My dad has always been extremely cautious about food safety, chemical additives, preservatives etc. When we were kids, we were scolded for having anything that had artificial colouring in it. The delicate thousand year old egg dishes, whether with smooth tofu as a side dish or diced up in congee, Anderson never ordered. “Too much lead,” he said.
Bread that was too fluffy, “Too much rising agent,” he re-iterated. Anything grilled or baked with char marks? “Too burnt, has carcinogens.” Whenever I had seaweed in front of him, “Be careful of too much iodine.” Anything cooked in a Teflon pan, “I’m not eating that,” he says. Anderson is serious about food safety!
Fast forward to the food scandal state of present day Asia, it seems like all the ridicule from people who enjoy barbecues and processed foods is a reverse joke.
This week, my mom decided to make her own baos at home. (Tonight she made the outer shell of “Gua Baos”. The shells of Momofuku and Ippudo’s pork belly buns. So tremendously successful.) The base ingredients are simple, but you can mix and match any toppings or fillings you’d like.
For the dough:
Let the dough rise, for about an hour or two. After the dough rises, just roll it out. Whatever shape you can imagine. Whatever filling you want. (“Nutella! Nutella!”) After you’ve added fillings, shaped your dough, let it rest against. Cover with cheese cloth. After a little more rising, they are ready for the steamer.
Mother&Co. went ahead with four variations out of the same dough batch:
1) Green Onion Pancake with a Sesame Crust
This was my favourite of the end products. The crust, with the nutty sesame layer, crispy right off the pan. It’s a large mound so we cut it into slices like a pizza. The middle section is fluffy and chewy, with the aroma of the green onions. The green onions mixed with salt gives it the perfect flavour.
2) Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Bao
I was scared to try this at first because I don’t like how tart dried cranberries can be. However, after being steamed, some of the tartness rendered away. And with the relatively flavourless bao surrounding, it’s like finding raisin in your bagel. The pumpkin seeds are unsalted, which is a good choice since it allows the cranberries to really shine through in the mellow dough. Great texture in a fluffy bun. It’s not too sweet for those who don’t like their baos like desserts. (Closest thing I can compare it to is a muesli bagel or a raisin bagel.)
3) Molten Brown Sugar Triangular Spaceship
I have no idea where she came up with the shape of this, but it was delicious. Right out of the steamer, it was pipping hot. I waited until I ate the savoury ones before I went ahead with this one. Most of the brown sugar had melted into a syrup, but there were still bits of sandy texture. Late at night, I microwaved one for about 15 seconds and it was the best little bite ever.
4) Green Onion Roll
The original intention was just to make this. However, Mother&Co. got a little side tracked. These little bites, out of the steamer, had an excellent balance of flavour. Whenever you bit into a piece of scallion, it was like finding a piece of olive in a ciabatta. The texture is spongy, yet not filled with giant holes like traditional breads.