Baos, for those who haven’t seen them as of yet, are wonderfully fluffy Chinese buns, which can take on many different shapes and fillings, sweet or savoury, and have gone from being a nuanced Chinese street food specialty, to being trendy and often filled with innovative, multi-cultural fillings, all over the world! When researching for my second book, Hong Kong Diner, I stumbled upon a restaurant in Hong Kong, located in PMQ in Central, called Sohofama. Their ethos as well as their food blew me away – and I knew I would have to try to recreate one of their signature dishes; a black pepper beef bao, for the book. I’ve included the recipe for the filling below, as well as some great news for those who would like to try their hand and making the bao itself! School of Wok and I are proud to announce our new make at home bao kits, now being sold at Tesco and Lakeland. Kits include either a black pepper or barbecue glaze for whatever filling you desire (beef, chicken, aubergine etc), pre-measured flour, pickling salts for your garnish, a spice rub, and of course instructions on how to roll shape and cook from start to finish. So before the summer is out I encourage you to change up your next burger for a bao instead! Have a go with the kit for your fillings alongside the buns, or save the glaze and rub for a later date give my long form version from the book a try below, alongside the flours from the kit to complete the dish by making your own buns. Whatever you choose, I wish you good fun and good luck in your cooking adventure!
Black Pepper Glazed Short Rib Bao
4 beef short ribs, separated
8–10 steamed hirata buns
THE POACHING LIQUID
1 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon salt
1 litre (1¾ pints/4 cups) water
3 tablespoons jarred Chinese black pepper sauce (available in Chinese supermarkets)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
Place the short ribs in a large saucepan and add all the poaching liquid ingredients. Bring to the boil on a high heat, then lower to a gentle simmer. Poach the beef ribs on a low heat for 3 hours, until the meat starts to fall off the bone but still keeps its shape.
While the meat is cooking, make your bao buns if you haven’t made them beforehand.
Mix the glaze ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Once the ribs have been poached, remove them from the poaching liquid and carefully remove the bones, leaving the meat itself whole and intact as much as possible.
Cut each long piece of meat in half vertically, in order to make more reasonably sized portions that will fit well into the steamed buns. Put the pieces of meat into the bowl of glaze and gently coat the pieces of meat, using a spoon to baste on all surfaces and sides.
Just before you finish glazing the meat, start steaming your bao buns. Char each side of the meat under a hot grill (minimum 230°C/450°F) on a lined baking tray or unlined rack, or finish directly on the barbecue. Serve one piece of short rib to one steamed bun for ease of eating (with only moderate gluttony), along with some pickles or salad and condiments on the side.