This recipe is inspired by an incredible dish I enjoyed at Little Bao, an edgy diner conceived by chef May Chow, and one of the hottest places to dine in Hong Kong. May is a friend and one helluva talented chef. She was named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017 by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, an offshoot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. May presents her bao like a hamburger.
My version is shaped like a gua bao, a Chinese sandwich-style steamed bun.
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) boned chicken thighs, cut into 5 cm (2 inch) strips
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 300 g (10½ oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour mixed with 1 tsp salt
- oil, for deep-frying
- 1 large handful basil
- 1 large handful coriander (cilantro)
- 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) white rice vinegar
- 100 g (3½ oz) sugar
- 200 g (7 oz) julienned carrots
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp Chinese five-spice
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- ½ tsp salt, to taste
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1 tbsp Sichuan pepper oil
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) Kewpie mayonnaise
- ½ quantity bao dough (recipe here)
- vegetable oil, for brushing
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.
Refrigeration time: overnight
To make the pickled carrot, simmer the vinegar, sugar, 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) water and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely, then add the carrots and refrigerate overnight.
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
To make the Sichuan mayonnaise, combine the ingredients and set aside.
To make the gua bao, roll the dough into a cylinder and cut into 10 pieces. Roll each into a ball, then flatten with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with flour and roll each into a 15 cm (6 inch) oval. Brush with oil, fold in half and press gently. Place on squares of baking paper and leave to prove until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Steam the buns in batches in a steamer until puffed (8–10 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine the beaten eggs and 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) water in a bowl. Place the seasoned flour in a shallow bowl. Dip the chicken pieces in the eggwash, then the flour, shaking off the excess.
Heat oil in a deep-fryer or wok to 180°C (350°C) or until a piece of bread browns in 10 seconds, and deep-fry the chicken in batches until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. When all the chicken is done, deep-fry the basil for a couple of seconds until crisp. Drain on paper towel.
To serve, stuff the chicken pieces into the split bao with carrots, fried basil and coriander, and top with mayonnaise.
Recipe and image from Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan (Murdoch Books, hc, $49.99).