I recently received bottles of Korean three- and five-year aged soy sauce from Gotham Grove and immediately cracked open the five-year bottle. The company’s web-page describes the five-year aged soy sauce as having a Stiltonesque smell, a deep and complex flavor with a hint of sweetness and less saltiness than regular soy sauce. Most of this description is correct, but I would describe the sauce as having a strong Stilton or blue-cheese smell with a lot of umami flavor. For my palate it tasted saltier than the regular store bought soy sauce and does have a thicker, velvetier texture than store bought sauces. I used a table spoon to make a dumpling dipping sauce and it was excellent, I was sipping the dipping sauce from a spoon.
The back-story on this sauce is that it is made using a 600-year old recipe at a family owned business, Artisan Fermentary, in Cheongju South Korea, led by a matriarch named Jonghee Kim. The soy sauce is made simply from soybeans, sea salt and water and fermented for 5-years in traditional Korean earthenware urns. I tried to find out more about Jonghee Kim and Artisan Fermentary, but the only mentions of her or the business on the English speaking web are on Grove Garden and another similar importer’s website.
The Korean food show Delicious Rendezvous has become our pandemic lock-down viewing obsession. Of all the cooking shows I have watched, this series has yielded the most dishes that are now in my regular cooking repertoire. A recent recipe we keep making is the rolled spinach dish called “Baek Jong-won’s spinach recipe with love“. The most recent available episodes on the Viki streaming service focus on finding new markets and recipes for pork hind leg and included a master class on dumpling making. The host, Baek Jong-won, made boiled pork mandoo and pork gyoza and showed his technique for making the pork filling extra juicy and for folding and pinching the gyoza. The video clip is here on the Delicious Rendezvous home page.
Philadelphia’s Bao Nine is a newish venture from the team who developed the Sweet Charlie’s rolled ice cream chain. Bao Nine sells Taipei street-food style Gua Bao, which are flat steamed buns wrapped around a filling which is traditionally pork belly. In Taiwan Gua Bao are sometimes referred to as Chinese hamburgers and were introduced into Taiwan by Fuzhounese immigrants and these buns were largely popularized in the U.S. by David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants, although in cities with Chinatowns they were well known before Momofuku hit the scene. Bao Nine also sells pick and mix rice bowls with choices for protein of crispy chicken, roasted chicken, grilled shrimp, short ribs, or Beyond meat balls – I wish Beyond was a option for the Bao filling. They also serve charred brussels sprouts with gochujang sauce and crispy rice, which sounded good.
A filling lunch worth of bao.
The Dumplings: As the name suggests Bao Nine serves nine varieties of bao, six of them are filled with beef or chicken which I don’t eat, so I skipped them. Of the other three one is filled with tempura shrimp, spicy aioli, pickled slaw, and jalapeno, which didn’t excite me. So I tried the “pork belly” and the falafel filled buns. I thought the steamed buns were excellent, slightly sweet and very light and fluffy in texture. I was less impressed with the fillings, I put the quotes around pork belly because it did not appear to be pork belly but rather a slow cooked pork shoulder. The other fillings were green chili sauce, radish, and pickles; but the green chili sauce lacked any real heat and the pickles seemed to be kosher dill pickles, which struck a wrong note with me. The falafel bao had a traditional filling of a single falafel ball with tahini labneh, pickled chili and onion. My go-to falafel is from Mamoun’s in Greenwich Village and so maybe I am biased or a traditionalist, but I didn’t think the sweetness of the Bao went well with the falafel fillings. The falafel bao is vegan. For me, three bao made a filling lunch.
Location: Bao Nine is in the Rittenhouse square neighborhood of Philly, it is on 19th street about a block north of Chestnut street.
I have finally found success in my quest to create dim-sum style fluffy steamed buns. The guys behind the counter at Tran’s World Market clued me in that their mother uses Vinh Thuan’s Bot Banh Bao Dumpling Flour to make her show stopping pork buns. This flower is definitely the secret weapon, it makes beautifully fluffy steamed bao.
I filled the bao with an Impossible Meat based version of the Korean Burger in Robin Ha’s “Cook Korean: A comic book with recipes“. This is a really good cookbook that I enjoyed reading as a manga and I have made a bunch of the recipes, which all out great. For the bao filling I made golf-ball sized “meat” balls that I pan fried, let cool and then wrapped in dough made from Bot Banh Bao flour. For the dough I just followed the recipe and bao making instructions on the back of the package. Here is the recipe that I adapted from Robin Ha.
1 package of Impossible Ground Meat
1/2 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sweet vermouth
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3/4 ounce Just Egg
1 teaspoon ground Korean chili flakes
Very finely chop the onion and garlic. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and then form 4-5 meat balls. Pan fry the meat balls so they are browned on the outside and just cooked through. Let the meat balls cool to room temperature. Follow the instructions on the Bot Banh Bao flour to make the dough and make the bao stuffed with the meat ball. Place three bao in a regular bamboo steamer that fits in a wok. When these bao steam they will plump up a lot and nearly double in size.
The bao can be refrigerated or frozen and then heated up in a micro-wave. They are even better when you additionally pan fry the bottom of the buns.
I don’t know how other Word Press bloggers feel about the new Gutenberg Block Editor, but I am hating it. Sure it gives us greater ability to insert lots of widgets and social media links, but the interface is un-intuitive and requires too many clicks to achieve anything. Plus the new “blocks” format makes it difficult to control layouts and the look of a post. With the Gutenberg interface it is taking me 2 to 3 times as long to create a post as it does with the Classic editor. Thankfully the Classic interface is still currently available, although it is not immediately obvious how to access the interface. I am hoping they do not retire the Classic editor and force us to use Gutenberg.
During the pandemic social distancing I have been trying to make the buns for Chinese steamed fluffy pork buns served at Dim Sum houses. I have made some breads and buns that I have enjoyed, but the recipes I have been using have not produced the right fluffy bread texture. Some more reading online revealed that these buns are traditionally made with a special low gluten flour that you can generally only find at Asian markets. However, there is recipe in Saveur that claims that this low gluten flour can be mimicked by adding Corn Starch to the flour.
I made two bun filling: sauteed oyster mushrooms finished with a balsamic glaze; and a mix of tofu, chives and napa kimchi. Both of the bun styles were delicious, and the texture of the sauteed oyster mushrooms convinced me that I could use them to make a vegan Chinese style BBQ pork filling (Char Sui). The bread bun was a lot fluffier than my prior attempts and tasted great, but they still did not achieve the fluffiness of the buns served at dim sum joints.
Bun Dough Ingredients:
1⁄2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour (12 oz.)
3⁄4 cup cornstarch (4 oz.)
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast and 1 cup lukewarm water. Set aside until small bubbles begin to form, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture and butter to the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms, about 6 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes). Let rest at least 10 minutes.
I use Sriracha sauce to provide heat to my dumpling dipping sauce. This summer I decided to make Sriracha sauce from scratch, starting with growing my own Jalapeno pepper plants. As the peppers turned bright red I picked them and froze until I had about 2.5 pounds of peppers. The recipe below made about 3 cups of Sriracha, half of which I froze and the other half I bottled and refrigerated.
To make the Sriracha:
Cut off the green stem from the peppers and place peppers, 10 cloves of garlic, 7 tablespoons of light brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt into a blender. Blend the ingredients until you have a finely chopped mash of peppers. I did this all in one blend and because there are no liquid ingredients this put a lot of strain on my VitaMix and caused it to overheat. So I would recommend doing the blending in two batches.
Place the mash in a glass jar with a lid and store for 5 to 7 days at room temperature letting the mash ferment. You will see bubbles start form on the side of the jar after 2 to 3 days and the mash will start to expand. Burp the jar once a day to release the gases and then mix the mash. By the 4th day after I burped the jar I could smell fermented chili peppers throughout the apartment, I understand now why odor complaints were filed against the Hoy Fong factory. So think about burping the jar outside.
After 5-7 days transfer the mash back into a blender and add 1.5 cups of distilled white vinegar and puree until completely smooth.
Pour the puree into a wire strainer set on top of a sauce pan and use a rubber spatula to press the pulp through the strainer. You want to separate the liquids and pulp from the seeds and any large pieces of chili or skin.
Bring the chili mixture to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 6 months.
I tried making a multitude of bao this weekend – vegan curry beef steamed bao, red bean steamed bao, baked red bean bao and baked vegetable bao.
For all of these buns I used the dough recipe from Mary’s Test Kitchen that I used to make the baked vegan curry beef buns from a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s was out of Impossible burger, which I used last time to make the curry beef filling, and instead I bought Joe’s vegan patty which they created to compete with Beyond and Impossible. I followed the recipe again, using Joe’s product instead of the Impossible burger, but it was kind of nasty and I ended up throwing it out; lesson learned, stick with Impossible burger.
The sweet red bean filling was made using Adzuki beans which I boiled until tender, then mixed in sugar and then mashed. I made the buns as directed in the Mary’s Test Kitchen recipe, and steamed half the buns in a bamboo steamer and baked the rest. The steamed buns came out quite good, but not with the full fluffy bread consistency of dim sum BBQ pork buns that I was hoping for. The bread was denser than I was aiming for and it is likely that I over kneaded it or over proofed.
The last bao I made was a vegetable filled baked bao with a filling made of carrots, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, onions and scallions. For seasoning I mixed half of a BaoLong Sup Chay vegetarian instant soup cube into the moisture released from the vegetables as I sauteed them. These cubes add a savory Vietnamese Pho style broth flavor to the vegetables, which is really excellent. I glazed the buns with mirin and then sprinkled on Sriracha toasted sesame seeds. The resulting veggie filled baked bao were very enjoyable.