Christmas in my family means one thing — our annual Dumplings of the World Party. All of our friends come over and spend the evening sitting at little tables around our house shaping potstickers, pierogies, empanadas… the offerings change from year to year, but there are a few favorites that would never be left out — including everyone’s favorite, pillow-y soft barbecue chicken buns.
A kosher answer to the dim sum star, cha siu bao, from the Guangdong region of China, these sweet steamed rolls that house juicy, tender chicken in the center, have been my kryptonite since the day I could chew.
While the meat and dough are a bit time consuming to make, shaping them is less stressful than shaping a soup dumpling, which I showed you how to make last year (check out the video here). The only thing you have to worry about with these petite buns is sealing the dough well enough so that chicken doesn’t get all over your steamer.
If you’re going to throw your own dumpling party, I suggest making the filling far enough in advance for it to cool, and then letting your younger guests shape these, as you won’t have any raw meat in the filling to worry about.
I’ll also admit to really enjoying eating this dough raw. It’s almost worth the tummy ache when a mini bao starts rising in your belly.
BBQ Chicken Buns
Adapted from Grace Wiertz Young’s recipe for BBQ pork buns
1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup warm soy milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, crisco
1/2 pound roasted chicken (recipe below), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup minced scallions
1 Tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce (available here)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Dough: In a small bowl or measuring cup, proof the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of flour, the yeast mixture, remaining water, remaining sugar, milk, and shortening. Mix with a spoon until combined, gradually knead in remaining cup of flour by hand, until dough is no longer sticky. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Filling: Make this while the dough is rising. Combine barbecued chicken, 1/4 cup of broth, scallions, vegetarian oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup of broth, and then add this to the boiling mixture. Cook, stirring, until thickened, for a few minutes. Let cool, refrigerate until ready to use.
Shaping: After dough has risen, divide it into 12 equal pieces. Flatten each piece out into 6-inch circles and spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling into the center, gather edges and seal at the top. Place each bun (sealed-side down) on a 4-inch square of wax paper, and then let rise for another half an hour.
Place buns (still on their wax paper) in a steamer 1 1/2 inches apart and steam over boiling water for about 10-15 minutes, or until buns have cooked through.
Serve hot with soy sauce or a little side salad of shaved carrots, cucumber, and ginger tossed with sesame oil and olive oil. (Try this one.)
Chinese Barbecued Chicken
This recipe makes more chicken than the bun recipe calls for. You can either adjust ratios accordingly to make less chicken or more buns, or you can use this chicken in other recipes.
3 pounds boneless thigh meat
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons salt
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
Combine all marinade ingredients in a shallow baking dish and marinate over night. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drip off excess sauce from chicken. Place on a roasting pan. Cook uncovered at 450 for about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and cook for another 15 minutes, until it is nicely crusted and caramelized. Remove from oven for about 15 minutes (keep oven on), brush with glaze and return to oven for 5 minutes.