Chinese Red Bean Steamed Buns
When I was working with international students, one of the questions I get asked a lot is, "Do you speak Chinese?" And the answer to that question is "No". And very often, people don't even bother asking the question, and just start a conversation with me in Chinese. I listen to them until they're finished, well, to be polite, then I told them that I don't speak Chinese and they gave me this look of shock and disbelief. Some think I lie to them, and continue the conversation anyway, insisting that I reply to them in their native tongue.
My Mandarin is very limited, I can tell you. OK, that's a lie. It's pretty much non-existent. I can say 'ni hao' (hi/how are you), xiexie (thank you) and apart from naming some Chinese dishes in restaurants, that's about it. Oh, I also know how to say "I don't speak Chinese" in Mandarin which I thought was a good idea, but that's just caused even more confusion.
Growing up in a Chinese family, I suppose it is one of my parents' biggest disappointments that none of their children speaks the language of my ancestors. But that's not entirely my fault. I went to English speaking school when I was young, and at home we only spoke in Indonesian. Years later when I was a teenager, my dad mentioned that China is a growing major power and that speaking Chinese would be an asset. I opted learning French instead.
But this year, I am hoping to learn more Mandarin. This is not a new year's resolution and I certainly make no promises that I will master this language anytime soon. But, I'll definitely give it a good go and if I can have a small conversation with my extended family, when I get to visit China one day, that would be wonderful.
Now, on to these steamed buns or known as 'bao' or 'pao' which thankfully requires no ability to speak Chinese whatsoever. I love them and I am so happy that I can make them myself now. Just like baking bread, it is very rewarding. The dough is easy to make, and once you know how to make the bun, the possibilities for the filling are endless. This time I went for a sweet one by using red bean paste. Before I go any further, I will confess that I bought ready-made red bean paste from a bao place. You may be able to find it in your local Asian grocer as well or online. Rumour has it that making red-bean paste is a long, time consuming process and you know me, I've got very little patience....
Whilst at the Asian grocer, also look for bao/pao flour. Plain/All-purpose flour can be substituted but you will end up with a yellowish buns.
And don't worry if you don't have the special bamboo steamer you see in bao shops. I don't have one either. I used a wok filled with water and using a tall wire rack which I cover with strong foil and poke a bunch of holes on the foil using a skewer. That's my base. My wok comes with a lid which is handy, but if yours doesn't, use any large pot lid that will fit on your wok.
Meat eaters, obviously you can fill these buns with char siew (Chinese BBQ pork) or sausage meat cooked with some finely chopped carrots, shallots, garlic, fresh coriander leaves and seasoned with soy sauce, white pepper and few drops of sesame oil... well, just a thought...
List of ingredients and instructions can be found on my other blog, Me, My Food and I at www.michaeltoa.blogspot.com
Good luck with your language studies. These look delicious and pretty. Nice to have a link to your blog too.