Oh snap, I have loved bao my whole life, but I only discovered it when I moved to Portland (we Jersey folk have some serious Chinese and Indian cuisine, but the adventurous Asian cuisine is still a well-kept secret). The fluffy dough… the tasty meaty surprise in the middle. It was love at first bite.
It isn’t very expensive either… Like less than $2 for a big ol’ bao, but we rarely eat out, so we took on the challenge of making it ourselves. So here goes:
We started by purchasing a fresh pork tenderloin at Whole Foods (I was delighted to find a source, because when searching for pork tenderloin almost two years ago to make a recipe from Nana, all Safeway had was creepy Hormel pork tenderloin in a vacuum packed juice capsule– bleck. Recipe archived for another day.)
Guided by this recipe, Andrew took on the task of smoking the tenderloin in our oven. He rubbed it with a 5 spice powder (I finally found out what makes my beloved boneless spare ribs so tasty… well part of the reason anyway). These are the wood chips he opted for:
Once it was cooked, he chopped it into nice little diced pieces, and popped them into the marinade. We used this recipe, but I’d probably throw in some more garlic, veggies, and cayenne or something to give it more zing. We let that marinade in the fridge for a few days.
On the afternoon of our intended bao feast, we set to work on the dough. This is the recipe we referenced, but it left us feeling a bit misguided (our dough never passed the “window pane test”). We didn’t have that fancy Hong Kong flour, but I sifted together some Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour and some good ol’ fashioned King Arthur to make it as light as I could get it.
We didn’t have powdered milk, either, but I put my veteran barista skills to work and perfectly scalded some milk to use instead.
Then we got mixing, waiting, mixing, waiting, adding some water, mixing, waiting. I sure do love having a standing mixer that does all that work for me.
Turns out I was supposed to use a rolling pin. Boy, do I love to manhandle my baked goods.
Look at that yummy filling.
Look at it!
In it goes.
Once they’re all filled and folded, they are patiently waiting to meet their destiny with the steamer.
You can assume that I made the pretty ones, and Andrew made the rest of them. Hehe
So here’s a good tip– oil your steamer or rub the bottom of your bao with pill, because a couple of ours sick to the tray, and lost their bottoms/filling. They were salvageable, but still a little disappointing after the previous efforts and anticipation.
Edit 20 Aug 2015:
I realize that, due to pingbacks, this post gets the most traffic on my blog. I finally harnessed the energy to fix all the hideously mis-rotated images so that this post is a little less unsightly. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the poor lighting, etc. BUT as we like to say in our house “Done is better than perfect.” Bao Appetit! (I’m too much sometimes.)