Just over a month ago (but it seems so much longer !), I accompanied a school trip to London and we tied in a quick visit to Chinatown with their shopping time in Covent Garden.
It was the first time for most of the kids and even the other teachers so they were suitably impressed by the rather bling-bling gates and pagodas.
I have a thing about Chinese lucky cats - although I've just learnt that they're actually beckoning, not waving. I don't care, I'll still be waving every time I walk past one (or at least if I have the kids with me so that I can blame it on them !). Either way, it made me smile to see a big long line of them in the window of a Chinese restaurant.
If we'd had more time (and I didn't have a coachload of schoolkids in tow !), I'd have gone browsing in the little supermarkets packed to the rafters with authentic Chinese products. Instead, I made do with peering through the windows at the displays.
I did grab a quick foodie experience-on-the-go though, popping into a little Chinese bakery to sample one of their delicacies. I decided it must be fairly authentic because there was a line of customers animatedly chatting in Chinese waiting to get through the door. Some of the kids tried a sesame ball, which is made with glutinous rice flour and filled with red bean paste then deep fried. They weren't overly keen because it was very sticky and glued itself to the roof of their mouths !
I had opted for a Pork Bun, which is a bread roll stuffed with Chinese BBQ pork. It was very tasty but quite disconcerting because the bread was sweet.
I couldn't help but giggle as I glanced at the menu of a nearby Chinese restaurant and spotted ... pole dance chicken ! Hilarious but quite off-putting - not sure I'd want to tuck in !
I did decide to try to recreate the pork buns though, maybe with a less sweet bread. I went googling for recipe inspiration and had a go today. They're surprisingly simple to make, tasted fab and the whole family tucked in enthusiastically.
Cha Siu Bao Pork Buns
for the bread :
340g + 25g plain flour
120ml + 40ml milk
a pinch of salt
2tsp dried yeast
2tbsp melted butter
milk (to brush)
for the filling :
1 small onion
200g cooked pork
1tsp soy sauce
1tsp fish sauce
1 tsp black rice vinegar
1tbsp sesame oil
190ml chicken stock
Put 25g flour, 80ml water and 40ml milk in a frying pan. Stir to combine.
Cook over a low heat, stirring, until it forms a thick paste. Turn off the heat.
Put the 340g flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the egg, the melted butter and the 120ml milk, as well as the flour paste from the frying pan. Mix together and knead for ten minutes to create a ball of dough. (It will be quite sticky, don't panic !) Leave to rise for an hour.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Finely slice the onion and fry in a drizzle of olive oil.
Add the finely chopped meat (I used the meat sliced off some leftover BBQ ribs), the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, cornflour and black rice vinegar.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for about ten minutes until the liquid has reduced to just coat the pork in a lovely thick, luscious sauce. Taste and adjust the balance of flavours by adding more sugar, soy sauce or vinegar, as required.
Get your cornflour ready to coat your hands because it will get sticky (although the fact that we were in the middle of a heatwave probably didn't help !). Split the dough into balls slightly larger than a golfball. I chilled them in the fridge for ten minutes afterwards so they were easier to handle.
Put one dough ball in the palm of your hand and use the fingers of the other hand to flatten it. Add a spoonful of filling (don't overdo it !).
Push the edges towards the middle and crimp and smooth the surface to seal the filling inside.
Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Place them on a greased baking tray.
Brush with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake at 180° for 25 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. These could also be made in advance and frozen.
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