Tag Archives: pork belly

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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Chinese new year: a feast in words

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“What do we need to do?”

“Wear something red!”

This post begins with festive Chinese food, ends with baklava, and has a soliloquy about photography at dinner parties.

On Saturday night, 12 friends gathered around our 3 meter long dining table for a dinner spanning more than 7 courses. I think I got a bit carried away when planning a menu to showcase the festive food that I have loved since childhood, flavours from other regions of China that I have discovered as an adult, and the sneaky bit of non-Chinese food that I can’t live without.

This year, menu planning had extra challenges. One guest is allergic to anything in the family of shallots, garlic, onion and chilli. Another guest is vegetarian. As with other dinners we’ve hosted, I tried to minimise the number of ‘special’ dishes for these guests. After all, having dinner with friends is much less fun if you are left out, food-wise.

At the start of the evening, I looked at our kitchen, with every bench space and every shelf in the fridge groaning under the weight of food – and the palpable sense of excitement – and the seriously decent alcohol. We were starting the lunar new year on the right footing.

We had fun setting the table. There were, of course, red napkins and red chopsticks. Each guest also got a red envelope with sweets and chocolates (in lieu of money). Scattered around the table were dried chrysanthemum flowers, gold-wrapped chocolates, miniature new year cakes (nian gao) and mixed peanut candy that I’ve found seriously addictive since my earliest days.

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Before I knew it, the all-day cooking extravaganza had become an all-evening eating odyssey.

Here is the menu:

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