I absolutely love yum cha. Unfortunately my enthusiasm is not shared by The Princess and Mr Grumpy, so I don’t go nearly as often as I would like. I happily eat almost everything on the menu (chicken feet excepted), although I avoid the bao (steamed buns) as I find they leave little room for anything else. I recently attended a dim sum cooking class with Janice, and fell in love with the pork bao that we made on the day. After a few minor tweaks, these pork and mushroom steamed buns are now a regular weekend lunch in our house.
Traditional bao contain BBQ pork, but the in the class we used pork mince which is so much easier to find. Chicken mince can be substituted if you are not a fan of pork. When I initially made these, I had a large amount of mushrooms in the fridge* so threw them into the pork mixture. Mushrooms and pork are great friends, and the mushrooms blend well with the dark, savoury sauce in the bao filling.
The Princess assures me that she is “allergic against mushrooms” yet is more than happy to munch her way through a couple of these buns. She even makes sure I cook extra so she can pack them for lunch. Being the awesome mother that I am, I couldn’t resist checking (after the first one had been eaten) whether she realised that there were mushrooms in the mix. In that voice that only a tween can invoke, I was told “Yeah I know, but you can’t really tell. They still taste good.” So much for the allergy.
I used spelt in my bao dough, which works well with the pork and mushroom flavours. If you cannot find spelt, the dough will work just as well with normal wheat flour. The filling can be made in advance, and in fact it is desirable that you do as the mixture is best cooled before starting to fill the buns.
I have also quite successfully cooked the bao from frozen. Assemble the buns as per the recipe then freeze them in a single layer on a lined tray. Once frozen solid, package them in snap lock bags. The buns only take an extra five minutes to cook from frozen and make a handy lunch. I just take a couple out of the freezer for myself and steam them whilst doing something else. Once made, they are a very hands-off meal.
Pork & Mushroom Steamed Buns (Bao)
I made the dough in the Thermomix, which meant I could warm the milk first before adding the remainder of the ingredients and kneading for 2 minutes. The milk should be no warmer than blood temperature (i.e. luke warm) or it will kill the yeast. You can use cold milk but the dough will take longer to rise.
To freeze these, assemble the buns as instructed, then freeze on a lined tray until solid. Once frozen, they can be repackaged into bags or containers without risk of sticking together.
For the dough
- 450 g white spelt
- 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- Pinch of salt
- 250 ml warm milk
- 1 Tablespoon brown rice vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
For the filling
- 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
- 375 g pork mince
- 200 g mushrooms finely chopped
- 4 spring onions finely sliced
- 250 ml cold water
- 2 Tablespoons cornflour
- 2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
- 1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar optional
To make the dough
- Place the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl, and mix to combine.
- Mix the luke-warm milk, peanut oil and brown rice vinegar together.
- Stir the liquid into the flour and mix to create a shaggy dough.
- Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for about 8 - 10 minutes until the dough is smooth.
- Place the dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for approximately 45 minutes - 1 hour or until doubled in size.
To make the filling
- Whisk the cornflour into the cold water, then add the rice wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, five spice and sugar (if using). Stir to combine and set aside.
- Place a frying pan over a medium high heat, then add the peanut oil and the pork mince.
- Cook the mince for about 4 minutes, until it starts to colour and is almost cooked through. I find the best way to get colour on the mince is to flatten it over the bottom of the pan and allow it to cook for a few minutes without touching it. Once it starts to brown, flip it over to colour the other side then break the mince up.
- Add the finely chopped mushrooms, and cook for 3 minutes until the mushrooms have softened.
- Add the spring onions and cook for a further minute.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the pan and cook for 3- 4 minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Set aside or refrigerate until cooled.
To assemble the buns
- Divide the dough into 15 equal size pieces and cover them with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.
- Working with one ball at a time, roll the dough into a 8cm circle.
- Pick the circle up and flatten the edge with your fingers until the dough is roughly a 10cm circle.
- Place a large tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough and pinch the dough together over the top of the filling. Twist off any excess dough, place the bao in a steamer or on a lined tray and cover with the a damp towel whilst you assemble the remainder of the buns.
- Cut non-stick paper into small squares (approximately 8cm), place a bun on each square then place in a steamer basket.
- Place the steamer basket over a wok or saucepan half- filled with boiling water and steam for approximately 15 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through.
- Serve immediately or allow to cool before consuming.
* I was offered 4 kilos of mushrooms to play with by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. The mushrooms were accepted in accordance with the terms of my disclosure policy. This is the second of the mushroomy recipes I have developed. Also check out my Stuffed Garlicky Mushroom & Cheese Focaccia.