Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bundling up the year with some Banh Bao for Delicious Vietnam!

It doesn't feel right to end the year with an entry about lemon cake. Not that I have anything against lemon cake, but somehow it doesn't feel as meaningful as I would like it to be.

I started really writing about cooking in March of 2011. I've always been into the whole food thing, I just never wrote about it. At the time I got super into it, cooking and writing about something Vietnamese once a week along with other required meals for staying alive. I'd sit down at my computer, put on some music and mashed on the keys until something coherent found its way onto the page. I found myself reading other food blogs, getting into the whole spirit of commenting and even taking part in "blogging events" which I hadn't even heard of before. Heck, I even learned how to build a light box to take food pictures in! In the past few months, there has been a great decline in my writing, however I must say the cooking is still going strong. I even attended two cooking classes in that time, one of which I definitely plan to share the recipes from (really soon, promise). I judged a fish cake competition. I traveled great distances to savour food from restaurants I've seen on TV. It's been a good year and I should end it with something that I have been wanting to make since I started this blog.

What I've been working towards!
I bow, you bow. We all bow for Banh Bao.  This is what my uncle says when he is offered Banh Bao. I first thought this came from the fact that the word 'bao' and 'bow' are basically pronounced the same way. However, I realize now that as the culture would have it, children or younger people often bow to their elders. I was often told to fold my arms and bow while saying 'aaA'. I'm not great with expressing tone through text, so I apologize but understand that that is not me screaming while I am bowing. 

Banh Bao is a fluffy, steamed bun of rice flour filled with ground pork, veggies, Chinese sausage, hard-boiled egg, Chinese mushrooms and bits of vermicelli. They are basically awesome because they are easy to eat with one hand. Easiest way is to bite into it, add desired soya sauce, and continue to eat! From my experience, I've seen more of the Chinese version of Banh Bao which is the Sweet Pork Bun. It looks exactly the same as Banh Bao but is instead filled with an orangey-red, sweet sauce and bits of pork.

To simplify life, you can buy a pre-mix of flour to make Banh Bao at any Asian grocery store along with the other ingredients such as the black fungus (Chinese mushroom) and Chinese Sausage which is found in a package. Is it wrong for me to say that I judge the how good an Asian grocery store is based on how ...pungent it smells? I'm very sensitive to smells and the ones that smelled the worst have generally been the best with the most selection and lowest prices. Anyway, picture of the flour I used...

Banh Bao

A steamer or steaming pot
Paper or Parchment paper
Rolling pin

1/3 cup sugar (Lowered from the suggested amount on the bag)
1 cup of fresh milk or cold water
1 package of Banh Bao Flour (As seen in picture)
1 tbsp of oil

Approx. 400-500g of lean ground pork
Sliced Chinese Sausage
1 small white onion, finely diced
6 tbsp of Black Fungus soaked for 10 minutes or 2 Chinese Mushrooms cut into small pieces
1/3 cup of mixed frozen vegetables (peas,green beans, carrots)
1/2 cup Chinese vermicelli (glass noodles), soaked in hot water then chopped into small pieces
Black Pepper
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 or 2 Chinese sausages sliced.
18 Quail eggs, hard boiled or 2 regular eggs, hard boiled and each cut into 8 pieces
18 paper circles (or squares), can be regular paper or parchment paper

Dough preparation
Set aside 1 tablespoon of flour from the package for later use. Pour the rest of the flour into a large mixing bowl. Mix the sugar and milk/water. Gradually pour the sugar mixture into the bowl of flour while stirring. Once it starts to form into a ball of dough, stop adding liquid otherwise it will become too sticky. If this happens, add more flour (rice flour will work too). The dough should be soft but should not really stick
to your hands. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Add the oil and knead for another 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes. 

Filling preparation 
Mix the pork, onion, mushrooms, vegetables, vermicelli, pepper, oyster sauce in a bowl.

Bring it all together
Divide dough into 18 golf ball sized balls. Use the flour that was set aside to flour a work surface, the rolling pin and your hands. Take a ball of dough, flatten with your hand and then use the rolling pin to roll outward from the center to form a circle. The center should be slightly thicker than the rest of the circle because that’s where the filling will be placed. Pick up the dough flat in one hand on your fingers. With your other hand, place a ball of filling in the center, place 1 piece of egg and a couple pieces of sausage into the filling. To wrap the bun up, with your free hand, pull the edge of dough towards the center and with the thumb of your other hand, push the dough into the filling. Continue to twist each layer into the center. Give the final layer a little twist to close the whole bun. Place on a piece of parchment paper and then on the steamer tray. Repeat 17 more times. Place water in the steamer. A lot of people add vinegar into the steaming water to ‘bleach’ the Banh Bao, otherwise they can turn out slightly yellowish. The amounts vary from a tablespoon to an entire cup of vinegar. Others say it just depends on the flour. I used a tablespoon and they turned out white but who cares what colour they are on the outside. Steam the buns for 15 minutes. Remove cover, dry off water from the cover and then steam for 6 more minutes. Enjoy.

I am also making this my entry into the last ever Delicious Vietnam monthly blogging event. The finale is being hosted by one of the founders, Anh from A Food Lover's Journey. So a big thanks to her as well as the other founders Hong and Kim from The Ravenous Couple. I'm definitely glad to have a chance to take part in this event and can't wait to peruse all of the entries.

Well what can I say now? See you all in the New Year for more happy, fun, food time.

home for the holidays