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Bun and pork belly, Momofuku and me

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I almost started this post with a bad pun along the lines of “bun in the …” The alternative was a bland introduction that begs the question: everyone discovered Momofuku buns in 2007-08, why another post about it?

Because —

I have been eating steamed buns since childhood, and now I want to learn to make them.

I am slightly addicted to the combination of pork belly, soft steamed bun, herbs and hoi sin.

There is always room in the blogosphere for one more bun.

Besides, Momofuku took the pork belly bun to New York, while my bun goes for a stroll back to China.

Steam, magical steam

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For people who have tried baking bread, you know bakers can talk forever about the right oven temperature, and how to control humidity to get the ‘spring’ in the dough (ice cubes, boiling water, spray bottle, you name it).

Steamed buns are blissfully simple by comparison. You boil water, place a steaming device over boiling water, and let the steam do its thing. There is no adjusting temperature, no adjusting humidity. Steam is steam is steam.

I once read a comment on an Australian recipe website, where someone complained about the texture of steamed buns. “It’s soft and wet”, she says in disgust, as though she expected a crispy browned crust.

So, just to clarify, steamed buns are ‘wet’ in the sense that there will be no browned crust. They will be soft, white, somewhat fluffy. If made well, your teeth should sink into a moist silken pile. The taste should be neutral (bland) so that they form the perfect foil for strong flavoured fillings.

They also look very different from your everyday sourdough rolls, and was a novel sight even in our kitchen, which sees its fair share of Chinese and Asian cooking. Mr Gander, and our friends, were all intrigued by the armada of freshly steamed buns, sitting pretty in the bamboo steamers.

The instructions are not hard to follow. All you need is a little patience, and a willingness to embrace steam, and you too can have white, fluffy (and ‘wet’) buns of your own.

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