Monday, June 22, 2009

Pan-Fried Tofu Bun

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There are a few basic types of dough common to Chinese baked goods. For example, the cold water dough used in the scallion twist recipe can easily turn into pan-fried tofu buns.

For the dough:
  • 2 cups (or 300 grams) of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (or 6 grams) of soybean powder
  • 1 teaspoon (or 3 grams) of baking powder
  • 1 cup (or 150 grams) of water
  • 2 teaspoons (or 6 grams) of dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (or 30 grams) of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (or 20 grams) of canola oil, divided
  • white sesame seeds for garnish
Sift together flour, soy bean powder and baking powder. Set aside. Combine water, dry yeast and sugar until sugar and dry yeast dissolve. Pour liquid into dry ingredients until barely mixed. Add 1 teaspoon of canola oil. Knead dough until it becomes smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into thin flat discs.

For the filling:
  • 1/2 a block of extra firm tofu (or bean curd), drained and finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a head of napa cabbage, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
Mix one teaspoon of salt with chopped napa cabbage. Allow cabbage to sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wrap shredded cabbage with cheese cloth and wring out any excess moisture. Add the remaining ingredients.

Place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of the dough disc. Leave some room around the edges. Gather the edges with your fingers. Pinch together and twist. Press down to secure. Sprinkle some white sesame seeds on top.

In a large lidded skillet, add 3 tablespoons of canola oil. Turn the heat to high. When the oil is hot, add the buns. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the bottom is golden brown, crispy and not sticking to the skillet. Add enough water so that there is about 1/8- to 1/4-inch of water at the bottom of the skillet. Be careful when adding water to hot oil. Cover the skillet and cook until all the water evaporates and buns are steamed through. Add more water if necessary.

This recipe can easily be modified for carnivores. Replace tofu with ground pork and add some grated ginger and you've got pan-fried pork buns. For me, it is not worth the time and effort to make pork buns at home because they are readily available in many Chinese restaurants and Asian supermarkets. But vegetarian buns are harder to find, which makes this home-made version even more special.

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