When I went to China, I went to go to as many small street food stalls (小吃店）as possible. There is one small street food stall I will always remember….
Let me tell you about this small bun shop in a residential neighbourhood in the Pan Yun district of Guang Zhou. Every morning a crowd of loyal customers and curious spectators crowd around a small street small selling various kinds of steamed buns. They are surrounded by steam, as the push and squish to purchase their morning breakfast. The young lady in charge of selling the buns is is surrounded by crates of steaming vegetable, meat and red bean buns on top of each other. She is sassy and blunt, if you don’t make up your mind fast she will simply ignore you and give the last red bean buns to someone else. You can see a few men rolling out dough and wrapping the buns through the glass windows. There is one guy who is steaming fresh rice noodles at lightning speed, before chucking it in a plastic container for the eager customers to devour. If you come after 10:30 am everything， except for a few pork buns will be completely gone.
Every morning, my mother and I would go to this bun shop and eat the breakfast. And by breakfast I mean the best breakfast ever . I remember squatting on a plastic stool eating 1 cabbage bun, 1 red bean bun, 1 Shu Mai and one container of freshly made rice noodles topped with carrot and shiitake all in one sitting. Plus a cup of freshly made soy bean milk (豆浆) to wash everything down. The buns here are fluffy, tender and yellow, due to the addition of corn flour in the dough. The fresh rice noodles are silky and smooth, easily slurped up with some sauce.
My uncle was the one who told me about this place. “This place is pretty trustworthy” he said. “Most small street food stalls use recycled oil* and all sorts of strange things. But, because this one is in a neighbourhood, it has to have a good reputation, or rumours will spread and it will be out of business”.
My favourite bun from the bun shop was the vegetable bun. It is simply a steamed in a yellow dough filed with sautéed cabbage. I daydream about these vegetable buns too much. Therefore, I have decided to make some myself so I can get one with my life. After a bit of trail and error, vegetable buns are slightly different, but still very delicious.
My recipe consists of a carrot, cabbage and shiitake filling wrapped in a buckwheat dough. The dough is fluffy and slightly sweet and the filling is juicy and fragrant.
Sometimes when I eat my own homemade steamed buns, I imagine I am back in the small bun shop sitting on the plastic stool again…..
*Basically the infamous recycled oil is extracted from restaurant leftovers… haha it is not very hygenic
Vegetable Steamed Buns (蔬菜包)
Ingredients for dough:
all purpose wheat flour 180 g
buckwheat flour 60g (use can use all all purpose if you want)
one heaped tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
150 ml warm water (35 C )
1/2 tbs sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp wheat flour
Ingredients for filling:
1/4 of a medium sized cabbage, chopped into thin strips
2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced finely
1 small carrot, shredded finely
sesame oil, oyster sauce and salt
Combine dry ingredients for dough in a large dough. Combine wet ingredients for dough in a seperate bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients together to form a moist and soft dough. Adjust water/flour ratio if needed.
Knead your dough on a lightly floured bench until smooth and glossy. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film/damp towel and leave in a warm place to rise for one hour.
Meanwhile, make your filling. Heat 1 tsp neutral oil and 1 tsp sesame oil in a medium size pan.
Add cabbage and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add some salt to taste.
Add carrot and shiitake mushrooms and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes
Add some oyster sauce to taste, and stir fry for another 30 seconds until 75% cooked.
Let filling cool.
When dough has risen, place it onto a floured bench, and roll it into a log.
Divide dough into six balls and roll each ball into a circular wrapper by rotating the dough by 90 degrees every once so often when you roll. (Tip, if your dough is too moist, it will not shape well, so be careful!)
Using this helpful video as a guide, place a tbs of filling in the middle of wrapper, and fold sides of wrapper like a fan, to overlap each other.
Finally, pinch the dough folds together, and, with a twist, close up your bun. My description sucks, you should really watch the video…
Place your bun on a small square of parchment paper.
Place buns in a steamer (you can make one on your stove) and steam for 12 minutes on medium high heat.
Do Not Open The Lid throughout the steaming process!
After 12 minutes has past, turn off the stove and let the buns sit for 5 minutes in the pot.
After 5 minutes has past, tilt your lid slightly on an angle make a small gap. Let buns sit for another 2-3 minutes. This process ensures your buns will be smooth and wrinkle free.
Remove and serve! I eat mine with some homemade pickled daikon and a marinated cucumber salad.