Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shen jian bao 生煎包 (Pan-fried pork soup dumplings)

Juicy, pan-fried pork soup dumplings are the way to a man's heart! These shen jian bao (生煎包) are one of my family's favorites things to eat in Chinatown!
Almost every time we visit my parents, we take a trip to Chinatown. I don't live near a major metropolitan area so don't have the benefit of having an abundance of good Chinese food. My parents, however, travel into the city at least once a month for a meal.

There is one restaurant that makes some pretty spectacular xiao long bao, which are steamed (rather than pan-fried) pork soup dumplings. Their culinary cousin is the shen jian bao, which are pan-fried and crispy on the bottom. Both are delicious. Both are wonderful. We usually order both so we can have both steamed and crispy buns during our meal.
I was in a dumpling mood one day and made the decision to attempt making these. The instructions seemed a bit intimidating but wasn't once I read everything thoroughly. I've made countless dumplings in my lifetime so the assembly didn't scare me. All I had to do was make the yeasted dough, mix together the filling, assemble and cook.

I left out the salt in the recipe below because I was afraid that the filling would already be too salty with the oyster sauce and soy sauce. I was wrong. My shen jian bao were pretty phenomenal but lacked salt. I recommend following the recipe precisely below. We dipped our dumplings in a sweet chili sauce (even Addie!), and everyone was happy. I actually doubled the recipe below and we ate at least a dozen of these between the 3 of us. The skin was thin and soft, and the bottoms had a nice crunch (I used the starch water). The filling was juicy and had wonderful textures with the crunch from the napa cabbage. Next time I might add chopped mushrooms.

My parents were impressed when I told them about the dumplings and thought that my dumpling folding skills were pretty good. Wow - that's a compliment that I will cherish forever. I hope you try these buns the next time you are at an authentic Sichuan or dumpling restaurant. Just make sure you get at least 2 orders of them because they will go very quickly.

Shen jian bao 生煎包 (Pan-fried pork soup dumplings)
Dough
  • 200 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 110 grams warm water (a little less than 1/2 cup)
Filling
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or more as needed
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped napa cabbage
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons hot water
Starch water (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Directions
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix the flour and yeast together. Slowly stream in the warm water and mix on medium speed until the dough becomes smooth and pliable. Alternatively, you can mix by hand. Add additional flour if the dough is too sticky (it should not stick to your fingers).

Once the dough is no longer sticky, cover and allow it to double, about 1-2 hours. Roll the dough out into a long cylinder shape and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Set aside until ready to fill.

Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the pork, soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, pepper, cabbage, sugar and oil together. In a small bowl, soak the green onions in the hot water for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are up, slowly drizzle the warm water into the pork mixture. Then fold in the scallions. The pork should soak up all the water.

Assemble the buns: Take one of the pieces of dough and roll it out into a circle (using a rolling pin). Make sure the centers aren't too thin or else they will break. Add a spoonful of the filling in the centers. Pinch the edges of the dough towards the center like a fan fold (see here if you need a video). Repeat with the remaining 11 pieces of dough. Cover the assembled buns with a wet paper towel or cloth until you are ready to cook them.

Pan fry the buns: In a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 1-2 Tablespoons of oil. Arrange some buns in the pan, making sure that none of the buns touch each other. Allow them to crisp up for at least 2 minutes. If you are using starch water (it makes for a prettier presentation), mix the cornstarch with the water and drizzle in about 2 teaspoons into the pan. Otherwise, you can just drizzle in about 2 teaspoons of water instead. Cover and allow the buns to steam for about 3-5 minutes so they are fully cooked.

Serve the buns while they are warm for best results. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave.

Yield: 12 buns

Source: China Sichuan Food

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