid and remaining 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce to the pork and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more cooking liquid if mixture seems too dry. Set mixture aside while preparing dough.

To Assemble Buns:
Line a bamboo or metal steamer with lettuce or cabbage leaves, leaving areas open to allow steam to pass through.

Divide dough into 8 - 12 equal portions, depending on how big you want your buns to be. Roll each portion into a round ball. Shape the balls into discs about 4" in diameter, leaving the middle just a bit thicker than the edges. Spoon about a tablespoon in the center of each round. Pull the edges up and pleat the dough around the filling, pinching as you work your way around the entire circle. As you can see from my photos, I need a lot of practice when it comes to forming my buns. Good thing I love making them!

To Steam Buns:
Pour water into a wok or large pot to a depth of 3 inches and heat over a medium high heat to a strong simmer. Stack bamboo steamers in the wok or place a steamer insert into the pot. Steamer should not touch the surface of the water. Arrange buns in the steamer at least 1" apart. Cover steamer and steam buns for approximately 15 minutes or until they are puffed and fluffy.

Serve immediately.

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