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Monday, January 31, 2011

Bao from a tube

The cooking details from yesterday's chicken bao cooking.  Here is a reminder of what the cook was really about, which is the 5-spice chicken cooked over some pecan wood and hardwood lump charcoal.
The whole shebang got a little complicated.  First I had to make a rub and marinade to get some additional flavor into the chicken.  I almost always buy Mary's Air-cooled Chickens as I feel they are actually more flavorful and cook better than the more industrial chickens at the Supermarkets.  Starting off with better tasting meat always helps.  The wet elements of the marinade were lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and rice vinegar.  The dry elements were lime zest, sea salt, vietnamese black pepper, ground ginger, chile powder and fresh Five Spice powder.  The spices were combined in two batches, one for the marinade and one for the dry rub.  A couple photos of the base flavors.
The chicken was marinaded for 8 hours in this blend.  I also purchased two chunks of firm tofu, fresh from the tub, which I intended to also smoke and add to the bao.  The tofu was marinaded at the same time, separate bag obviously, as the chicken.  Once these were cooked, it was onto the kettle running along at 350F with a couple large chunks of pecan wood for smoke. Here is the final chicken product, the tofu will be seen later.  Oh, about those skewers, I wanted the chicken to have a more uniform profile and shape and to be on the plump side, so I skewered them, then tied them. 
The top photo shows the chicken trussed up on the skewers, nest are the more uniform chickens with a little more 5-Spice Rub on the chickens, finally after about an hour and a half, the finished chickens.  These were so aromatic, the entire kitchen smelled of 5-Spice and pecan smoke.  This is a great thing.  Below are the additional elements, including the smoked tofu (which puffed up like that, very odd) including chopped scallions, baby bok choy and shiitake mushrooms, which were precooked in a braising liquid if water, shoyu, hoisin sauce and sugar, which was reduced once the mushrooms were removed.
For the other stuyle of bao, I prepared some carrots and cucumber into a simple sugar and salt pickle, I wanted these to have some crunch, so they were soaked in the lime juice, vinegar and sugar mix for just 3 hours.  This makes for a colorful and crunchy complement to the salty and smoky chicken.
The filling for the chicken stuffed bao was tossed in the wok with the chopped veggies, chicken and tofu along with a sauce made from the liquid the mushrooms were cooked in.  This was allowed to combine and cool.  The dough from a tube was then prepared.  Here is the dough in it's 'natural' state.
The steamer was prepared and ready to go.  Here is where I made my biggest mistake, the same mistake I always make of over stretching the dough and making it too thin.  I did that again.  I take the dough, overstretch it and cup it in my hand, add the filling then overstretch the dough even further by pulling the edges up, pinching them together.  I give it a twist and then push it up into the bao.
These were placed onto a sheet of cooking parchment in the steamer and steamed for 15 minutes, I think 10 minutes might have been enough.  They came out fine, if a little thin on the top due to the dough being over stretched.  I also used the biscuit dough to make the simple folded bao, also over-rolled.  These were stuffed with slices of the chicken along with the sugar-cured carrots and cucumbers.  Good stuff.


  1. You are stretching this one a bit, yes? (ha ha)

    Excellent tutorial. I like the little details like the decorative way you peeled the cuke.

  2. I love cukes peeled that way, so simple yet nice on the plate.