Bao has been taking the food scene by storm - and it's easy to make yourself.
- 60 g (2¼ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) lukewarm water
- 1½ tsp dried yeast
- 430 g (15¼ oz) cake flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ tsp rice vinegar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Rising time: 3 hours
To make the dough, dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water, stir in the yeast and set aside in a draught-free place for 10 minutes until it turns foamy.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the yeast mixture, oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt, then, using a wooden spoon, stir until well combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 8–10 minutes until the dough is soft and pliable (this can also be done in an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment).
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat evenly, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel, and set aside in a draught-free place until doubled in size (1–2 hours or up to 3–4 hours on a cold day).
Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half.
At this point, you can use the dough to make Tony Tan's chicken bao (pictured) or follow the instructions below to make filled bao.
• If making filled bao: Cover one piece with a tea towel, roll the other into a cylinder and cut into 11 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then into a 15 cm (6 inch) diameter round. Repeat with remaining dough.
Cut out twenty-two 20 cm-square pieces of baking paper. Hold a round of dough in your cupped hand and spoon a tablespoonful of whatever filling you are using into the centre. Gather the dough around the filling, pinch the edges together to form a bun and twist gently to seal. Place on a square of baking paper and repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cover the buns with a tea towel and set aside until risen slightly (30 minutes to 1 hour). Steam the buns in batches, covered, in a steamer over a saucepan of boiling water until puffed and cooked through (12–15 minutes). Serve hot.
Recipe and image from Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan (Murdoch Books, hc, $49.99).