Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore

I grew up in a small city that was so homogenous it was like swimming in a vat of whole milk. White as far as the eye could see. Minorities were not merely a little different, they were akin to space aliens. Thus when I moved away to college (as fast as I could, I might add), it was somewhat startling to be in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the country. In my little suburban neighborhood we've had neighbors from Holland, Fiji, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Japan, Russia and Bulgaria, though no space aliens.

Escaping from Wonderbreadland not only opened my eyes to the bigger world, ethnically speaking, it did so gastronomically as well. At home we had a variety of "ethnic" meals. Italian was spaghetti or pizza (which my father tried making from a Chef Boyardee boxed mix. It had a Biscuick crust. Never, ever make that!) Chinese was stir fry, if you use that term for pushing strips of beef and vegetables with no seasonings around in an electric skillet with a spatula. Pretty narrow horizons.

So when I moved to this port city teeming with Asian influence my taste buds got a wake up call and I became enamored with the different tastes and flavors of Szechuan, Hunan, and Mandarin food. I think my tongue is still healing from my first taste of Vietnamese food. Wow! When I got married and as my kitchen skills improved I embarked on a quest to move beyond the meat, potatoes, and jello of my youth and recreate some of the foods I'd come to love.

One of the most elusive was Hum Bow because I didn't own a steamer for my wok. I'd tried using a plate set on canning jar lids and it just didn't do the job. So this Christmas when my sweetie gave me a steamer I set to work finding a good recipe for Hum Bow. I have no idea how "authentic" this recipe is. I got it off the internet. I just know it tastes pretty yummy! I love the sweetness of the filling and the warm, soft texture of the steamed buns.

One note - while shaping and steaming the hum bow I was watching Arrested Development with my daughter and got distracted. I didn't check the water level in the bottom of the wok. Yes, I burned my new steamer. Sadness. But, it did add an interesting and unexpected smokey note to the buns. So, watch the water level!

Don't plan on eating this the day you start. You need time to marinate your pork. I bought a large portion of pork so I doubled the marinade and put half of the pork in a zip-loc bag with 1/2 the marinade then put it in the freezer. Then when next I want to make humbow I'll pull it out of the freezer and it will marinate as it thaws. Genius, no?

Also, it only occurred to me after the buns were all done that they didn't have the familiar puckered appearance on top. They're folded over like little packets of pork, rather than purses of pork. If you prefer the purse, just pull the sides up and pinch together, like the pursed lips of a disapproving old lady. Since none of my packets leaked, I don't think the purses would either.

Barbeque Pork Buns (Char Siu Bow) or (Hum Bow)

2 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. Oyster sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. Soy sauce
1/2 tsp. Sesame oil
8 oz Barbecued Pork (recipe follows)
4 Green onions
2 Tbs. Vegetable oil
2 tsp. Grated fresh ginger
1 Clove garlic, crushed
1 1/4 c Water
1 Tbs. Cornstarch
3 c. All-purpose flour
1 Tbs. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 c. Vegetable Shortening
1 tsp. White vinegar

1. Combine Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil. Chop pork and onions finely.

2. Heat vegetable oil in wok or fry pan over high heat. Stir-fry ginger and garlic in the oil 1 minute. Stir in hoi sin mixture. Cook and stir two minutes. Combine 1/2 cup of the water and the cornstarch. Blend into hoi sin mixture. Cook and stir until liquid boils. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 2 minutes. Stir in pork and onions. Remove from heat. Cool completely.

3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Cut or rub in shortening until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Combine remaining 3/4 cup of the water and the vinegar. Mix water-vinegar into flour until dough sticks together. Shape dough into ball. Knead on lightly floured surface 6 or 8 times. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 20 minutes. Uncover and knead 4 or 5 more times. Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Shape each portions into a smooth ball.

4. Roll each ball of dough on lightly floured surface
into a circle 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Brush around edges lightly with water. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of pork mixture onto center of each circle. Carefully pinch edges together to seal dough around filling. Bring the two ends of dough over the seam and pinch together.

5. Cut waxed paper into twelve 5-inch squares. Brush one side of paper lightly with oil. Place a bun, seam side down, on each square.

6. Place buns with paper in single layer on steamer rack over boiling water. Cover and steam buns until done about 20 minutes. Yield: 1 dozen


2 Whole pork tenderloins, about 12 ounces
1/4 c Soy sauce
2 Tbs. Dry red wine
1 Tbs. Brown sugar
1 Tbs. Honey
2 tsp. Red food coloring
1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Green onion

1. Remove and discard fat from meat.

2. Combine soy sauce, wine, sugar, honey, food coloring, cinnamon, garlic and onion in large bowl. Add pork, turning tenderloins to coat completely. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour or refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.

3. Drain pork, reserve marinade. Place pork on wire rack over baking pan.

4. Bake in preheated 350 degree F. oven until done, about 45 minutes.
Turn and baste frequently during baking.

5. Remove pork from oven. Cool. Cut into diagonal slices.


Sean said...

Looks simply delicious. While you're on an Asian kick you might want to check out some Japanese Okonomiyaki while you're at it. It's a pretty wild Japanese pizza type of object. I think that the family might have a little bit of fun with it since you can customize each one to your own tastes. ;)

Gabe said...

I'm going to need to get myself a steamer. ;)

**doffs her cap and vanishes**