Cooking with Alison

Steamed Chicken (or Pork) and Chinese Chive Buns

In Dim Sum, Other Asian Foods, Steamed Bread on June 19, 2011 at am

I love Chinese steamed buns with savoury meat fillings.  (See my pork and napa cabbage filling here.)  Although these buns are time consuming to make from scratch, they’re easy to make and homemade buns don’t have MSG.  If you take the time to make a large batch, you can freeze the extras and make your efforts last.

For a time saving shortcut, you can buy pre-mixed steamed bun flour.  Although I usually make the buns from scratch, I really like the pre-mixed flour, because it’s less time consuming and it’s easy to get the dough just right (ie. not sticky, not too dense, and easy to pleat).  Also, I loved the resulting texture.  See the recipe below for instructions on how to use the pre-mixed steamed bun flour.  Photo instructions for how to pleat steamed buns are at the very bottom.

If you’re making the buns from scratch, try one of the following recipes based on your preferred texture.  Chinese steamed bun dough ranges from chewy and slightly rubbery to soft and fluffy depending on the restaurant or the brand of store bought, frozen buns.  Here are my recommendations:

  • If you want a firmer dough that is slightly chewy with some elasticity to it (ie. bounces back a little when you press down on it), I recommend using the dough recipe from Christine’s Recipes.  This recipe very closely resembles some of the store bought, frozen steamed buns that I’ve had and would be excellent for pan fried buns (see recipe here).  The bun shown here was made using this recipe.
    • My Notes:  I needed more than 200 g of flour to be worked into the dough.  When I made it with only 200 g, the dough was a bit too sticky to work with and didn’t have a smooth finish.  So add light dustings of flour gradually as you’re kneading the dough.  Keep the dough loosely covered with a damp cloth when you’re not working with it.  Optional:  I usually allow my dough to rise until it has doubled in size.  Depending on the humidity or your elevation, this may take up to 1 1/2 hours.   It won’t hold prominent pleats as well, but it will give you more dough to work with and it will give you a softer texture.
  • If you prefer a super soft and fluffy steamed bun, then I highly recommend using the dough recipe from My Kitchen.  The steamed buns shown here were made using this recipe.
    • My Notes:  You can substitute cake flour for the recommended low protein Hong Kong flour (for an easy cake flour substitute, see here).    Keep the dough loosely covered with a damp cloth when you’re not working with it.  Although this is my favourite steamed bun dough recipe, I only use it to make Chinese BBQ pork buns (recipe here), because, in my opinion, slightly firmer doughs (such as the recipes listed above and below) are better suited for other meat fillings (such as the recipe below).  Optional:  I usually allow my dough to rise until it has doubled in size.  Depending on the humidity or your elevation, this may take up to 1 1/2 hours.   It won’t hold prominent pleats as well, but it will give you more dough to work with and it will give you a softer texture.
  • For something in between the first two recipes, try Corrie Haffly’s dough recipe.  The bun in the photo above was made using this recipe. 

    • My Notes:  This recipe makes 24 buns so you will need to either half the dough recipe or double the filling recipe below.  Add the water gradually, as you may need a different volume than specified.  The recipe doesn’t specify which type of yeast to use, so I used instant dry yeast.  I suspect that active dry yeast would work as well as long as you allow the dough to rest sufficiently, so I will try this next time and update this post.    Keep the dough loosely covered with a damp cloth when you’re not working with it.  Optional:  I usually allow my dough to rise until it has doubled in size.  Depending on the humidity or your elevation, this may take up to 1 1/2 hours.   It won’t hold prominent pleats as well, but it will give you more dough to work with and it will give you a softer texture.

Steamed Chicken/Pork and Chinese Chives Buns Recipe

Makes 12 buns.  Note that both chicken and pork go nicely with the Chinese chives.  If you’re using pork, I recommend using pork shoulder or pork butt (including at least 30% fat) that has been home ground using a food processor or minced by hand using a cleaver.  Store ground meat does not work as well.

for the buns:

1 package of steamed bun flour (found in Asian grocery stores and is a pre-mixed blend of flours for making steamed buns)

for the filling:

300 g (approx. 4) boneless skinless chicken thighs – Don’t trim off the fat and grind the meat in a food processor or mince it by hand using a cleaver.  Store ground meat does not work as well.  Note:  You could use chicken breast instead, but be sure to include some fat (ie. some chicken skin) or the texture will be a bit dry.

approx. 1/2 cup finely chopped Chinese chives (try to use younger shoots, light green in colour and flexible)

1/2 tbsp finely grated ginger

2 cloves garlic minced finely

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp oyster sauce

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp Shaoxing wine

a few dashes ground white pepper

Mix together all of the ingredients for the filling in a bowl.  Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.  If you’d like, you can cook a small portion of the filling to taste test the flavour and adjust the seasonings.  Cut out 12 squares of parchment paper in the size of 2 x 2 inches.

If you’re using pre-mixed steamed bun flour:  Follow the instructions on the package of the steamed bun flour to prepare enough dough for 12 buns, but reduce the amount of sugar by half.  Knead the dough until it becomes soft and smooth.  Roll the dough into a long cylinder, cover it loosely with a damp towel, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.  Then cut the cylinder into 12 equal pieces and work with one piece at a time.  Keep the other pieces covered loosely by the damp towel.  Roll a piece of dough into a ball in your hand and flatten it between your hands or use a small/thin rolling pin on a silpat (silicone) mat.  Note that using a rolling pin will give you a smoother finish.  Either way, you want a thin circle of dough that has a thicker centre than the edges.  Add 1/12th of the filling into the centre of the dough round.

To wrap the buns:  See photo instructions below for how to pleat a bun.  Using two fingers, pinch one area of the dough together to make a pleat.  Fold the immediately adjacent dough to form another pleat next to it and overlap the two pleats.  Pinch the ends of both pleats together and gently stretch the dough out a bit as you continue these steps all the way around the bun.  The last step is to seal the bun by pinching the opening closed with a twisting motion.  Place the bun on top of a paper square, pleat side up.  Set aside and repeat with the remaining buns.

Prepare your steamer equipment and bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat.  (I use a wok with a lid and a stainless steel steamer basket as shown in the post here.  Here are detailed instructions for how to steam cook food.)  Add a small splash of white vinegar to the boiling water to help give the buns a whiter colour (optional).  Place the chicken buns and paper onto the rack or into a bamboo steamer.  Leave 2 inches between the buns as they will expand.  Place into the wok and steam until just cooked through, about 10 – 12 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Reduce the heat slightly but maintain a strong boil.  Check the level of water periodically to make sure that your wok doesn’t burn dry.  Remove the buns when done and serve immediately.  The buns will be soft and the filling will be very hot and cooked through.

When the buns have cooled completely, you can freeze them.  Spread them out on a baking sheet to freeze them individually before putting them together in a freezer bag.  This way you will be able to remove them one at a time.  Reheat from frozen in the steamer for 10 – 20 minutes or in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on the size.

I got these awesome photo instructions from My Kitchen.

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