January 4, 2009

You've had Bao?

A while back E's sister had lived on the bwest coast and had developed an addiction to Bao (of the steamed beef curry variety from Pike's Place Market).

Since returning to the South, she'd become friends with a woman, ("M"), of Chinese descent, whose family had lived in Taiwan and Jamaica.

When M heard that E's sister loved Bao, M had invited her to come over one day to make her family's traditional recipe, which was not the sweet char sui bao of barbeque sweet pork, but rather, was more acidic, vinegar-based, and savory. I will get the recipe one of these days, but to my recollection it involved a day-long crock-pot preparation of pork with many savory spices, and further stewing in a pot with water chestnuts, mushrooms, additional spices and additions. It was phenomenal.

In other words, if I could design a bao for me, this would be it.

But, I digress. One night while in the South this winter break, E's sister casually mentioned that the next day she was headed to M's to make the bao. I wanted to go. I did my best to be Southernly polite but also explain that it would be so-so-so-so-so-super-cool if I could somehow manage to score myself an invitation. Despite my desire to go, rude Californian that I am, I also assumed I could fit in my yoga class in the AM, and when I realized it did not fit in the schedule, I tried to retract my request and ask E's sister to go without me and report back with detailed directions on how to prepare the buns.

Slowly, I am learning the Southern ways, and the next day, I learned that my behavior actually translated as a request that the schedule be altered on my behalf. Thankfully, no one involved with the Bao appeared to have a serious schedule and all was well.

E's sister, of course, is an angel, and while I was at my yoga class, assuming I'd miss the bao cooking, she called to ask M if she could bring a guest and postpone her arrival. I returned from the yoga studio sweaty, red-faced, and surprised by E's sister's prompts to take a quick shower so we could go make bao.

Hell Yeah! Talk about the perfect day! So, after waking to a great yoga class, a shower, and a BLT "snack" (how awesome is the south?), I arrived as a guest at my new friend M's, who presented us with this wonderous sight:


That would be the bao dough in the background (which, apparently, fizzes when you add the liquid to the dry portions), and the beautiful savory filling in the foreground.

M showed us to how to make the shell to be filled:


And how to keep twisting:


And pinching, until it was closed:


Apparently, bad-ass chefs leave their twisted sides up during steaming, but it's much safer to put them down on the parchment, so that's what we did:


And finally, after 20 minutes of steaming, we had success:


Savory, delicious success:


I heart bao.


biff said...

Hmm...apparently you can put anything in baos. I've seen some at Asian markets that are sweet deserts.

Beanie said...

I once found bao dough mix in an Asian market, came home and made my own bbq buns. Back when I was ambitious and crafty. Now I'm neither of those things. :)