Here, I have veganized a recipe by David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City. One of my favorite things to eat growing up was manapua, or Char Siu Bao. With these authentic bao buns, we can have vegan Char Siu Bao. First I will give this recipe for the buns themselves. I used these buns to create a vegan, cruelty-free version of David Chang’s steamed pork buns. David Chang does not make his bao buns in the traditional shape, but rather folds them into little sandwich buns, so that’s what I’ve done here too. I simply eliminated the needless milk powder he puts in his recipe, and used vegetable shortening instead of Lard. I can’t let this recipe go without lamenting the fact that David Chang is a victim of old society, which wrongfully teaches us that we have the right to enslave and murder other beings, and that it’s healthy to eat them. I pray that he wakes up one day and chooses to put his considerable talent and work ethic toward compassion.
STEAMED BAO BUNS
Makes 40-50 buns
These buns are easy and keep in the freezer for months. You need to make at least this many buns or there won’t be enough dough in the mixing bowl for the dough hook to pick up.
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1.5 Cups water at room temperature
4.25 Cups bread flour
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon fine sea salt
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 Cup vegan vegetable shortening, such as Spectrum brand, at room temperature.
Add the yeast, shortening and water to the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a dough hook. (or check Youtube for a video showing hand-kneading of bao dough)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda.
Add flour mixture to the yeast water. Mix on the lowest speed, just above a stir.
Note: if you are using a KitchenAid Mixer like mine, mix on Speed 2 only with dough hook (check your directions). Mix this way for 8-10 minutes.
The dough should gather into a neat, not-too-sticky ball on the hook.
When it does, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it and cover with a dry kitchen towel. Put in a warmish place and let rise until dough doubles in bulk, about one hour and 15 minutes.
Punch dough down and turn it onto a clean surface. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough in half and then divide each half into 5 equal pieces.
Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total.
The pieces should be about the size of a ping-pong ball and weigh about 25 grams, or a smidge under an ounce. Roll each piece into a ball using your palm on the counter.
Cover the balls with a damp, lint-free towel, and allow them to rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper.
Put some grapeseed oil or canola oil in a ramekin. Coat a chopstick with the oil.
You’ll also need a pastry brush. Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand.
Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval.
Brush one half of the oval with some of the oil.
Lay the oiled chopstick across the middle of the oval, and fold the oval in half to form the bun.
Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun onto a square of parchment paper, and then stick it back under the kitchen towel, and form the rest of the buns.
Let the buns rest for 30-45 minutes; they will rise a little.
Set up a steamer on the stove (I just have a metal pot with steamer insert).
Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes. Remove parchment.
Use buns immediately, and if they get cold, you can re-steam them for a minute.
Or, let buns cool completely, and freeze them in plastic bags for up to a few months.
To reheat frozen buns, steam for 2-3 minutes per side until puffy, soft and warmed all the way through.
Notes: During both rises, I was interrupted and had to leave for a couple of hours at a time, and the dough still came out fine, but I don’t recommend it. I used a metal pot with a steamer insert, and the buns did not stick to it because of the parchment squares. If you want slightly larger buns, try making 40 instead of 50.