Wednesday, January 13, 2010

chef sam's making ... steam buns

As a child, the only kind of vacation my family knew were long road trips, usually an annual angling pilgrimage to some far-flung and fish-few lake or river. We stuffed the car to the gills: red canoe on top, rods and gear in the trunk, and delicious goodies in the cabin. The night before these trips my mom would often stay up late into the night cooking steam buns. We hardly bothered with rest stops, so when the hunger came, my mom would get the steam buns out of the cooler that took the seat between the two of us, and pass the white bundles out like gifts at Christmas. They were perfect to munch on in the car while watching the scenery roll by. Few things remind me of family more than a good steam bun. Not having my mom's original recipe, I've improvised my own buns (incorporating some time-saving tricks along the way) with tasty results and near-mom authenticity.

(This is what the dough looks like after the second rising. It feels so good and soft.)



1 and 1/3 c. water

2 and 1/2 c. white flour.

1/2 c. wheat flour

1 t. salt

1/3 - 1/2 t. yeast


(go crazy on this and improvise using cabbage as a base)

organic onions

organic garlic

organic napa cabbage

organic fresh shiitake mushrooms

organic green onions

1 t. organic ginger

1 organic happy chicken eggs

organic soy sauce

organic olive oil

1 T. organic cornstarch

1 t. organic honey

This is my no-knead recipe adaption, which is so easy as long as you have a little forethought. Mix the flour salt and yeast in a pot. Add the water and stir until incorporated. Put a lid on the pot and keep in a warm place (I use my pilot-light warmed oven). Let the dough sit for 12-18 hours. Mix it once more, and let rise for an hour.

As you wait for the second rise, prepare your filling. Decant olive oil into a hot pan and sweat your onions, garlic, and ginger. Add chopped cabbage and mushrooms. Add a little water and let steam. Add chopped green onions, to cook for about a minute, and then add your cornstarch slurry and stir (Mix 1/4 c. water, 1 1/2 T. cornstarch, 1 t. honey, and 3 T soy sauce (or to taste)). Reserve some fresh green onions to add at the end.

I decided to add eggs for protein (my mom would have used pork or chicken). Mix 2-3 t. of soy sauce, 1/4 c. of water, and 1 T. of cornstarch in a small bowl. Add organic egg and scramble. Fry in a hot pan with olive oil. As it cooks, agitate the eggs slightly with your spatula. Flip it.

Now take a baby's handful of dough, pat it into a circle, flour it for easy handling, and put your filling in the middle. Bring the outer edges up, and seal into a nice pucker with your fingers.

Steam these beauties until they puff up with love and pride. In this picture, you will notice that I used nasturtiums leaves to keep the buns from sticking, but any edible leaf works just as well.

These steam buns were wonderful. I made them the night before Ariel and I flew down to San Diego to see our friends' wedding. The buns went down well at the airport as we watched the new sun lick its way up the sky (rarely do we get up so early), and then again in our hotel room as we clicked our way through the cable channels (we don't have a t.v. at home), and then gobbled them up again as we walked 10 miles into town (we avoid fossil fuel transport when possible). As Ariel and I are going to get married ourselves (Yeah!!!!) , sharing these steam buns further sealed our fate as family. What could be more perfect than the simple act of sharing a steam bun with someone you love?

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