When I decided on a street food theme for Vegan MoFo 2011, a culinary visit to China emerged as a must. I’ve personally only been to Hong Kong, which I’ve been emphatically informed doesn’t count. Chadwiko, however, was fortunate enough to find himself on a study tour of China back in 2007 (the year we met) and is therefore the self-appointed household expert on all things China.
When I asked what Chinese street food he would most like to see recreated in our kitchen, he didn’t hesitate before demanding vegan cha siu bao- steamed barbecue pork buns. Having seen first hand some of the ‘skills’ he acquired on his trip, I wasn’t one to say no.
A search for a trustworthy vegan recipe proved fruitless, so I set about veganising an amalgamation of recipes I’d come across online. The expert seemed pleased with the results, deeming them worthy of the tiny old Chinese woman who used to sell steamed buns behind his hostel in Beijing. The dough could have been rolled thinner, to cram in more of the delicious barbecue seitan filling, but I’m not complaining about having a reason to make these again.
Cha seitan bao – Steamed barbecue seitan buns
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 (7g) sachet instant dry yeast
- 1 tsp oil
- 300g seitan (I used the steamed red seitan from Viva Vegan)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice
- 2 tbsp vegan oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, add the sugar and yeast to the water- the mixture should foam after a minute or two (if it doesn’t, your yeast is- to put it tactfully- no longer with us and you’ll need to start over). Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth- this took me almost ten minutes. Add the 1 tsp oil to a clean bowl and add the dough, turning to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it somewhere warm to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.
Chop, grate or throw the seitan in a food processor- whatever it takes to reduce it to the consistency of ground meat. Brown the seitan mince in a saucepan for around five minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, brown sugar and five spice, stirring to combine, before adding the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onion. Cook for another minute or so before setting the filling aside to cool.
Divide the dough into ten portions. Using a rolling pin, form these into ten centimetre rounds, making sure that the edges are thinner than the centre- these will be gathered together, so they’ll become thicker. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling into the centre of the dough, and fold up the edges, pinching to close.
Pop the buns into a steamer insert over a pot of simmering water- put them with the ‘seam’ facing down and on a sheet of baking paper, so that they won’t stick to the steamer. Cover and steam for ten minutes. Done! Enjoy with soy sauce, chilli oil or a combination of both.
And of course, what better way to enjoy these than while perusing the MoFo RSS feed? I can feel my nightly productivity plummeting already.