I’ve been away for a few months and am slowly replacing the freezer burned leftovers my partner failed to spot with new easy meals my partner will fail to spot. That’s fine so long as I’m around, because more steamed buns for me.
I wonder if he reads this thing?
Anyway I am forever telling people that bao, or steamed buns, are not difficult to make, but then it dawned on me that I haven’t made them myself for years. I wondered if I was lying. When was the last time I made bao? Probably 2005 or 2006, after I returned from a trip to Beijing that turned me from an apathetic eat anything slob to a food and cooking obsessed slob. I cooked nothing but dim sum for a year.
I spent most of October and November in Bangkok, after a decision to take the plunge to begin learning to read, write, and speak Thai. I found the best teacher in the world (truly ดีที่สุดในโลก – I miss her dearly), who also loves cooking and pointed me in the direction of a few handy kitchen shopping spots.
One of my star finds was a tiered metal steamer, which I could buy here for three times the price and none of the sentimentality, that I was only able to ferry home when my partner announced he would visit and bring a suitcase. Score. You can steam a whole lot of buns on those trays (in related news, I see many tamales in my future).
Smoky Sriracha Tofu Vegan Steamed Buns
Never as difficult to make as people assume, baozi are perfect make ahead snacks for easy and filling meals on the go. Plus the potential for great fillings is virtually endless. This vegan steamed buns recipe uses a smoky tofu filling with a kick of chili spice brought on by the addition of Sriracha. Normally I would advise using a Thai variety, but Huy Fong and Flying Goose brands work well here. If you freeze the buns, simply steam for 15 minutes before eating.
- 100 millilitres (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) lukewarm water
- 5 grams (1 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
- 275 grams (2 cups) all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 80 millilitres (1/3 cup) soy milk
- 10 millilitres (2 teaspoons) vegetable oil
- 15 millilitres (1 tablespoon) sriracha
- 20 grams (1 tablespoon) miso
- 10 millilitres (2 teaspoons) liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- 5 grams (1 teaspoon) brown sugar
- 5 millilitres (1 teaspoon) soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Pinch or five freshly grated black pepper
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 185 grams extra firm tofu, crumbled – made by squeezing chunks in your fist to mash (about 1 ¼ cup)
- To make the dough, combine the lukewarm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the yeast and sugar are dissolved and then set aside for 10-15 minutes until the surface of the liquid is foamy and the yeast is activated.
- Meanwhile sift together the remaining sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
- Once the yeast is activated, pour the soy milk and oil in, along with the flour mixture. Knead for 10 minutes, either using your hands or the dough hook on a stand mixer (the dough will be quite sticky at first). Set aside for at least an hour – longer if it’s cold in your kitchen – until the dough has risen and at least tripled in size.
- Make the seasoning by mixing the sriracha, miso, liquid smoke, sesame seeds, brown sugar, soy sauce, tomato paste, corn starch, and a couple pinches of freshly grated black pepper in a small bowl.
- Heat the sesame oil in a wok or saute pan to a high heat and add the garlic. After 10 seconds (or when the garlic starts to turn to a darker colour), tip in the crumbled tofu and fry, stirring almost constantly, until the tofu is dry and is starting to brown.
- Add the liquid ingredients and continue to cook for another minute. Leave to cool to room temperature before filling the buns.
- Punch the risen dough down and divide into approximate 65 gram pieces (7-8 pieces). Roll them into vague ball shapes and flatten into 9-10 centimetre (4 inch) discs, trying to make the dough a little thinner at the edges if possible. Cover with cling film or kitchen roll to keep the dough from drying out.
- Working with one wrapper at a time, place a heaped tablespoon of filling in the centre of a disc and seal the bun by folding the edges to the middle, pinching a few pleats as you go. Or be lazy (like me) and just pinch it together on top. Set each bun on a square of non stick paper.
- Once all of the buns are prepared, cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare your steamer. Bamboo steamers or tiered Asian steamer pots are ideal. Ensure the water is vigorously boiling before lining the steamer(s) with the buns, leaving 2 inches between each one. Steam for 10 minutes.
- The baozi can be eaten immediately or cooled and then steamed for five minutes to reheat. If you freeze them, steam for 15 minutes to reheat.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Yield: 7-8 buns
- Cuisine: Chinese Fusion