Street food is probably the best food out there. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fine dining experience, but there is a lack of depth and substance to it. It’s slightly superficial and I like my food to be rough around the edges, honest and characteristic. Visually, some fine cubes of sauté potatoes, a flavoured foam and some type of exotic bird meat looks magical however it’s consumed in 5 minutes and leaves you still feeling hungry. Plenty of times, I have left a Michelin star restaurant craving a substantial burger from a food stall.
In Asia, Bao’s are the equivalent of our burgers. Sweet dough shaped like a sandwich or like a dumpling that is stuffed with meat, vegetables or pickles. They are bloody delicious and I think are way more flavoursome than any pompous plate of perfection.
I was first introduced to bao a couple of years ago when I went out with a friend to Flesh & Bun in Covent Garden. Owned by the Bone Daddies franchise, this place Westernized the vibe of bao and made this street food favourite, a trendy and upmarket dish. Belly pork with slices of pickled apple stuffed in a fluffy, squidgy sandwich bao bun. It’s basically your mum’s sunday pork roast loaded in a gluten, sweet cloud. Sounds really delicious right? It was rememberable for sure. In a good way.
Bao buns have become a really popular thing in the last couple of years. Places like Bao, Beers & Buns, On the Bab, have all popped in Central London to contend with places like Flesh & Bun. There is a big craving for these hands sized street food favourites and all these places interject a variety of flavours into their steamed buns. The diversity in technique and taste makes what makes street food so special. There is no right or wrong; if it tastes great, then who cares how you got from a to b to execute such flavoursome and humble grub?
The appetite for steamed bao buns is massive so let me introduce to my nifty nosh style buns.
Slow cooked short rib of beef coated in a Chinese hickory black pepper barbecue sauce stuffed in a fluffy and sweet bao bun. Accompanied with thin slices of cucumber, strips of spring onion, julienned carrot and pieces of picked lotus. No bao is complete without a drizzling of Kewpie mayo on top.
Short rib is a cheap and flavoursome cut of meat and is wonderful to slow cook. It falls of the bone and is extremely tender.
The sauce is everything. Black pepper sauce, dark brown sugar, garlic paste, hickory liquid, lime juice and tomato puree are mixed together to make a powerful glaze. I wanted to the sauce to mimic the classic Chinese barbecue colour so I added red food dye powder. It is optional however it makes it look awesome.
Frozen bao buns can be purchased in any good Asian supermarket or if you have the energy, you can make 18 homemade dough buns for super cheap. You wont need all 18 buns however they can be frozen and used at a later date.
I truly love Bao buns and If you haven’t tried them then you will! Especially with this Chinese Barbecue Short Rib Bao recipe. They are:
- Finger licking
- Great For Sharing
- Damn Tasty
- Cheap To Make
6-8 Fluffy steamed buns stuffed with slow cooked Chinese barbecue short rib. To give texture, strips of carrot, spring onion and pickled lotus root is added. For the finishing touches, squiggles of keypie mayo and coriander leaves are added. I seriously love this Chinese Steamed Bun recipe and I know you guys will to.
This weekend feast treat is way better than take away. If you do make this ‘Chinese Barbecue Short Rib Bao’ recipe or any similar dishes like ‘Edamame Gyoza’ & ‘Pumpkin & Paneer Samosas‘, ‘Japanese Turkey Meatballs‘ then leave a comment or tag a photo on my Instagram or Twitter, Facebook. Cheers my food besties. Ciao for now!
- 500g Chinese Plain Flour
- 140ml Lukewarm Milk
- 100-200ml Warm Water
- 7g Fast Action Yeast
- 35g Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Oil
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 Tbsp Black Pepper Corns
- 1 Teaspoon Rock Salt
- 1 Litre Water
- 500g Beef Short Rib
- 3 Tablespoon Black Pepper Sauce
- 3 Tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Hickory Liquid Smoke
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Paste
- 1 Tablespoon Tomato Puree
- Juice of Half a Lime
- Slices of Cucumber
- Slices of Spring Onion,
- Slices of Carrot,
- Slices of Lotus Root
- Fresh Coriander Leaves
- Kewpie Mayo
- 1 Teaspoon Red Food Dye Powder
- Set your 3.5 litre slow cooker to high and add the short rib. Cover with enough water and add all the pouching ingredients to the the slow cooker. Place the lid on top and leave it to cook for 6 hours.
- Whilst the short rib cooks, you can make your bao buns.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, yeast and lukewarm milk together. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes so the yeast can activate.
- On a clean surface, place the flour and make it into a heap. Make a deep hole in the centre and in parts, slowly pour the yeast liquid into the middle. Kneading the mixture together as you go. The dough will be extremely dry at this time so gradually add warm water to the mixture. Continuously kneading.
- You might need more or less water than suggested. If the dough is still flakey, add more water. If the dough is too wet, add more flour. The mixture should be smooth yet tacky so you will need to knead the mixture for about 10 minutes.
- Once well kneaded, shape the dough into a big ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm location. I suggest turning your oven on its lowest heat for 2 minutes and place in the warm oven until doubled in size.
- Once enlarged, place the dough on a floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin. The bao buns need to be about 3mm in height so make sure the dough is complete flat.
- With a 9cm cookie cutter, make your bao buns. Using a chopstick, place in the middle of the cut out dough, and fold over to make a lip. With your rolling pin, gently press down to indent the dough with the chop stick. Then, gently roll out the top lip of the boa to make the sandwich an oval shape.
- Remove the chopstick and place with a square piece of parchment paper. This is to prevent the lips sticking together.
- Repeat this method until you have used up all the dough. You wont need all the bao buns so place the spare ones into freezing bags and place in the freezer. Place the boa buns to one side until needed.
- For the sauce, mash the brown sugar and black pepper sauce together in a mixing bowl. Add the liquid smoke, lime juice, garlic paste, tomato puree and red food dye and stir until smooth. Set to one side until the beef is cooked.
- Once the beef is cooked, remove the it from the poaching liquid. Discard the liquid or keep it for a broth. Place the beef on a chopping board and with a fork, pull the beef off the bone. The beef should be extremely tender by now so it should pull off easily.
- In a saucepan, add the beef and barbecue sauce and heat up on a low- medium heat.
- Whilst the short rib warms up, its time to steam your buns. Line a medium sized 2 tier bamboo steamer with parchment paper. Place it in the centre of a wok and pour 400ml water to make a bain-marie. Add 3 bao sandwiches to each tier, turn the hob onto a high heat and let the water boil. Make sure the lid of the bamboo steamer is on.
- Steam for 10-15 minutes or until the bao buns have become light and fluffy.
- Once the bao buns are cooked through, fill each bun with chosen garnishes and spoon a couple of tablespoons of barbecue short rib filling into the centre. Squirt kewpie mayo, scatter some lotus root and coriander leaves on top and serve immediately.