A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of spending most of the day at Paradise Palms here in Edinburgh. As well as amazing cocktails and proper steez, this place serves Ninja Buns, an absolutely incredible take on Taiwanese Gua Bao; delicious things sandwiched between flat steamed bread.
I had one of their tofu bao, as well as a rice bowl (and more than a couple of cocktails), and I was blown away – as was everyone else who had one. I say again: incredible.
Me being me, though, I started to wonder what make the bread so different to normal bread. Was it just the steaming process? How hard was it to make them vegan? What was the method compared to normal bread?
And so, the following Wednesday, I spent absolutely all day figuring this out. And the results were just perfect.
It’s actually not hard to make these, if you have the time to let the dough rest. If you can make normal bread, then these are actually a breeze. The only difficult part is not having the dough deflate when you move the buns; see my note below for a tip on that.
I stuffed the bao with teriyaki tofu and celeriac remoulade (both recipes coming soon), but you can stuff them with pretty much whatever you want. Keep the flavours Taiwanese if you can, though, because some things just need to be respected.
(Makes 8 buns)
250g plain (all-purpose) flour (about 2 cups, or just a bit less)
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
2 tablespoons soy milk
125ml warm water (about 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon sunflower oil + a little more reserve
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast
Add in the soy milk, water, sunflower oil and vinegar and gently fold into a dough
Work the dough (this is how I knead my bread dough) for about 10 minutes then place into a lightly oiled bowl covered by a damp cloth and leave for 2 hours. It will double its size
Tip the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and flatten it down with your hands
Sprinkle the baking powder over it and knead for a few minutes
Roll it into a log or sausage shape until it’s about 3cm in diameter. Cut it into 3-4cm pieces. There should be 8
Roll each piece into a ball and leave it for a minute or so
Roll each ball out into an oval shape about 4mm thick and rub or brush the surface with a little sunflower oil and coat a chopstick in the same oil
Place the chopstick in the middle of the oval, then fold the oval over it so the edges meet. Quickly transfer the whole thing to a floured baking tray (or one lined with greaseproof paper) and slowly slide the chopstick out
Repeat with the others until they’re all on the tray*
Cover with a well-floured towel or oiled piece of cling film and let rise for an hour and a half
Transfer in batches to a bamboo steamer and steam for around 8 minutes
Stuff with wilted bok choi, carrot slaw or vegan celeriac remoulade and teriyaki marinated tofu, drizzle with Sriracha, and enjoy!
*As the bao buns deflate when they’re moved too much, it’s much easier to place them directly into the bamboo steamer if you have room for them. If you have one of those two or three-level steamers, this should be easy. I highly recommend it!
I’ll post the tofu and remoulade recipes in the next couple of days; in the mean time, you can be perfecting your bun-making skills. Try to be delicate with the dough as it’s resting and rising, and don’t forget the Sriracha. It makes everything better!