Typically eaten in northern China where wheat rather than rice is the staple carbohydrate, these soft and fluffy steamed buns are filled with a range of ingredients. They are also commonly served plain alongside main meals.
- 1 x 7 g yeast sachet
- 300 ml lukewarm milk
- 500 g (3⅓ cups) plain flour
- 35 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- coriander leaves and chilli sauce, to serve
Crisp, spiced chicken
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 5 cm-piece ginger, sliced
- 3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (see Note)
- 1 long red chilli, chopped
- 125 ml (½ cup) Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) (see Note)
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) dark soy sauce
- 55 g (¼ cup) brown sugar
- 4 chicken breast fillets
- 75 g (½ cup) rice flour
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
- vegetable oil, to deep-fry
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.
Resting time 50 minutes
Dissolve yeast in milk in a small bowl and set aside in a warm draught-free place for 10 minutes or until mixture bubbles.
Combine flour, sugar, oil and yeast mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix until a dough forms. Knead dough for 10 minutes or until smooth then set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a 60 cm x 25 cm rectangle. Fold into thirds and roll out again to a 40 cm x 25 cm rectangle. Brush dough with water. Working from the longest edge, using your hands, roll dough tightly to form a log. Trim edges, then cut log into 8 equal pieces.
Cut out 8 squares of baking paper. Place 1 bun on each square, seam side-down, then place in a large steamer basket (you may need two steamers, depending on the size). Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Place steamer over a saucepan of boiling water and steam buns for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
To make crisp, spiced chicken, place garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, chilli, rice wine, soy, sugar and 1 L water in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low, add chicken and cook for 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove from cooking liquid and allow to cool. Cut into thick slices and set aside.
Combine rice flour, 1 tsp salt, five-spice and chilli in a shallow bowl. Toss cooled chicken in rice flour mixture, shaking to remove excess. Fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan one-third full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 10 seconds). Working in 3 batches, gently drop chicken in oil and fry, turning halfway, for 2 minutes or until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Combine cucumber with rice vinegar in a bowl. Slice buns open, taking care not to cut all the way through. Fill with chicken, cucumber, coriander leaves and chilli sauce, to serve.
• Sichuan peppercorns and Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) are from Asian food shops.
Photography Chris Chen
As seen in Feast magazine, March 2014, Issue 29.