One of the favorite dining experiences of Certain Someone and I, is going to China Town on a Sunday and indulging in Dim Sum. The tasty assortment and nibbles are endless and satisfying. Another added bonus is that is doesn’t cost us a fortune. I love any sort of steamed bun or bao and normally have purchased them frozen. I finally decided to make my own after finding some pork belly in my freezer. Brainstorming on what to do with my hunk of rich meat , I thought back to last December and a long weekend in New York City. Certain Someone had purchased tickets for his favorite band Rammstein, an industrial metal German band known for intense pyrotechnics. This was their first concert in the United States in 10 years to test the waters. It was so good that they are now on tour in the US. Anyway, as I’m normally in charge of the food recommendations. I was dying to go to the famous Momofuku Noddle Bar. The hype over the years was huge and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They don’t take reservations there except for the fried chicken. So we taxied over and waited in line for approx 30 minutes on a Friday night. If it was any longer Certain Someone would have walked. But he was a good sport and we waited for the surprisingly short duration. Finally two spaces opened up for us at the bar. Tight ,noisy , and nor very intimate. But I was there for the food. Our server /bartender was very hospitable to us and Certain Someone ordered a nice selection of items. Was it good? Yes. Was it an epiphany , not so much. Was it expensive for what you got, yes again, with all the drinks thrown in as well. Compared to the venues we have gone to in various Chinatowns,we were paying for the scene , more than the food. In the end , we are the types who prefer a more low key , non pretentious place that gives more value for the price. But I can say been there , done that. If the place wasn’t so loud, small and had better seating, then maybe I would view the whole experience differently. Its hard to enjoy a meal cramped up , elbow to elbow on a high chair at the bar, with your backs against the cold new York winter air.I do need to visit David Chang’s other venues .
So I decided to make my own buns for way less money. Be prepared to dedicate a better part of your day to these. Some aspects can be pre made , thereby making it an excellent appetizer for parties or summer cookouts coming up. The most intimidating piece of this for me was the bun/bao, as Chinese pastry has always mystified me. You can dress the buns up in a myriad of ways. I love various Asian influence like pickled vegetables and maybe some spice to offset the rich fattiness of the pork belly. If you don’t like pork, try roasted chicken or duck with the crispy skin left on. Shrimp or beef works too. I made quick pickle of julienned Daikon radish and carrots, sliced some cucumbers, green onion, and cilantro. Add a slather of Hoisin and you are in for a treat.
I followed this recipe from Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie , but made some changes in the dough as I didn’t have dried milk in my pantry. I substituted 2 tablespoons heated whole milk to the 3/4 ( less 2 tablespoons ) of water. The dough turned out beautifully. If you need more flour or liquid, add it slowly until the dough forms a nice ball while kneading.
Next time I’m going to make my own brine with some aromatics like star anise and garlic, and peppercorns. Or I may just add them to my braising liquid for a more luxurious flavor.
For the quick pickle, I didn’t soak my vegetables in salt water overnight, as normal picking recipes call for. I just heated 1 part sugar to 1 part white vinegar, a start anise and dried Thai chili to a boil and plunged my vegetable in . Remove from heat immediately and let cool submerged in the liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Warning…These bao are quite filling and somewhat addictive. But I suspect the whole family will love them. Try various proteins as filling choices, and have yourself a little Bao party with all the fixings.