Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Char Sui and Char Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious! And I'm only a week late telling you about it.

Sara performed exhaustive research: testing marinades, grilling, searing and baking and baking char sui and then making several variations on buns: baked, steamed and vegetarian. You can see all of her work here. I used her alternative marinade without red food colouring or maltose and made the I-don't-want-to-go-to-the-store substitution of Sherry for Shaoxing Cooking Wine. As Sara said grilling gave the best result, I had my Dad work his magic on the pork with a result so beautiful that I was almost sad to dice it to create the filling for the buns.

The hardest part was figuring out how to steam buns without a bamboo steamer. Ultimately, I used a vegetable steamer insert in a large stock pot removing the lid as quickly as possible when steaming finished and drying it before replacing it over the next batch. This minimized condensation droplets hitting the buns and prevented unsightly blemishes. It also made me feel a bit like a magician!

This challenge took some time, but was surprisingly easy and my buns tasted just like the cheap, tasty, steamed buns I used to purchase in NYC's Chinatown. I highly recommend it; the recipes I used are below the photos and Sara's other variations can be found at the above link.

Grilled Char Sui (Cantonese BBQ Pork)

1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Ground White Pepper
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 tablespoon Sherry
1 teaspoon Five Spice

1. Trim the pork loin removing fat and tendon. Slice it lengthways and then cut it in half again to create 4 quarters. Place them in the container where they will marinate.
2. Combine all the other ingredients in a blender (or bowl) and mix well.
3. Pour 2/3 of the resulting mixture over the pork. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours to overnight in the refrigerator. Save the remaining 1/3 of the marinade in the fridge covered. ace the reserved 1/3 portion of the marinade covered in the fridge.
4. Heat grill to medium heat, then place marinated pork loin on it.
6. Grill 15 minutes or until cooked through basting with the reserved marinade.

Steamed Char Sui Bao (Cantonese BBQ Pork Bun)

Filling Ingredients
12 oz Char Sui, finely diced
2 Shallots, finely diced
1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1/4 cup Chicken Stock (I used 99% fat-free/low sodium.)
1 teaspoon Cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon Canola Oil

Bun Ingredients

1 cup Milk, scalded (I used 2%.)
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Oil
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 1/2 teaspoons Dried Yeast
3 cups Plain Flour

Filling Directions
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan. Sauté the shallots a minute or two or until soft.
2. Add diced char sui and stir.
3. Add oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and sesame oil to the pork mixture and stir fry for one minute.
4. Mix cornflour and stock together and then add to the pork mixture.
5. Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1 or 2 minutes.
6. Remove from wok/pan and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.

Bun Directions
1. Scald milk (heat until it begins to form small bubbles) and then stir in sugar, oil and salt. Cool until it is lukewarm (between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit) and then add yeast. Let it sit until the yeast activates and becomes frothy, about 10 - 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile sift flour in to a large bowl.
3. Add the foamy milk/yeast mixture to the flour, dust your hands with flour and combine the wet and dry ingredients with your hands.
4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes until dough is smooth and slightly elastic.
5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it once and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it doubles in size. This will take from 1 - 2 hours depending on weather conditions. (I had to heat the oven briefly, turn it off and then put the dough inside. The house isn't warm enough for bread to rise on its own.)
6. Punch down dough and divide in to 20 equal portions. (I did 15.)
7. Roll each dough portion in to a 7 – 8 cm (2 3/4 - 3 1/4 inches) round.
8. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the dough, gather the edges together at the top to seal it and place on a 8 cm (3 inch) square of baking paper. Repeat until all dough has been used.
9. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
10. Place buns in bamboo steamer, leaving space between the buns. Heat water in a wok until it is simmering and place steamers one on top of each other in the wok. Place lid on top bamboo steamer and steam for approximately 12 minutes. (Or jerryrig things like I did above and make your own magic happen.)

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