I have always loved all types of ethnic cuisines, probably because I grew up in America eating the traditional foods here and I had a good case of “the grass must be greener on the other side”. As a teenager there was a phase where I tried all types of cuisines I could get my hands on with an open mind and an always hungry stomach. There is something so fun about trying something I never have before and this is an aspect of myself which only continues to grow as I experience more. This curiosity for all things culinary is important to me and I feel a hunger for more (pun intended) always. When I was 15 I transitioned into a vegetarian lifestyle (best decision I made as a youngster), it is to this date one of the things I am most proud of and will stand by always. That being said this lifestyle means that I cannot simply drive to L.A. and eat at any trendy ethnic restaurant and have whatever is on the menu, not because I physically can’t but rather I don’t want to, these things do not align with my morals. Someone wise once said “if there is a will, there is a way” and that is how I choose to look at it.
Now, I make my own food daily and I love this part of my daily life. It is so much more rewarding than simply letting someone else do that work for you, that work is part of what nourishes us and it happens to be fun from my perspective at least. Since I went to culinary school I know there is no type of food off limits for me, I simply do my research and play around until I make something I love!
About the bao, for a long time now I have seen the dim-sum trend making it’s way through the culinary scene, people paying top dollar for the perfectly steamed buns amongst all of the other tapas-like offerings and washing it down with some sake at an over-priced restaurant. I have never even attempted to eat at one of these joints as there are probably two things I can eat there. All my veg friends probably know the struggle of going out somewhere with friends and having a choice of maybe one or if you are lucky two things on the menu, it is always much to my chagrin that I choose something tasteless and boring in a place that lacks creativity with wonderful things called PLANTS. Yes, we can make delicious dishes from plants that rival traditional cuisines! Not too mention when you make something for yourself it truly is much more rewarding and nourishing, the energy we put into making our meals directly translates into the energy that then gets absorbed into our bodies. Plus, when you’re making a vegan dish you can rest assured that it is not only good for your body but good for the planet and the animals as well, the triple threat (watch out burger enthusiasts).
So last week I decided to play with bao making, it required some research looking up traditional and veg versions and then you tubing how to fold the buns and I am happy to report I loved them! They are fluffy but doughy, spicy, savory, and slightly sweet, yes! I have seen several variations on fillings but I went with jackfruit and it has a nice meaty texture naturally without actually trying to be meat plus it is inherently flavorless in it’s green state and picks up flavor nicely, in this case that flavor is teriyaki but things like chickpeas, tofu, or other meat substitutes work as well.
Try these out and let me know what you think! Also, comment below and let me know your favorite ethnic foods so I can veganize those as well!
Vegan Bao w/ teriyaki-jackfruit filling
For the teriyaki-jackfruit filling:
1 can organic young jackfruit, drained
1/8 cup or more minced green onions
1 teaspoon toasted seasame seeds
1/4 cup liquid aminos, soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. minced ginger
2 teaspoons sesame oil or oil of choice
1 teaspoon molasses
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp. or so of cool water
Teriyaki sauce: Simply add all ingredients EXCEPT cornstarch together in a small pot and simmer over medium heat. Dissolve cornstarch in cool water then add to pot while whisking it in and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, it will take a minute.
Filling: In a bowl combine the drained jackfruit with green onions, sesame seeds and teriyaki sauce, mix and cover for an hour or so while you are making the dough for the buns, remember jackfruit soaks up flavor so the longer this has time to marinate the better the flavor will be.
For the Buns:
2 cups bread flour (ap flour works too), plus more for rolling
1 tsp. olive oil or oil of choice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp active yeast or one packet or active yeast
Dough: Combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Bubbles should form but sometimes they don’t, depends on the potency of the yeast but it will still work from my experience.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl then make a well and add oil and water yeast mixture. Combine the dough with your hands, kneading a few times until one cohesive ball forms, then drizzle a little more oil into your palms and cover the dough ball with oil, set aside and allow for enough to rest and rise about an hour although a little less won't hurt( I have zero patience when it comes to food, it's an issue). Punch the dough down and get a floured surface and rolling pin ready.
Assembly: Using your hands form the dough into a long log shape then using a pastry cutter or knife cut the dough into 10-12 equal sized pieces of dough. Get your steamer ready, you can use the more traditional bamboo steamer (recommended) or any steamer you have and work in batches of steaming. From there you can start rolling out each individual bao into 8-10 inch rounds about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Get your filling close and using a tablespoon to drop the filling into the center of the round of dough, then start folding. The folding is traditionally 12 folds but I didn't count exactly. Placing the dough round in your flat palm with the filling in the center start folding the edges in and up overlapping the edges as you work your way around the circle. But you can always youtube it like I did and see for yourself, it really is quite easy and self explanatory. Once you have the bun formed, place in a cupcake liner, I like this way it keeps each bao self-contained if you will so they don't stick during steaming but you can line your steamer with parchment paper as well. Do this for each of the bao and then you are ready to steam! They need to steam with water boiling about 15 min. then carefully removed the from steamer and allow to cool for 1-5 min before devouring them, they are quite hot after steaming so patience is a real virtue here.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!