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A Heavenly King of Dim Sum

Celebrate the year of the ox by feasting on these char siu bao. Chewy and sweet these are the only reason meat ever needs to be barbequed. Recipe from the indomitable red house spice.

Prep time: 8 hours

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes: 12-16

Ingredients Char Siu:

350g pork shoulder steaks

4 tbsp Char Siu sauce

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp Five-spice powder

4 cloves garlic

5 slices ginger

1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)

2 tsp honey

Ingredients Dumplings filling:

1/2 tbsp oil

1/2 onion

120ml water

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp Char Siu sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp tapioca starch (or corn starch) (3 tbsp of water)

130 g Char Siu pork

Ingredients Dumpling dough

350g plain flour

2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp dry yeast

1 1/2 tbsp neutral cooking oil

180ml lukewarm water

1. Marry together the ingredients in the marinade

To get these baos cracking you need to prepare the essential ingredient, the pork. It needs to marinade for at least 6 hours, but ideally over night (it needs it's beauty sleep).

Mix together 4 tbsp Char Siu sauce, 1 tbsp oyster sauce,1/2 tbsp soy sauce,

1/4 tsp five-spice powder, 4 cloves garlic, 5 slices ginger and1/2 tsp chilli powder (if using).

Add the 2 pork shoulder steaks (or whatever 350g amounts to for your pork shoulders, maybe they are from a hog and are huge, we won't judge).

Stir together, covering the meat with the marinade and then cover the bowl with foil or cling film. Pop in the fridge to luxuriate in the marinade for your chosen amount of time.

2. Have a reunion and remeet your meat

When you pork has marinated and absorbed all the lovely flavours remove it from the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 200°c. While your oven is heating, deliberate (RuPaul style) over which pan you're going to use to cook the pork. The ideal is a wire rack which will fit inside a deep, larger tray. If you have this, then you go glen coco, fill the tray with hot water and place the marinated meat on top of the wire rack. This makes sure it stays nice and juicy tender (insert clip of Gollum doing a jig).

If you don't have a contraption of this making, just use a tray and fill an oven proof bowl with hot water, pop it at the bottom of the oven.

Put your meat on whichever device in the hot oven. Cook for 15 minutes.

Remooff ze meat! Carefully flip it over and brush with some more marinade. Make sure there's enough water left in the oven, and it hasn't all evaporated. Pop the meat back in the oven for another ten minutes. Whilst it's cooking mix 2tsp honey into the rest of the marinade.

You're probably suffering from RSI by this point, but remove the meat from the oven. Crank the heat up on the oven to 220°c. No need to flip the meat, just brush the pork with as much honeyed marinade as you can. And you guessed it, pop it back in the oven. Only for 5 minutes this time. Take out at the end of that time, marinate with any remaining char siu marinade and cook for 3 more minutes.

Take out for the final time (praise be to the char siu gods). Leave to cool on the side.

3. Don't bao out too soon

Now you've meeted out your filling it's time to do the main part of the recipe, the bao themselves!

So, first things first help the meat fufill it's role of filling by turning it into a gravy like substance.

First, add 1/2tbsp of neutral oil to a pan and heat on a medium heat. Slice half an onion whilst the oil is heating, then whimsically throw into the pan. You can have a monch on the other half an onion if you feel like you need to channel your inner Stanley Yelnats. Fry the onions until slightly golden.

Pour in 120ml water and listen to it sputter in protest of being in the company of tear-jerking onions. Then add 2tbsp oyster sauce, 1tbsp Char Siu sauce and 1tbsp dark soy sauce. Leave it to boil for 30 seconds. Take the mix off the heat - using a slotted spoon remove the onion from the mix. They were only ever in there for the flavour, the water will be happy they're gone.

In a glass or mug mix 2 tbsp of corn starch (or tapioca starch if you have it, you fancy bish) with 3 tbsp of water. It will be a weird plasticy texture, give it a poke for pleasure.

Turn the hob to the lowest heat and put the onionless gravy on the heat. Mix in the corn starch water mix. You might need a whisk, it has a will to become very clumpy. Keep stirring until it is thick like your nan's gravy. Put to the side to cool.

Return to the char siu pork and admire it's golden radiance. Then get a knife and destroy what you love most. Chop one shoulder steak into small pieces, about the size of your pinky nail (but don't chop yours up).

Add it to the gravy and mix well. Leave alone to cool.

4. Dim dum do sum dough

If you can find space amongst all your pending washing up, get started on the dough. In a bowl mix 350g plain flour, 2tbsp sugar, 2tsp baking powder and 2tsp dry yeast and 11/2 tbsp neutral oil. Mix with a spatula or chopsticks if you have them. Gradually add 180ml lukewarm water whilst mixing with your hand. You might not need all of the water, so go slowly. When it has formed into a rough dough pour it onto a surface and knead until smooth.

5. Let's wrap this up

Chop the dough into 14 equal dough babies. You can weigh them for accuracy if you so desire. Cover the balls with clingfilm or a damp tea towel to stop them from drying out (like Mitch McConnells personality).

Select one dough ball at a time (I imagine them chanting the claw in unison as I select one each time) and roll into a circle with a 9-10cm diameter (so that GCSE maths did come in handy, huh).

Cover once rolled out and move onto the next until you've flattened them all like an undefeatable steam roller.

6. Fill those bao

Take one wrapper at a time and fill with 1tbsp, or however much will fit in, of the char siu sauce. Pinch the edges of the wrapper to close the wrapper around the filling, red house spice has a great guide for the proper technique to this. Keep filling and pleating until all the bao are completed.

Put the finished bao on a lightly oiled surface and cover with a damp tea towel or cling film. Leave them to rise up for 30 minutes, so they can finally take their final bao.

7. Steam, steam, steam, it's magic

Return to the now risen bao after 30 minutes of impatient snacking. Boil water in a pot, enough for a steamer. Add greaseproof paper to the inside of your steamer and place your gorgeous bao carefully inside. Don't overcrowd the steamer, the bao will rise and spread (on their mission to world dominance).

Put on to steam at a medium high heat with the lid on for 10 minutes.

You can cook in batches or freeze any remaining bao.

Serve immediately.

And have dinksum and sinkdum!

Food for Thought

Lizzy says: "If I were to have my own empire then the currency would be bao, and I would probably be very fat; bao are my favourite food in the world. I love making foods that are slightly more involved and that I would only ever usually buy from a restaurant, however it did take a long time to make these and they weren’t quite as good as the ones from most cantonese restaurants… It took a while to cook the meat, and I don’t think I’ll ever use the rest of the pork banished to my freezer. Nonetheless, these were bouncy and sticky but just not as good as those in Soho! 7/10."

Kate says: "Bao always seemed such an out of reach food to make at home, but red house spice made this recipe so easy to follow - I was genuinely surprised how good the outcome was! My only gripe is that my sauce was more like a thick gravy than a jelly and was a bit difficult to cram into the baos, it just ended up spilling out everywhere, so probably next time I would use tapioca starch like suggested or more cornstarch. The bao were nonetheless delicious. Super fluffy and chewy (just like a good bao should be) with a deep and rich barbecue filling. Next time I would perhaps fill half with pork and half with another flavour just to mix things up. 8/10 (Also a great excuse to buy that bamboo steamer you've been thinking about for ages but never quite had a reason to)."

7.5/10 Gasps


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