Now that I’ve gotten over my brief infatuation of gardening (the honeymoon phase is over; weeds galore have dampened my enthusiasm a little 🙁 ), I will be sitting down at the computer to write more. Thanks, reader MLee for leaving me a kind comment that reminds me why I started this blog in the first place 🙂
As I might have said before in the dumplings post and have been learning, you use hot water dough for foods like steamed dumplings, (zheng jiao) potstickers(guo tie) or chive boxes (jiu cai he zi) to make the dough nice and tender for crisping up. The hot water kills some of the gluten formation. For chewy stuff like noodles or boiled dumplings, use cold water for a chewier, stretchier dough.
Did you know that you can make these with whole wheat flour and they can still taste good, and in my opinion, even tastier? What’s even better is that the dough is nutritious and also more filling than if you were to use all-purpose flour, thanks to the fiber. Whole wheat also makes foods more jie shi (結實), or solid/sturdy/filling. I won’t be going back to all-purpose anytime soon. Read past the recipe for my favorite aspects of whole wheat flour, but first, the recipe and some pictures. Continue reading
The first time I had homemade sheng jian bao was circa 1999, when my aunts from Beijing visited and stayed with us for almost a month. That month, they made carb concoction after carb concoction for us. Sheng Jian Bao (or Shui Jian Bao) was one of such carby eats they made (One of the yummy foods they also made was hu bing, a cornmeal ‘pizza’ with garlic chives).
Welp, I had a bunch of sentences about how I believe the origin of sheng jian bao to be in Shanghai and all this stuff…but now I’m all confused after seeing a blog called TaiwanXifu. She writes, “Earlier today I asked a foodie friend, a chef who formerly worked at the Shanghai Shangrila Hotel, about the origin of Shui Jian Bao. He said that Shui Jian Bao are from Jiangsu/Shanghai. The dough is, as this recipe is, half yeast and half oil based. But Sheng Jian Bao are from Beijing. They are a totally yeasted dough, i.e. bigger and fluffier.”
Ack! Let’s just say I’ll be making what I know as sheng jian bao, also called shui jian bao. If an expert can shed light on the situation and confirm/deny TaiwanXifu’s friend’s words, please leave a comment!
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating sheng jian bao before, think of the crispy crunchiness of the potsticker, crossed with the fluffiness of a steamed bun or baozi. If you haven’t had both of those before, think of a meat or vegetable (or both)-filled piece of fluffy yeasted dough, with a crispy and crunchy on the bottom where it meets the pan. Hungry yet?
This pita bread and blog it came from got me thinking about using sourdough starter for EVERYTHING! It also helps that I gave away my quart container of yeast when we moved, and keep forgetting to get some from my sister who lives less than a mile away. Hah.
Not only did I want to use sourdough starter for everything, but I also wanted to use my white whole wheat or red whole wheat berries (by the way, milling your own flour makes the most sweet and fragrant flour!), so it was a double challenge.
I hesitate to take the time to post recipes that use sourdough starter AND whole wheat AND feature Chinese food, because how many people are in that Venn diagram intersection of interest groups?! Very few, I think. But, maybe there are more of us out there than I appreciate. (By the way, if you are in that intersection, please leave a comment!) Also, I wonder what came first- sheng jian bao or white, processed, all-purpose flour? Maybe whole wheat was how it’s always been made. Who knows..
Anyway, the first experiment of using sourdough starter in man tou (want to make a post on that someday, too!) was a big flop that resulted in a heavy rock of a dough. I learned from that experience, so here we are. If you are not in the sourdough or whole wheat club, I’ll also post the recipe I used for ‘regular’ dough.
As for the filling, there are several options- I don’t think there’s any rule, and something that would work in a baozi or dumpling would probably also work in sheng jian bao. On my first trip (of 4) to Taiwan, I ordered a sheng jian bao that looked scrumptious, then bit into it, only to find that it was ONLY CABBAGE and shrimp skin. WHAT! So really, it can be anything, though just seasoned pork seems to be a pretty popular option. I prefer meat (pork) + some vegetable in mine. Hm, maybe napa cabbage wouldn’t be right- I don’t think I’ve ever encountered napa in sheng jian bao. So, maybe no napa. I’ll ask my mom and get back to you ;D
More oil and slightly more flour in the steaming water
I’ve been keeping a pet in the refrigerator these days..my sourdough starter. This starter was given to me by my mom, and it’s been alive and kicking for over 2 years now. The starter I made way back when, turned pink for Valentine’s Day, and hence that one was no more.
If there’s anything you can do to keep your baking self-sustaining, it is to grow make some sourdough starter. This method is great- I’ve used it twice with 100% success! I’m no sourdough starter expert; just a novice user who remembers to feed her starter once in a while.
I bought a grain mill last year and I love it! I buy wheat berries and mill turns them into flour for me. Anyway, as I started to bake with whole wheat flour, I realized that some whole wheat bread recipes, even good ones, got kind of crumbly, flaky, and fall apart-y if they weren’t eaten right away. It seemed like most recipes for 100% whole wheat flour require a decent amount of fat, sugar, or both, to help keep the bread soft. I googled and researched a bunch on the internet, read articles, and either from some articles or as a result of reading, got this theory..Whole wheat grains existed long ago, when there was no way to separate the germ and bran from the endosperm. Sourdough also existed way back when, before the invention of today’s baker’s yeast (which, by the way, only contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as opposed to sourdough, which contains many more organisms). Soo…maybe whole wheat grains and sourdough go together.
So began the experiments. After baking whole wheat bread with sourdough, I noticed that the bread stayed intact and held a great texture, even though I only used water, sourdough, flour, and salt. My theory is that it’s not only the freshly milled whole wheat, but also the long fermentation time, and in the little organisms in the sourdough starter. So, when I want to eat something biologically leavened, (in this case, leavening that is not baking powder or soda) and nutrient-dense, I bake whole wheat flour/water/sourdough/salt bread. When I want something biologically leavened that is more splurgey, like cinnamon rolls, I’ll use mostly white all purpose flour and commercial yeast. After all, I doubt most people eat those types of breads for nutrition 😉
I tried to think of all the recipes that I could convert to use sourdough instead, because there is always sourdough starter in my kitchen, but not always yeast. I stumbled across this great blog that I think everyone should read- called Bint Rhoda’s Kitchen! She grew up eating this bread (cooked on the stovetop), and she is into sourdough baking as well! :d
I’ve made this pita bread with 100% whole wheat flour (oven), as well as 100% spelt flour (stovetop), both with great success, so I encourage you to try both and see which you prefer. Me? Stovetop for convenience and lack of pre-heating the oven. But, it’s always nice to sit in front of the oven and watch the pitas grow and get pillowy.
If you’ve made pita bread with baker’s yeast, it’ll be easier to make this recipe. No matter, just make sure the dough is soft, but does not stick to your hands.
One of the perks of marrying into a Cantonese family is being introduced to lots of very Cantonese dishes, at least ones that run strong in Mr. ABC Chef’s family. Almost every time we made plans to see Mr. ABC Chef’s mom, she would ask him a few days before, if he wanted some lo bak go* (蘿蔔糕) or lo mai fan* (糯米飯). Obviously, the answer was always yes. This was not only great news for Tim, but for me, too! You see, usually, the only place my family and I ate luo bo gao was at dim sum restaurants. We really love luo bo gao, and were always trying to find and remember a restaurant that made it the way we liked it. Our criteria was pretty simple: a strong luo bo taste, and not too firm or too soft. We would discuss that so-and-so restaurant’s luo bo gao didn’t have much flavor and just tasted like rice flour, or that such-and-such restaurant actually had luo bo taste in it and that was liked it. I guess we never gave too much thought to experiment making it ourselves, though we definitely knew that getting the right ratios of luo bo (daikon/turnip) to liquid to rice flour was the secret. Turns out that all this time, my mother-in-law (MIL) had perfected it! Maybe that’s why I married Tim. Haha.
Since I’ve I had my MIL’s lo bak go, I haven’t missed the lo bak go at dim sum places, and don’t plan on ordering it out anytime soon. Now I can see why for Tim, eating luo bo gao at restaurants was outrageous, because of how good his mom’s was.
What makes this lo bak go so good? It’s chock-full of lo bak (daikon/turnip) and does justice to its name. It is the right firmness- not too jelly-like, and not too firm. It fries up beautifully and, like a well-seasoned dumpling, can be enjoyed alone without sauce (though, you can always choose to do so if you wish).
*Lo bak go = luo bo gao = 蘿蔔糕. How I say it depends on who I’m with, or who I was with when the memory was formed (Cantonese or Mandarin). Gotta fit in, yanno?!
In the year 2000, my dad’s half sisters from Beijing came to our house to visit for a month. Not only did I learn that my 爺爺, like some Chinese who fled to Taiwan to escape Mao, had married a first wife before he met my 奶奶, but that he had two daughters from that previous marriage, whom my dad and our family had never met. Obviously, Chinese/family drama prevented us from meeting them or knowing about them up until that point.
So, my 大姑 二姑 (da gu, er gu) arrived, and after only a few days into their stay, my dad promptly brought home a 50 pound bag of flour from our local Costco (I miss the days of living 5 minutes away from Costco 🙁 ). Fear not; this was not gluttony at work, but rather, common sense. Northerners are famous for their “麵食“ or mian shi, or basically goodies made with or from flour- think dumplings, noodles, steamed buns, shao bing, etc etc., and my 大姑 and 二姑 were no exception. They, like many other Chinese, showed their love and care for us through the delicious food they made for us, carby and bready delights included. Even though their visit was 15 years ago, I remember many goodies they made us- pan fried steamed buns (sheng jian bao) with kabocha squash filling, individual sesame shao bing, chewy dough filled with sesame paste and ooey gooey brown sugar, zongzi galore, man tou, and Chinese pizza, as my mom and I (and sister, maybe?) fondly called it. Continue reading
YIPES!!! I just realized that I may have made a big typo. I think I accidentally misconverted 4 Tbsp of milk powder to 120 grams of milk powder in the dough section. 100000s of apologies to whomever may have made it and polished off their year’s supply of milk powder.
I noticed this excessive amount of milk powder when I was making this recipe today for the first time since this post. I thought it was really strange but thought maybe I had a really good reason for it that I had since forgotten…unfortunately, I found out the hard way, after I had made my dough with the said 120 grams of milk powder. I started doing some research and was horrified to find the original volume measurements in my very first draft (thanks, WordPress, for saving that!) that read 4 TBSP of milk powder, which is more like 23 grams. YIKES! 🙁 🙁
I’ve verified that 4 TBSP (23 grams) of milk powder is indeed the correct amount….NOT 120 grams. Soooo sorry 🙁 Please find the corrected version below.
First off, here’s a quick Chinese learning guide:
niu nai = 牛奶= milk
nai fen = 奶粉= milk powder (dry milk)
mian bao = 麵包 = bread (also called ‘bao’ for short, especially by lots of Cantonese folk (sigh, what has Mr. ABC Chef done to me!)
nai su = 奶酥 = you’ll find out soon enough. Factoid about 酥（su)- the closest translation I can think of is flaky layers, or little crumbly bits of butter pastry? Black Sesame Pastry is a perfect example of something “su su”
When I came to the east coast for college, I think one of the things I missed the most (besides amazing California sunshine and weather) was Nai Su Mian Bao, which I would describe to deprived friends as soft bread with a milky creamy filling. It’s not like the whipped cream that Mr. ABC Chef loves in his Canto-style split buns with cream down the center, but this special filling is concocted of milk powder, butter and sugar (and some egg for binding). The milk powder gives it a concentrated creamy taste, and the butter and sugar (and egg) help the filling to melt in your mouth slowly. What’s not to like?
A pastry brush is highly useful and recommend in applying the egg wash, to get an even brown polo..I had to use my fingers because my pastry brush got obliterated in the insink-erator!
Hu jiao bing (胡椒餅） is a street food that was first introduced to me when my Aunt Cynthia dubbed it her favorite snack food from Taiwan. Intrigued by the description of a baked bun filled with peppery marinated pork and tons of scallions, I really wanted to try one!
During Christmas break of 2005, my grandma took me to Taiwan as a early high school graduation gift. I had already gotten accepted into college, so the trip was a big treat that I enjoyed a lot.
I remember eating lots of good food in Taiwan that first trip, but one specific memory involving hu jiao bing stands out to me..
Continue reading to see what’s inside this mysterious bun…
Raise your hand if you like sushi or sticky rice. If you have a hand up, I can bet that you’d love fan tuan* (飯糰）. Eh? What’s that?
Fan tuan is a breakfast food that is at its simplest, constructed of large air-pocketed deep fried dough (you tiao) and fluffy fried pork bits (less appetizingly named pork floss or pork sung) that are wrapped up in a big bundle of sticky rice. Those are the mere basics, and often times it will also include salted radishes and pickled mustard greens, or whatever the chef deems as additional savory toppings. Fan tuan is most commonly savory, especially the ones I had in Taiwan, though my mom would always tell me that it also came in a sweet version: sticky rice, you tiao, crushed peanuts, and sugar.
I am a sucker for sticky rice in all its forms: nian gao, tang yuan, yuan zi, etc etc, so it is no surprise that I love fan tuan, which involves a good deal of sticky rice.
I have fond memories of fan tuan in Taiwan- my first visit to Taiwan in 2005 was a high school graduation gift from my grandma. We were walking by a park, and there was a vendor hanging out there. I ordered a fan tuan and tea for breakfast (that had me stuffed for several hours afterwards!)
Not fan tuan that I made, but a Taiwan-made fan tuan from my 2011 trip
I love eating Sichuan food! When we go to Sichuan restaurants, we will often order spicy oil wontons, also known as hong you chao shou (紅油抄手）。 Hong you translates to ‘red oil,’ better known as chili oil. Chao shou is another way to say wonton. So，hong you chao shou = chili oil wontons.
When we were in Taiwan last year, I got two cookbooks- one of which was this tiny, old cookbook in Taiwan called 正宗川菜，which means ‘authentic Sichuan dishes’. I love this little book for its pictures and approach to breaking down Sichuan food into what I would describe as different flavor styles.
I decided to go all out and make these wontons from scratch- from the chili oil to the wonton skins. If you think about what you get at a restaurant- 6 or 7 tiny wontons for ~$6-7, you will definitely be happy knowing that you can make these on your own at a fraction of the price =)
I highly recommend that you make the chili oil in advance, because it keeps extremely well, and you will be able to cook these chao shou in no time!
Wonton skins, and from the same dough, noodles that were eaten with Niu Rou Mian
Tomorrow is the Lantern Festival, which is called Yuan Xiao Jie (元宵節）in Chinese. I don’t know much about it, other than the fact that it tang yuan is traditionally eaten at this time. Hooray for an excuse to eat tang yuan!
So, tell me more about tang yuan, you say. Remember yuan zi? Tang yuan are basically filled yuan zi. I think there are actually savory fillings and sweet fillings, but my only experience is with sweet, so that’s what I’ll be featuring today. A common filling that is also my favorite is black sesame paste, and other popular fillings include peanut and red bean paste