little bao sandwiches (gua bao 荷葉) with quick pickles, hoisin mushrooms, and seasoned pork

These little bao sandwiches can be eaten as appetizers or just a light lunch. Made from the same recipe as bao, Chinese steamed buns, these are sweet, savoury, and salty and can be stuffed with any manner of things–roast duck and crispy skin pork are a few examples. But leave out the meat and it becomes a vegan treat. Versatile yet so delicious!

I made these gua bao using “special flour” which may be available in Asian grocery stores wherever in the world you may live. Here in Bangkok “special flour” is available at the supermarkets. It is a low-gluten flour specially formulated to make bao or steamed buns. However, all-purpose flour is a fine substitute.

Little Bao Sandwiches

Yield: 15 bao sandwiches

Dry Ingredients

275g all purpose flour (can use special flour)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4-teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients

3/4-cup warm milk (110˚F)

3 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1 tablespoon rice bran oil, plus more for brushing

Pickled Carrots and Cucumber

1/3-cup thinly sliced carrots

1/3-cup thinly slice cucumbers

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon  sugar or to taste

1 teaspoon chile peppers, thinly sliced, optional

1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds, optional

Pinch of salt

White pepper

Hoisin Mushrooms

450g shiitake mushrooms

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon rice bran oil

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1/4-teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder or ground Sichuan pepper

Suggested Fillings and Toppings

Kimchi

Chopped roasted peanuts

Chopped scallions

Chopped cilantro

1/3 cup pork, beef, or chicken slivers marinated in 1 teaspoon each garlic, ginger, and soy sauce/fish sauce.

Make the buns. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Place the milk is a microwave safe  cup and microwave on high for 15-20 seconds until the milk is around 110˚F or warm to the touch. If it is too hot it will kill the yeast, so test it with your finger. Mix in the sugar and yeast. Let sit 10-15 minutes until the surface is covered in foam. When it is foamy, mix in the oil.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the yeast mixture gradually, using a fork to mix in the flour mixture. When the flour mixture is moistened, use your hands to knead the dough until smooth and the sides of the bowl are clean. Knead until the dough is elastic and no longer sticks to your hands, 5-10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball then place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest at least 1 hour or until doubled in size. While the dough is rising…

Make the Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers. Scrape out and discard the seeds of the cucumber. Peel the carrot. Cut the cucumber and carrot into matchsticks about 2-3-inches long. Place in a large bowl. 

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix well until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the chilies, if using. Pour over the cucumber and carrots. Toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let sit 10-15 minutes. Add the sesame seeds, if using, and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the hoisin mushrooms. Slice mushrooms into strips, discarding the stems. 

Heat a non stick pan over medium heat. Add the oil to the pan. Once hot, add the garlic and saute untiil lightly brown, 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry. Pour in the hoisin sauce. Mix well and cook over medium heat 5-6 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked through. Add the 5-spice powder or sichuan pepper and mix well. Off the heat and set aside.

Prepare the meat, if using, then cook in a teaspoon of hot oil. Set aside. 

Make the buns. Once the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Punch your finger into the center of the dough to make a hole. Stretch the dough to create a ring. Slice up the ring with a bench scraper into 12-15 equal pieces, each weighing 40 grams. Place the pieces in a baking tray and cover with a damp towel while working with one piece at a time. When you have four gua bao, steam them, and keep the remainder covered with the damp towel.

Roll a piece of dough into a ball and flatten it on a floured surface with the heel of your hand. Roll out the dough into an oval 3×4 inches to 3×4.5. Brush the tops of the flattened dough with a little oil then fold in half. Place each crescent on a piece of parchment. When you have 4 gua bao put them in a bamboo steamer basket or a stainless steel basket, about 2-inches apart. 

Fill the steamer with 2 inches of water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the basket. Bring water to a boil over medium heat. Once it boils, place the basket on top of the boiling water. Reduce heat and cover the steamer. Steam 8-10 minutes. When time is up, do not open the steamer. Off the heat and let the bao sit for 10 minutes. Remove the buns to a baking tray. Cover them with a  clean towel so they don’t cool and dry out. Repeat the process until all the dough is used up. 

Cook’s Note: If using a stainless steel steamer, wrap the lid in a kitchen towel to absorb the condensation. Water, if dripped on top of the bao while steaming, will make the top unattractive.

Assemble the sandwiches. Carefully open a bun. Add the pickles, mushrooms, meat (if using), kimchi and other fillings/toppings, if using.

When cooled, buns can be frozen covered in parchment paper to prevent them from sticking together. Store in a zipper lock bag in the freezer. Take out individually and steam them 10 minutes until warm and softened. Fill bao sandwiches and serve.

making egg rolls from scratch

Vietnamese Grilled Barbecue Pork Slices with Rice Noodles, Vegetables, and Egg Rolls

In my mind, I saw this dish with egg rolls. It had to have egg rolls. But in Thailand, a country in which 40 percent of the population is said to be of part or all Chinese ethnicity, finding egg roll skins or wrappers was proving to be a challenge. After a fruitless search of many supermarket refrigerator cases, I gave up. I conclude it is easier to find egg roll skins in a New York supermarket than it is in Bangkok. So I made my own skins using a recipe from the Spruce Eats. The rolling was the hardest thing of all because the skin must be as thin as possible, otherwise the egg roll would be doughy. Making egg rolls became a task that needed to be approached with determination, consistency, and above all, muscle power. And it paid off. I was pleased that the wrappers were as sturdy as the store-bought skins. The result: egg rolls that are chewy and tasty. Tasting them made the years roll back. When we lived in Wisconsin in the 1980s I used to make egg rolls often. I don’t quite know why I stopped making them, but I’m glad I’ve taken it up again.

Egg Roll Filling

You can add as many of the following as you would like. They are just ideas for your delicious egg rolls.

1/8 green cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium carrot, shredded into matchsticks

1 scallion, chopped

1 chive, chopped (can substitute minced celery)

1-2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts

1/2 cup soaked bean threads or rice vermicelli

4 small dried shiitake mushrooms, softened and slivered

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons oil

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat it until it shimmers. Add the garlic and stir fry until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook for a minute, then the carrots, another minute, and the cabbage, another minute or until shiny and wilted. Add the soaked and drained bean threads or rice vermicelli, cooking until transparent. Add bean sprouts, scallions, and chives and stir fry until wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper. Set aside to cool while you make the egg roll skins. If there is any cooking liquid, drain it.

Egg Roll Wrappers (Skins)

Yield: 7 6×6-inch egg roll skins

225g all-purpose flour

118 ml ice water, divided

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

Cornstarch for dusting

Combine the flour, 59g of ice water, egg, and salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hands. It is better to use your hands than a spoon because you can really work the ingredients together to form a cohesive dough. Add the rest of the water a tablespoon at a time to make a sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest 30 minutes. Then knead the dough again a few times.

Cut the dough ball in half with a bench scraper and cover one half with plastic while you work with the other half. Roll it as thin as possible, paper-thin, into a rectangle that is at least 6×6-inches. Cut out the squares. Dust each with a little cornstarch, stack and set aside. The cornstarch prevents the wrappers from sticking together while you roll out the rest. Re-roll the scraps and repeat with the remaining dough.

Assemble the egg rolls:

saucer of water

Oil for frying

Put a wrapper on the work surface in front of you. Turn it so that one corner faces you. Put about 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the lower one-third of the wrapper. Fold the corner close to you on top of the filling, then fold in the two sides so that you have an envelope. Roll up away from you, tucking in the edges and making the egg roll as tight as possible. Seal the opposite edges with water just like an envelope and roll it closed. Set aside and make another. Don’t worry if your egg roll doesn’t come out right or all even. It takes practice. If you’re not happy with the results, you can unroll the egg roll before sealing it and re-roll it. Just make sure there are no breaks in the skin or spaces where the filling can spill out during drying.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Dip a wooden chopstick in the oil. If bubbles cluster around the tip, the oil is hot enough for frying. Fry the egg rolls 2 at a time until golden, turning frequently for even browning. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Cool slightly before eating; you don’t want to burn your mouth on a hot egg roll. Serve with Thai chicken chili sauce or Vietnamese fish sauce for dipping, both of which are tart and a little spicy.

scallion pancake

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This is the savory pancake that is served in Chinese restaurants. It is so simple to make! The ingredients are flour, salt, hot water, oil, and scallions (green onions). The dough is filled with scallions, rolled out, and fried until crisp. It is sliced into wedges and served with a vinegar-soy dipping sauce. Delicious.

Scallion Pancakes (adapted from Food 52 and Allrecipes)
(Makes 2 pancakes)

Active time: about 40 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours

For the Dough:

2 cups (240 g) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt (1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
3/4 cup hot water (150˚F)

For the Oil Mixture
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

For the Pancakes
1 cup scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced (save 1-2 tablespoons for dipping sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or as needed.

Combine bread flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the hot water. Mix together with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy dough.

Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until sticky but relatively smooth and elastic, dusting with a minimal amount of flour, if needed. Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic on the work surface. Let dough rest for 2 hours.

Mix vegetable oil, sesame oil, and flour together in a skillet over medium heat until starting to bubble, about 3 minutes. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Unwrap dough and cut in half with a dough scraper. Cover the second half with plastic for later. Roll out half into a cylinder and flatten with your fingers. Use a rolling pin to roll out dough into a rectangular shape about 1/8 inch thick, 12-15 inches long, and 4 inches wide. The secret is to roll it as thin as possible. Flip dough over and dust lightly with flour halfway through. If the dough springs back, cover it with plastic or a clean kitchen towel and let it rest a few minutes.

Paint the surface of the dough with the oil mixture until just covered, leaving 1/4 inch of space around the edges. Sprinkle evenly about 2-3 tablespoons scallion on top. Roll up dough tightly to seal in the scallions, starting with the long side nearest you. Pull the opposite edge over the top once you have reached it.

Start coiling one end of the dough inward toward the middle; wrap the opposite end around the coil to finish, tucking the tip under the bottom. Dust the coil lightly with flour and roll dough out into a pancake about 1/4 inch thick, rolling from the center outward. Turn the pancake one quarter turn and repeat. Flip pancake over, lightly flouring the surface, and roll and repeat. You should get a pancake that’s about 9” in diameter. Repeat process with remaining dough, oil, and green onions to make the second pancake. Stack with wax paper between the pancakes until ready to fry.

Heat vegetable oil in a 10 inch heavy bottomed skillet over high heat. Add 1 pancake; lower heat to medium. Cook until crispy and browned, about 4 minutes per side. You don’t want it to brown too fast or the inside will not cook. The outside will be crisp and brown. When both sides are browned, slice the pancake into wedges. When cooked, the inside will separate into honeycomb-like layers. Repeat with the second pancake. Cut into wedges. Serve hot with dipping sauce (recipe follows).

Dipping Sauce for Scallion Pancakes

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Hot sauce to taste
Ginger, grated, to taste
1-2 tablespoons scallions, thinly sliced

Mix vinegar and soy sauce in a small bowl. Add hot sauce to taste. Grate some ginger to taste. Combine with about 1-2 tablespoons scallions.

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potstickers

Potstickers

We talked to Taranee on her birthday yesterday, and she said she was going to make Chinese dumplings. It’s so cold in the States right now, everyone craves comfort food. I thought about these potstickers and so I reblogged the recipe from my old blog dated  Sunday November 28, 2010.

 A potsticker is a Chinese dumpling appetizer–or a snack. I only made these because they were an America’s Test Kitchen recipe but I wasn’t sure if they had an authentic Chinese taste! Having eaten potstickers before, I made some adaptations to the recipe. Diana and AJ both said they were “delicate” in taste,  because I had used the lighter-tasting ground chicken instead of an “earthier” ground pork. This recipe makes more than 24 potstickers–I have leftover filling and dumpling dough.

Three cups napa cabbage
Napa cabbage chopped finely down to two and a half cups
Salted napa cabbage draining in a colander
Ground chicken, ginger, scallion, napa cabbage, egg whites, and seasoning
The filling
Ready to make potstickers
A scant tablespoon of filling
Mound the filling in a slightly oval shape
Wet the edges with a fingertip dipped in water
Fold the dumpling in half, pressing out any air pockets and sealing the edges
Only two potstickers left!
Yum!

For the potsticker filling
3 cups napa cabbage, chopped finely
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound ground pork or ground chicken
4 teaspoons soy sauce (recommend white soy sauce since it won’t color the meat)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 large egg white (original recipe: 2 egg whites)
4 medium scallions, chopped finely
1 large clove garlic (about 1 teaspoon), chopped finely

For the potsticker dumplings
1 package round gyoza or dumpling dough (See photo above)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup water

Make the filling. Combine napa cabbage and salt in a colander and set over a large bowl to drain. Salting the vegetable releases excess water. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add the drained napa cabbage and combine lightly. The original recipe said to refrigerate 30 minutes or more until ready to fill dumplings, but I skipped this step.

Make the dumplings. Assemble dumplings as in the photographs above. Put each dumpling on a parchment lined baking tray. Be careful not to over lap the dumplings. The recipe said to make 24 but cook 12 at a time.  I froze the remaining 12 dumplings and refrigerated the leftover dumpling filling and dumpling dough. I will make more dumplings tomorrow.

Pan-fry the dumplings. Arrange 12 dumplings in a cold 12-inch skillet. Add oil and fry 2 minutes until the dumplings are browned on the bottom. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan by pouring it around the dumplings. It will sizzle, so be careful.  Cook, covered, until the water is absorbed, about 3 minutes. I found the water was not completely absorbed so I removed the cover and let the dumplings cook for another minute or so until the water cooked down to about a tablespoon. Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce (recommend Kikkoman’s)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chili oil, optional
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, minced

I recommend, for an authentic Chinese taste, or just to spice things up, crumble a dried red chili in your fingers or chop up a fresh chili pepper and add to the dipping sauce. To make the sauce less spicy, remove the seeds and veins from the fresh chili, if preferred.  Put up any leftover sauce in the refrigerator. Caution: if you add dried or fresh chilies to the sauce it will marinate and become hotter!

P.S. I made 17 additional dumplings out of the leftovers!

Note: I reblogged this from my old blog dated  Sunday November 28, 2010.