I wanted to share one of my culinary obsessions. My Mom is Chinese-American and I grew up eating Dim Sum items. One of my favorite things is bao (really just a sweet bun). I don’t eat meat, so I love the bean paste filled bao. These are steamed sweet buns that are fluffy and light.
I haven’t made my own in years, but they are very easy to do. Here’s one site I found with a recipe, but I haven’t used it. A lot of Asian grocery stores will also sell a bag of dry mix that you just add a little bit of milk too. It is sold near all the rice flour and miscellaneous clear bags of flour and starch. It is usually called something like Steamed Bun Mix. My rice cooker is super tiny and I haven’t had a bamboo steamer in a long time. That’s the real deterrent for me. At a Chinese bakery, you can often get these with any type of filling. They are differentiated by different colored dots on the top of the bao. The egg cream bun has a kind of egg-y pudding/custard in it.
The red bean bao (Dou sha bao) is the most readily available kind of sweet bun available at most restaurants and bakeries. The red bean paste filling can be purchased in cans, or made from scratch. This filling is also in mochi items, moon cakes and other Chinese treats. A similar filling is made from Lotus Seed (I always called it Lotus Bean growing up though…). I pronounce it as Ling Yung, but I don’t know how to properly spell that one out. It is more pale than the red bean, and sometimes I imagine it having a smoky, light coffee flavor, though staying very similar to the red bean paste. Here’s the inside of my bao:
Why don’t I make them anymore, besides laziness? There is a deli in Los Angeles Chinatown that makes the best bao! It is Lucky Deli on Broadway. It has a distinctive red and white awning out front. It is a little grungy inside, and I can guarantee that they won’t have an A cleanliness rating. They sell hot dim sum items and bakery stuff. In a refrigerated case at the end of the counter, they have bags of 6 bao. Only $4.50 a bag, and the bao are giant! I usually get one bag red bean and one bag lotus. Then I eat one every morning for breakfast for the next 12 days! I won’t lie, usually while driving to work. I don’t really have a favorite, so it is nice to alternate them. They are cold, so I steam them up before eating. Instead of boiling water, I just do them in the microwave. I put mine in a small container (use a glass one if you’re worried about plastic). I just splash a tiny bit of water on them, partially cover the container and nuke for 40-50 seconds. Then I either put the lid on the container and throw it in my purse or just eat it right then.
Give them a try the next time you are at dim sum! Pictures of my haircut on Friday, and a loot posting before then.