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Char Siu Bao--Cook-Off 2

Charcuterie Cookoff Chinese

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#31 little ms foodie

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 04:59 PM

Comments on that?

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i live in west seattle :rolleyes:

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haha! well I think you and your cute guy should make some this weekend too and then we can do a taste off here in Pioneer Square :wink:

#32 tamiam

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 07:24 PM

I've never made the dough before, and am interested in any tips to avoid toughness.

Someone upthread mentioned that the recipe in Eileen Yin Fei Lo "The Chinese Kitchen" is iffy. In what way? I just happened to buy that book today, so am curious.

I've made Char Siu using several recipes over the years, most recently Grace Young's. It is similar to Little Ms Foodie's plan. Grace's made a very tasty pork (yes, butt=shoulder--the term butt refers to an end joint), but I would want a thicker juicier sauce for Bao in order to compensate for the doughiness. The flavor is less sweet than some you may have had in restaurants, which I like, but is a matter of personal taste in the end. I would also leave out any red food coloring, which is a comon recipe ingredient. It does add a kind of pretty color, I just hate fake food--also personal.

Am looking forward to this cook-off. Great idea.
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#33 fou de Bassan

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 09:21 PM

I started on the meat today. I made two recipes. One, chicken with the packaged marinade bought at the oriental grocery to which I added garlic, water, grated ginger and 5 spice powder. The second, pork shoulder, sat in a bath of rice wine, honey, soy sauce,garlic, grated ginger, hoisin sauce and 5 spice powder. I cooked the meats in the oven separately over a pan of water at 400. The chicken was done after 20 minutes while the pork took a good 45minutes. I will finish the buns tomorrow(hopefully). As to the marinade, I preferred the homemade to the powder, it clung to the meat and tasted more immediate.
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#34 torakris

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 09:34 PM

On the filling front: are people finding appropriate char siu marinade ingredients? I had to work hard to track down a jar of fermented bean curd, and I'm on the last bit of the bottle of shaoxing wine I'll be using.


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my recipe calls for the fermented bean curd as well, I know that I can get my hands on it easily, but do I really need it? Do people have a preference of with or without? I am not sure if it was ever included in any of the versions I have ever eaten before....
I guess I have a problem with foods that include the word fermented...... even though I love natto... :blink:

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#35 little ms foodie

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 09:43 PM

step one is happening

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pork butt marinating overnight in the fridge. Marinade of soy sauce, hoisin, honey, dry sherry (I know, I know!), sugar, fresh ginger, 5 spice, sesame oil

Tomorrow we BAO :wink:

#36 Ben Hong

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 10:11 PM

"Cha lao"(restaurant) bao dough is almost always made with baking powder only...and sweet. Most recipes in cookbooks call for yeast dough, as in "man tou" or bread dough. Two entirely different doughs, different taste and textures. What is authentic? Both as they are both great in its own right. The baking powder style is light, fluffy and on the sweet side. The yeast dough is less sweet, heavier and more substantial or filling. This is just plain white bread dough, with a bit of extra sugar.

As for filling, any cha siu mixture is good, but don't make it too wet.

Kristin, leaving out the fermented bean curd gives a "cleaner" palate/taste in the eating. But some do like the heaviness of the bean curd taste. Tout a son gout, n'est-ce pas?

BTW kimchi is fermented too, no?

Edited by Ben Hong, 21 January 2005 - 10:16 PM.


#37 Behemoth

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 10:24 PM

Damnit. I won't have time to do this until after the 29th. :sad:

#38 Chris Amirault

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 08:09 AM

Someone upthread mentioned that the recipe in Eileen Yin Fei Lo "The Chinese Kitchen" is iffy.  In what way?  I just happened to buy that book today, so am curious.

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Hi Tamiaim!

I think I said that. I have that book and her Chinese Banquet Cookbook, and I find Chinese Kitchen very uneven. The bao dough that I made was decent, but her marinade was too sweet and very gummy after steaming. I'm trying to compare all of the recipes I'm using here on my desk. More in a sec!
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#39 Chris Amirault

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 08:23 AM


On the filling front: are people finding appropriate char siu marinade ingredients? I had to work hard to track down a jar of fermented bean curd, and I'm on the last bit of the bottle of shaoxing wine I'll be using.

View Post

my recipe calls for the fermented bean curd as well, I know that I can get my hands on it easily, but do I really need it? Do people have a preference of with or without? I am not sure if it was ever included in any of the versions I have ever eaten before....

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When I first made char siu, I used a recipe that did not include the fermented bean curd and the shaoxing. When I made my second batch, I had those two ingredients, and the difference was massive.

It seems strange that these little cubes of slightly stinky tofu are so central to the flavor, but it seemed really true -- for me, anyway. Ben is right: "Tout a son gout, n'est-ce pas?"

And the shaoxing is far better than sherry, to my tastes-- as long as you can get decent shaoxing. Cheapo supermarket "Chinese cooking wine", on the other hand, is far worse than the sherry you probably have in your liquor cabinet. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo recommends gin as a substitute, but I tried that and -- ewww.... :huh:

A tally of who uses what from my collection of Barbara Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's Chinese Kitchen and Chinese Banquet, Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook, and the warhorse of Chang and Kutscher, Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking.

shaoxing: MA, CK, CB, CAC

bean curd: CK, CB, ECFC

Everyone uses soy; hoisin, honey, sugar or a combination; garlic and/or ginger; five spice. Most use chicken stock as a moistening agent.

The one thing that every recipe I've seen says is that you should cut the pork into long 2 inch strips before marinating. That enables the marinade to seep thoroughly into the meat.

I think I'm going to tinker with these recipes until I have something that tastes right. You can easily test with a frying pan and a little chunk of pork. I'll post whatever tastes best!

edited to add five spice and fix a garbled sentence about shaoxing -- ca

Edited by chrisamirault, 22 January 2005 - 08:26 AM.

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#40 little ms foodie

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 12:00 PM

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First yeast and flour rising

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After kneading- I did it with the KitchenAid, will have to see if that makes a difference vs. doing it by hand???

Now it needs to double in size. Will start roasting my pork butt soon!

#41 Chris Amirault

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 12:35 PM

Great photos -- you go! Can you post ingredients and ratios from Madame Wong?
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#42 little ms foodie

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 12:58 PM

The dough ingrediants are 1 package dry yeast with 1 c water and 1 c flour in the first bowl. The second bowl is an addition of 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 cup water and 2 TBS shortening boiled together, cooled and added with 3 1/2 c flour. This one has no baking powder so it will definately be a breadier bun. I'll have to do another recipe next time to compare on my own.

Edited by little ms foodie, 22 January 2005 - 01:07 PM.


#43 little ms foodie

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 01:22 PM

The pork is in the oven roasting

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Damn it looks good!! Now how to make sure I use it for the filling instead of just slicing it and eating it?? :unsure:

I decided to roast mine whole after reading a bunch of different recipes. Since I marinated it overnight and turned it occasionally I think it will be ok. I love the texture of shredded pork!

#44 little ms foodie

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 01:27 PM

So I'm reading my filling recipe and it is only calling for a 1/2 pound of the pork. Does that sound right? If so YEAH!! I'll be able to slice some up and freeze some too!

Anyone, anyone?? Bueller???

#45 edsel

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 02:04 PM

"Cha lao"(restaurant) bao dough is almost always made with baking powder only...and sweet. Most recipes in cookbooks call for yeast dough, as in "man tou" or bread dough. Two entirely different doughs, different taste and textures. What is authentic? Both as they are both great in its own right. The baking powder style is light, fluffy and on the sweet side. The yeast dough is less sweet, heavier and more substantial or filling. This is just plain white bread dough, with a bit of extra sugar. View Post

Thanks, Ben. Are you saying that the yeasted dough is more prevalent in home cooking? And is the sweetness of the "cha lao" dough subtle or pronounced?

[...]
And the shaoxing is far better than sherry, to my tastes-- as long as you can get decent shaoxing. Cheapo supermarket "Chinese cooking wine", on the other hand, is far worse than the sherry you probably have in your liquor cabinet. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo recommends gin as a substitute, but I tried that and -- ewww....  :huh:

A tally of who uses what from my collection of Barbara Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's Chinese Kitchen and Chinese Banquet, Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook, and the warhorse of Chang and Kutscher, Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking.

shaoxing: MA, CK, CB, CAC

bean curd: CK, CB, ECFC

Everyone uses soy; hoisin, honey, sugar or a combination; garlic and/or ginger; five spice. Most use chicken stock as a moistening agent.

The one thing that every recipe I've seen says is that you should cut the pork into long 2 inch strips before marinating. That enables the marinade to seep thoroughly into the meat.

I think I'm going to tinker with these recipes until I have something that tastes right. You can easily test with a frying pan and a little chunk of pork. I'll post whatever tastes best! View Post


I've never been able to get decent Shaoxing here in Ohio. I picked up a couple of bottles in SF Chinatown last spring. I agree that it's preferable to substituting sherry, but anyone who can't find it can use sherry without feeling too deprived. Any cheap "cooking wine" is vile. If you can't find real Shaoxing, substitute dry sherry and carry on!

I've always thought of Chinese roasted pork as marinated strips roasted at high heat with a sweet coating - fragrant, sweet, and caramelized. Ken Hom calls for malt sugar rather than honey, so that's what I used. (the maltose syrup in the hot pink tub from the local asian market). The taste and consistency of the chinese maltose is pretty similar to Lyle's Golden Syrup.

I'm interested to see how Wendy's whole roast turns out. It sure looks good.

p.s. to Kristin: If you can eat Natto, you clearly fear no fermented food. :laugh:

#46 Ben Hong

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 02:33 PM

Edsel; I don't know whether the yeast dough is more prevalent in the home but I do know that it's the recipe that almost all cookbooks give. I can't fathom that at all. The "cha lao" baos have a quite sweet dough made with baking powder.

Little ms foodie's roast looks great ...for a roast. Cha siu is thick strips of meat, better to take on more of the marinade.

I do not normally use any specific alcohol (if at all) in my cha siu, because it would take a more discerning palate than mine to detect one brand from another after the stuff has been roasted with all the heavy flavours of the marinade ingredients. I'll drink my alcohol as a toast to those with Golden Palates who can differentiate. :rolleyes:
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#47 little ms foodie

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 04:50 PM

pork after roasting

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I agree with Ben, even though the flavor of the marinade is good all the way thru you don't get the yummy carmelization on as much surface with the whole roast (I saw recipes for it both ways). Next time I will cut into thick strips and roast. The flavor is sooooo good though, I'm very happy with it!

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After shredding and chopping- we had to do both so even more reason for doing the strips. The texture would be just the same.

Stir fried with scallions, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce and thickened with cornstarch

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This mixture rocks!! I almost just ate it! :smile:

We did a little assembly line, taking turns rolling the dough and filling the dough. Now they are resting/rising and we'll steam them in about an hour.

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BAO!! :wub:

#48 edsel

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 05:05 PM

Thanks for your input, Ben. Out of curiosity (if you don't mind), is your familiarity with restaurant-style ("cha lao") dumplings here in North America, or in Canton or Hong Kong? I'm very much aware that this is an international forum, and I don't make any assumpsions about where our members post from (unless their profiles state as much).
As you've probably guessed by now, I'm not a total stickler for "authenticity", but I like to be cognizant of regional variations.
Wendy, your pork roast looks wonderful. I would suggest that you dice it up in small pieces and douse it in many yummy flavorings.
Edit to add: Looks like Wendy is way ahead of me!

Edited by edsel, 22 January 2005 - 05:11 PM.


#49 torakris

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 05:09 PM

gorgeous pictures Wendy!!

I guess I am off this morning to buy some fermented bean curd, yeah I love kimchi too so I don't know what I am afraid of...

my recipe, from Corrine Trang, calls for shaoxing as well, how owuld sake work as a substitute? I am pretty sure I could get a bottle of decent shaoxing here if I looked. Are there any good brands to keep an eye out for?


My bao recipe calls for BOTH yeast and baking powder.....

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#50 jackal10

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 05:13 PM

OK...I'll make mine tomorrow. Baked or steamed? At the moment I'm inclining to baked..Meantime the pork is marinating and the sourdough starter starting overnight:
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The pork is belly strips cos I like the fat and the skin, and they were on special...

#51 little ms foodie

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 05:21 PM

Jack.... YUM!!!!

I vote that you bake them so I can see and mentally compare the differences. Or maybe I should vote that you steam them so I can see if I did ok?? hmmm, decisions, decisions!

I have to say that never in a thousand years would I ever had thought to try to make this so THANKS chris and the rest of all you for great ideas, helpful info and the support!

Waiting to steam.....

#52 Chris Amirault

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 05:22 PM

Wendy, how'd they taste? They look spectacular!!
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#53 edsel

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 05:29 PM

Kristin, I'm guessing that it's probably easier for you to find Shaoxing wine where you are now than back home in NEO. :smile: Shaoxing has more of an "aged" quality - sake and mirin are not at all equivalent. Ben has already expressed doubt about the importance of using the "right" alcohol in these recipes, but if you can can get your hands on the "real thing", why not?

BTW, the Shaoxing wine I bought in SF Chinatown is in conventional western wine bottles. The traditional stuff I saw in Chinese restaurants in Shizuoka Prefecture (close to your home!) was in the historic clay jars, with commensurate prices. Get ready for serious sticker shock there! The cheap stuff in glass bottles should do fine for marinating pork for char siu bao.

#54 torakris

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 07:52 PM

just came back from the store and they had a different type of fermented bean curd than the one I am used to seeing. This was fermented with rice and actually had whole pieces of rice in it and it was a very light brown color. Is this a completely different product?
I aslo picked up a new Japanese cooking magazine because as I was flipping through they have a special section all on bao! Maybe I will try one of the Japanese versions as well....

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#55 torakris

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 08:04 PM

Kristin, I'm guessing that it's probably easier for you to find Shaoxing wine where you are now than back home in NEO. :smile:  Shaoxing has more of an "aged" quality - sake and mirin are not at all equivalent. Ben has already expressed doubt about the importance of using the "right" alcohol in these recipes, but if you can can get your hands on the "real thing", why not?

BTW, the Shaoxing wine I bought in SF Chinatown is in conventional western wine  bottles. The traditional stuff I saw in Chinese restaurants in Shizuoka Prefecture (close to your home!) was in the historic clay jars, with commensurate prices. Get ready for serious sticker shock there! The cheap stuff in glass bottles should do fine for marinating pork for char siu bao.

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Edsel, you are very right! Northeast Ohio is not the best place to find Asian products.....

I was just digging through my cupboards and look what I found!

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It is probably a couple years old, I had to dust it off before taking the picture... :blink:
Is it still good?
It is the Pagoda brand and this is the one that you can find in most stores in Japan, is it any good? I must have bought it when I was going through a Chinese kick about 3 years ago.

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#56 Ben Hong

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 11:24 PM

Edsel, my familiarity with the teahouse (cha lao) style of bao comes mainly from eating all kinds of them in Toronto and Vancouver, cities which arguably have the best Chinese food outside of China and Hong Kong. Almost all of the bao I eat in the dimsum places and restaurants there have been the baking powder type. However there is the Vietnamese style which is larger and are of the yeasty variety. These suckers are huge, about the size of a softball and my favourite of these are chicken filled. In Hong Kong most of the "inside" restaurants serve a baking powder style bao, yet most of the street hawkers sell the yeasty type. Go figure.

As for alcohol in the bao recipes, I say whatever turns your crank. I have a very pragmatic approach towards cooking...I am a stickler with the essential components of any recipe. As for anything else that may or may not make a huge difference, if it's available I'll use it, but I wouildn't lose one wink of a good night's sleep if I didn't have something that's not crucial to the recipe. Who knows, if you happen to use rum or scotch instead of ShiaoShing, you might be surprised that the bao might taste better, if slightly "different". :wink:

#57 helenas

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Posted 23 January 2005 - 07:43 AM

Since japanese and vietnamese versions of bao were mentioned i wonder how about the korean one?
Many years ago when i lived in far east of russia, a typical street food was "pyan-se" - a big steamed bun with very spicy filling of chinese cabbage and ground pork, made and sold by koreans.
Recently i finally decided to track down a recipe but so far failed - none of the korean cookbooks seem to mention it. I also tried to google in russian, and this helped, a bit - i got the idea of filling, but i'm still not sure about the skin. The russian recipes for skin all have yeast in them.
The korean bun was very thin skinned like made from unleavened dough but on the other hand the texture was quite different from the skin of say steamed dumpling. My memory of course can play tricks but somehow i remember it being soft and not slippery or shewy like dumpling's one and having some layers to it. So yeh maybe there is some leavening agent involved.
Is it possible that buns were steamed without resting?
Thoughts?

Thanks, helena

#58 beccaboo

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Posted 23 January 2005 - 07:46 AM

My bao recipe calls for BOTH yeast and baking powder.....

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So does mine (it's Kenneth Lo's). After the first rise, you knead in the baking powder. I've forgotten and left out the baking powder, and it didn't seem to make much difference.

#59 phifly04

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Posted 23 January 2005 - 09:46 AM

OK,just returned from the store with ingredients for Char siui,ll be making mine from a recipe off the net.The following ingredients will be in my marinade(very limited choices out here in bumfuck)
5 tbl light soy sauce
3tbl. dark soy sauce
5tbl. honey(in lieu of maltose)
4 tbl.table sugar
4 tbl.rice wine vinegar
4 tbl. hoisin sauce
4 cloves garlic
red food color
in a sauce pan cook all ingredients(minus red food color)
for just 2 minutes,let cool
i chose a rib end boneless loin(nicely fatted)which i will cut into strips and marinade for 24 hours.
i purchased a disposable camera to take some pics,im guessing i can get these processed into a cd for downloading??someone pm me
To the kitchen!!!!! :blink:
edited to add a knuckle of ginger and 4 green onions also

Edited by phifly04, 23 January 2005 - 09:59 AM.

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#60 little ms foodie

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Posted 23 January 2005 - 11:25 AM

Finished our bao last night but had to eat a few on the way out the door as we were running late to a friend's b-day party. priorities right?? :wink:

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Steaming in our double decker steamer. The first batch I crowded and they were a bit hard to get out. These I didn't and it worked much better. Steamed for 10 mins. with rapidly boiling water. Covered of course.

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Cooled them on a rack for just a few minutes. As you can see the buns did not get a perfect round and smooth skin. And they are a bit bigger than I've had. Darn Americans always 'super sizing' everything! :laugh:

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YUM!! They taste soooooo good!! Sweet, savory. The dough is awesome- very pillowy and light!!

I packed half into the freezer. The rest we will have for lunch today.

I used waxed paper and it seemed to stick pretty badly. Dumb question for the day...is there a 'right' and 'wrong' side to wax paper? Do people usually use parchment??

We will absolutely make this again!!!

I can't wait to see everyone else's!!





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