The buns, soft and pillowy. The braised pork, so delicious, so much flavour. The pickled cucumber, it cuts right through the richness of the pork. Add on a hot chilli sauce and some fresh coriander and you have one truly delicious meal.
Each component is quite easy. The buns take a bit of practice, but are not difficult to make. If you have a strong cake mixer with a dough hook, that takes out any hard work out of the recipe.
With the pork neck the original recipe only used 400g of pork neck, but I like to double it as my family eat this as a meal not as a canape. To ensure cooking times don't vary I buy a 800g piece and cut it in half so it cooks as per the original recipe and it ensures the cooking liquid gets into every piece evenly. You can just use 400g only if you prefer.
So if you love steamed buns, give these a try, they will not disappoint.
325ml Shaoxing Rice Wine
150ml soy sauce
200g caster sugar
1 knob ginger, sliced
5 garlic cloves, bruised
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 star anise
2 x 400g pieces pork neck
100ml rice vinegar
100g caster sugar
2-3 Lebanese cucumbers, finely sliced into rounds
Pork Bun Base:
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
300g bread flour
55g caster sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant skim milk powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
35ml vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hot chilli sauce, to taste
Fresh coriander leaves
2-3 long red chillies, seeded and finely sliced, optional
To braise the pork: in a medium to large saucepan add the shaoxing rice wine, soy sauce, caster sugar, ginger, garlic, spring onions and star anise. Stir only until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil. Add the pork neck and allow it to boil again, then turn down to a simmer. Cover the surface with baking paper and cook for 1-1/2 hours or until tender. (I turn it over at the halfway mark to ensure all the pork gets submerged in the liquid). Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the stock and shred the meat. Strain the liquid, reserving some masterstock to moisten the pork when reheating to serve.
To make the buns: combine the yeast and 170ml warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, sea salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and start the mixer on medium speed. Add the vegetable oil and mix until the dough comes together. Reduce speed to low and continue to mix for 8-10 minutes. Remove the dough, place in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest in a warm place for about two hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
Make the pickled cucumbers: Bring the rice vinegar and sugar to the boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, in a small saucepan. Allow to cool. An hour before serving, combine the sliced cucumber with the vinegar mixture and set aside.
Back to the buns: Once risen, transfer the dough to a work surface, if the dough is sticky, dust a little flour on your dough. ‘Punch down’ the dough by kneading it for 5 minutes. The aim here is to remove as many air bubbles as possible. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/2cm thick. Then use an 9cm diameter pastry cutter (or a plastic cup of the same diameter) to cut out rounds. Remove the excess dough. Dip your fingers in vegetable oil and lightly spread the oil over the surface of your rounds. Fold rounds in half and flatten slightly with the rolling pin, rolling from the fold to the edges. Place on a square of baking paper and place onto a tray. Repeat with remaining dough (excess dough can be re-rolled and used). Cover the folded rounds and set aside to prove for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, reheat the pork in a small saucepan over low heat with some of the reserved masterstock.
Cook the buns: Pour about 4 cm water in a wok (steamer should not touch water) and bring to rapid simmer over medium-high heat.
Place 4 to 5 buns in your steamer basket, I do it in two steamers at a time, so I can cook 8-10 buns at a time, cover with steamer lid. Steam, in batches for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through, I steam them for 8 minutes.
Serve buns hot. To assemble, open up your bao buns gently, spread a thin layer of chilli sauce on top of the hot steamed bun, add the cucumber, top with the braised pork and finish with the coriander and chilli, if using. Serve warm.
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