Chinese steamed buns have to be one of the best foods on the planet. When I first went vegetarian completely, I had given up everything non-vegetarian I ate for 6 months before I was able to give up steamed roast pork buns for good... The place on Lygon St. in Carlton (Melbourne) where I ate them is no longer there, but I'll never forget those buns.
Making buns takes time but isn't difficult. Most of the time involved is waiting around for the dough to rise, and that doesn't require the presence of the cook. Personally, I get bored kneading dough, so have adapted my recipe to use a bread machine instead. You can do it by hand by kneading the dough and letting the dough rise in a greased bowl instead, but I'll take the easy way out.
Given my recent obsession with wild rice, I decided to make a steamed bun using wild rice. These buns are not intended to be a starter course like most Chinese buns are. These are meant to go with a meal as the bread course.
You can, of course, eat them with soy sauce, fresh grated ginger and even some wasabi to cleanse your sinuses, but they are meant to be eaten as a bread.
From the photos, you'll see that my buns don't end up incredibly white like the ones in the Chinese restaurant. In these particular buns, the sauce bleeds through a little, but even if it didn't, that perfect whiteness would not be there. I don't know how they do that, but I do know these taste great even if they aren't so pretty! I use kamut flour to make the sponge because I feel it adds more flavor. However, it is also more yellowish in color than white, so will definitely affect the color of the finished buns.
Wild Rice Steamed Buns
For the sponge:
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour I use kamut flour here
1/3 cup warm water
For the dough:
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (needs 1/4 c more)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
For the filling:
1/4 c dried mushrooms
2 c boiling water
1 tsp salt
1 T butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chile, minced
1 T flour
3/4 c cooked wild rice
1 1/4 c cooked brown rice
18 - 20 pieces of wax paper approx 3 inches square
Making these steamed buns requires 5 basic steps:
- Make sponge
- Make dough
- Make filling
- Form buns
- Steam buns
Make the sponge:
In the pan of your breadmaker, add the first 4 ingredients, mix and set aside for 20 minutes.
Make the dough:
After 20 minutes, the sponge will be bubbly. Add the next 5 ingredients (NOT the baking soda).
Turn your breadmaker on the dough cycle, and let it run for 15 minutes or so, scraping down the sides if needed. The dough will be very sticky but will eventually form a smooth ball
Turn the breadmaker off, and let the dough sit for 1 1/2 - 2 hours to rise. It will triple in size at least. Make filling while waiting.
Soak the mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and drain the remaining liquid through a coffee filter into a measuring cup until you have accumulated 3/4 c of liquid.
In a 10 inch skillet, melt the butter.
Chop the soaked mushrooms into very small pieces
Add the mushrooms, garlic and chile to the butter and cook until the garlic is tender.
Sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture and saute a minute.
Add the reserved mushroom stock, stirring well to mix it all in.
Bring the mixture to a boil.
When the mixture thickens, add the rice, turn off heat and mix well.
Set aside until needed.
When dough is ready:
Sprinkle some flour on your work surface, and then scatter the baking soda over that. Flour your hands and remove the dough from the bread pan.
Knead the dough gently on the board, forming it into a log about 18 inches long.
Cut the log in half, then cut each of those into 8-12 pieces.
For each piece, roll lightly in flour and smooth out with your hands to about a 2-3 inch circle.
Holding the circle in the palm of one hand, add 1 to 1/2 tsp of filling.
Gently pull up the sides around the filling.
Bring all the sides to a point, twist to seal, and place seal down on a piece of waxed paper.
Keep at least an inch or two between buns - they expand.
Let the buns rise for about 20 minutes.
Bring water to boil for your steamer.
Add buns to your steamer, making sure they are at least an inch apart from each other and the side.
Steam 15-20 minutes.
Remove from steamer, peel off wax paper and eat.