Steamed Turkey Baozi

Baozi is part of Chinese cuisine and generally refers to a type of steamed, filled bun. The kind you’re probably most familiar with is the roasted pork buns (cha siu bao) commonly found in Chinatowns. Soup dumplings are another kind of bao, called xiaolongbao. As you can tell, the word bao in these names denote that they are a type of steamed and filled bun. You have to try these! They’re quite delicious! I love biting into one of these – you get the texture of the soft, pillowy steamed bun that has been infused with the flavor of the meat during the steaming process. And along with this bite, you get a part of the filling that’s moist, flavorful and savory.

The dough for baozi is the same as the kind used for mantou, which I wrote about when I made Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Chicken Mantou Sandwiches. It’s a simple dough of just flour, water, sugar (optional), salt and yeast. The filling is traditionally ground pork, but I use turkey (sometimes a mixture of turkey and pork) because it’s leaner. The other ingredients in the filling is similar to what you put into meatballs, bread crumbs, egg and some broth. These additions make the filling moist and allow the flavor to get steamed into the dough. Yum! The other filling ingredients that make the dish traditionally Chinese include chives and spring onions. You can be creative with the filling ingredients! Large pieces of chopped shrimp can be added into the filling. And there are dessert versions of baozi, which have sweet bean paste, black sesame paste or lotus seed paste as the filling. While baozi can be eaten throughout the day, they’re most often eaten for breakfast in China. I’ll eat them for breakfast, lunch (and snack!), and dinner any day.

Directions

-For the Dough-

  1. Dissolve the sugar into the water.
  2. Add in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix together flour and salt.
  4. Pour in yeast mixture and stir together.
  5. Knead to form a soft dough.
  6. Put dough in a bowl and cover with saran wrap or a lid.
  7. Let rise 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until it about doubles.
  8. If using a bread machine, put all the ingredients into the insert and set on basic dough cycle.
  9. Once the dough finishes rising, punch down and knead for about 5 minutes.
  10. Roll the dough into a log shape and divide into 16 equal pieces. Set aside.

-For the Filling-

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the filling.
  2. Roughly divide the filling into 16 portions so each baozi has equal filling.

-For the Assembly-

  1. Take a piece of dough and flatten to a round about 4″ in diameter. Make sure that the outer rim is a bit thinner than the rest of the round since the middle area needs to be thick enough to hold the filling without ripping.
  2. Cup the round in your hand and scoop a portion of the filling into the center of the dough.
  3. Bring together the edges of the round and pinch together at the top to make the baozi shape.
  4. Place each shaped baozi on a piece of cut parchment paper. This will keep it from sticking to the bottom of the steamer basket.
  5. Place the baozi in the steamer baskets a few inches apart from each other.
  6. Cover and let rise 45 min.

-For the Steaming-

  1. Add water to the steamer stack and steam 20 minutes.
  2. After the stove is turned off, let baozi sit in steamer covered for about 5 minutes so the steam can dissipate gradually. If the cover is immediately lifted after cooking, the quick escape of steam can cause the baozi to collapse.

Cook’s Notes

I like to eat baozi with some dipping sauce. I typically mix in some chili (sriracha) with some Chinese black vinegar.

Ground turkey is lean so the filling will be more dry than if you use pork. For a good in-between, you can mix these two types of ground meat.

To reheat leftover baozi, place a damp paper towel over one bun and microwave for 45 seconds. You can also reheat the leftover baozi by pan-heating (pan-frying) them in a bit of oil. This gives it a nice crunchy crust on the outside, like you get in fried dumplings. If you don’t want to use that much oil in the reheating process, first reheat in the microwave and finish on a lightly seasoned (or dry) pan just to harden the outside a bit.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Mantou Sandwiches

Almost all of my friends use Netflix and a decent percentage find its selection of streaming movies less than exciting. I enthusiastically disagree. I think the assortment of social, cultural, historic and nature documentaries is really appealing. Maybe it is because of the fact that I have already seen the feature films by the time they’re streaming that my instant queue is full of documentaries. Regardless, I – and I can’t be the only one – think it’s much more interesting to watch PBS’ Story of India documentary (yes, all 6 parts) than the latest Fast & Furious installment.

I recommend Wild China, a 6 part nature documentary series on the natural history of China. It was filmed all in high-def so it is incredibly visually striking. A lot of the program was filmed in the most remote parts of China and use special filming techniques to capture amazing animal behavior. The program highlights the rich biodiversity of China and also the relationship between animals and the ecosystem. This is true of humans and our food as well.

Mantou, Chinese steamed bread, is a staple in my repertoire. It’s decidedly a northern Chinese dish. Southern China is mountainous, rainy, warm and hilly, suitable for rice terraces. The north has a flatter topography and is suited for the cultivation of wheat and corn. Oftentimes I use mantou and regular bread interchangeably. Mantou, since steamed, is very soft, pillowy and absorbent (mmm…juices). I also find it much lighter than baked breads; so I can eat more of it!

And since summer has practically started already in New York, I’m combining the best of both worlds with mantou and pulled chicken. I also added in Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes to provide a bit of flavorful tang and textural contrast to the soft bread and meat.

Directions

-For the Steamed Rolls-

  1. Dissolve the sugar into the warm water. Add yeast.
  2. Let stand about 10 minutes, so that the yeast will froth.
  3. Mix together flour and salt.
  4. If using a bread machine (like I did), mix all ingredients together and set on dough cycle.
  5. If making it by hand, mix ingredients together and knead until a soft dough forms. Shape into a ball, place in a large bowl and cover lightly with a lid. Let rise in a warm area for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  6. After it has risen, knead a few times and shape dough into a long rectangular log. With a knife, cut 16 pieces.
  7. Places the pieces into steamer baskets. Cover and let rise again in a warm area for about 45 minutes.
  8. Steam mantou in the baskets for about 12 minutes.

-For the Pulled Chicken-

  1. In a skillet, heat canola oil and brown chicken on all sides. Transfer to slow cooker insert.
  2. Then in the skillet, saute onion slices until softened, about 4 minutes. Add to slow cooker insert.
  3. Pour the barbecue sauce over the chicken and onion in the slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

-For the Assembly-

  1. Break open a mantou bun, add cucumbers and radishes.
  2. Layer in the shredded chicken and top with cilantro.

Cook’s Notes

If your kitchen isn’t warm enough for the dough to properly rise, preheat your oven to 350F for 30 seconds. Let the dough rise in the warmed oven.

I find that the stainless-steel 3-tiered steamers work much better than the bamboo version that’s place over a wok. The latter kind is used mainly for dim sum plates while the 3-tiered kind can be used for steamed breads, corn, fish, etc. This steamer is an example of the kind I have. They can be found on Amazon or at any housewares shop in Chinatown. New Kam Man is a great supermarket on Canal St. where I buy my Asian sauces, noodles and kitchenware, including plates, steamers and utensils. They also have a great Asian snack section!

Bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs (breasts, drumsticks, etc.) are usually cheaper than the prepared boneless, skinless version. To save money, buy the bone-in, skin-on kind and prep it yourself. The skin is usually pretty much almost separated and easy to remove. And if you’re slow cooking, the meat will fall off the bones anyway when done, so the bones won’t be an issue.