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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cha Shu Bao

I remember these Cantonese bread dumplings from childhood, but I currently live in a place where dim sum is nearly impossible to find. My nostalgia finally compelled me to dig into the very confusing Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking that I purchased at a garage sale. These tasty doughy treats can be stuffed with just about anything, and are great additions to your quick-meal reserves in the freezer. A short steam, and you've got a warm easy meal.

First, the dough:

Yes, it is a word problem of sorts. This cookbook makes me run in circles just trying to keep track of the next step. Let me translate...

Chinese Bread - Man To - recipe from Peking

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pkg. dry yeast
2 tablespoons melted butter

Sift the flour, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl.

Mix the warm water and 2 tablespoons sugar in measuring cup. Stir in yeast slowly, mix well.

Add melted butter to the yeast mixture.

Hollow out center of the flour mixture, add the yeast mixture, mix thoroughly.

Knead lightly on floured board until dough is smooth and elastic. DO NOT OVER-KNEAD (like I did - the dough will be more chewy than fluffy)

Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise at room temp. until it doubles in bulk, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Divide dough into 20 3-4 inch round pieces and let rise again while you prepare the filling.

The Filling:

Traditionally, the filling is made up of red bean curd cheese (1 tbls) , sugar (1/2 tsp.), cornstarch (1 tbls.), water (3 tbls.), and chopped BBQ pork (2 cups). Stir fry, then let cool before filling each dough ball with 1 tbls. of the filling mixture, pressing it into the center of the dough and then smoothing over to seal it in.

I shredded some leftover pork rib meat, chopped up some leftover molasses-glazed sweet potatoes, and mixed it all in with a touch of plum sauce, salt and pepper. I imagine there are all kinds of tasty variations on this theme, and vegetarian options would be pretty simple as well.

If you want to freeze some dumplings for later, arrange them on a cookie sheet and stick it the freezer, once frozen toss them into a bag for easy storage.

To cook, simply steam in a steamer or steamer basket over rapidly boiling water for 15 minutes. I can recall microwaving the Cha Shu Baos my mother would buy, but have not yet tried to cook this home-made version that way.

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