Bao; pronounced the same as lil bow wow (cue yippie yo yippie yay tune) and in the same way you would say ‘I shall bow down to this bao because it’s wow!’. So we’ve established I’m no poet but what we need to get straight is that bao is fantastic and shaking up the sandwich game. A Chinese cuisine usually eaten for breakfast, bao is firstly made up of steamed dough; both fluffy and slightly sweet. The dough alone is called Mantou and has possibly the coolest background story. Apparently an army general had to lead his army across a river but at the expense of 50 of his men’s heads as demanded by the people on the other side, so he made and floated steamed buns down the river to resemble the heads. So if it wasn’t a severed head you thought would come to mind whilst enjoying your first/next bao, it will be now. Thankfully though, the taste of bao will make it worth your while – basically mantou stuffed with meat or vegetables. Combine this with pulled pork and we have a match made in food market heaven.
For the pork:
1kg pork shoulder
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp salt
1tbsp brown sugar
1tsp chilli flakes
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 knob of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
½ pint of chicken stock
Bottle of hoisin sauce
For the buns:
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp white caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
Spring onions, chopped
- In a bowl, mix the Chinese, salt, brown sugar and chilli flakes together. Pat dry the pork shoulder with paper towels then rub the spice mixture all over the meat with your hands.
- Put the pork, rind side up in the slow cooker. Add the garlic, ginger and chicken stock then cover and cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.
- For the buns, tip the dry ingredients and a large pinch of salt into a food mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the milk, oil and 100ml tepid water, and work the mixture for about 10 mins until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave to double in size (for about 1 hr)
- Tip the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a sausage shape. Cut the sausage into 10 equal portions. Roll each portion into a bun, then use a rolling pin to roll each bun out into an oval. Lightly grease each one, then fold them over a greased chopstick or skewer and place on a lightly oiled baking tray to rest for 1 hr or until doubled in size. Remove the chopstick or skewer before steaming.
- Remove the pork from the slow cooker and put aside into a large baking tray. Cut the string and remove the fat then tear the pork apart using 2 forks. Pour the bottle of hoisin sauce over the meat and spread around evenly.
- Heat a steamer and steam the buns on circles of baking parchment in batches for about 10 mins until puffed up. Split the buns and stuff each one with a tablespoon or two of the pork. Scatter over some coriander, cucumber and spring onions, then sprinkle with the crushed nuts and tuck in.