Dim Sum Recipe #11 : Vegetable Egg Rolls

If you’ve followed along for a while, I’m guessing that you probably love dim sum as much as I do. Since dim sum tends to be a fat laden meal, I often try to make these treats a bit healthier when creating them at home. I figure that you can get the full-fat version at your local dim sum house, and then come back to my recipes when you feel like cutting back a bit.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to avoid deep fat frying in my dim sum recipes up to this point. When I finally get around to covering even more dim sum favorites I don’t know that I’ll be able to hold to this, but for now I’m happy to say that these Baked Veggie Egg Rolls are every bit as delicious as the originals. Instead of deep fat frying, these rolls are wrapped with a phyllo pastry that’s lightly misted with oil spray. Less fat, lots of fresh veggie flavor, and no used oil clean up…what’s not to love?

There are a few tricks to creating a perfectly crisp baked egg roll. First, you want to pick veggies with less water content. For this reason, I like to use regular cabbage instead of napa cabbage and dried shiitake mushrooms instead of fresh ones. When you cook the filling over high heat, the goal is to reduce the water content in the veggies, which also helps to concentrate their flavor.

Another thing you’ll want to do is to make sure the filling is completely cooled to room temperature before wrapping it with the phyllo. This is a very important step since steam coming off of the cooked veggies will sog up an otherwise crisp wrapper.

My last tip (and this is an easy one), is to eat these while they’re still freshly baked. You can keep the phyllo and veggie filling in the fridge, and just make the number of rolls you plan on eating when the time is right. This assures a crisp, golden crust that shatters, just like what you’d expect in the most delicious deep-fried kind. Serve these up with some oolong tea based Sweet & Sour Sauce and poof! Chinese take-out night without the guilt!

Dim Sum Recipe #10: Veggie Egg Rolls

Makes 12 egg rolls.

Ingredients:

{Egg Rolls}

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium brown onion, diced (1 cup)

1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp ginger, grated

1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, rinsed, squeezed dry, stems removed, then diced

1 Tbsp sherry or cooking wine

2 carrots, shredded (1 1/4 cups)

1 red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)

1/2 small head of cabbage, diced (5 cups)

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp white pepper

1 tsp sugar

3 Tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce

2 green onions, sliced finely

12 large sheets of phyllo dough, thawed and kept moist

vegetable oil spray

{Orange Oolong Sweet & Sour Sauce}

Equipment:

large wok or skillet

large baking sheet

large cooling rack

work surface

1/4 cup measure

Directions:

1.) Place a wok on high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the pan, wait for it to shimmer, then add the onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan and cook for 1 minute. After a minute, toss the diced mushrooms into the pan with the onion, garlic, and ginger, and stir fry for 2 minutes.

2.) Add 1 Tbsp of sherry to the cooking vegetables, then let it cook out.

3.) Next add the shredded carrots and diced red bell pepper. Stir fry them with the mushroom-onion mixture for 3 minutes, then add the diced cabbage to the wok.

4.) Stir fry the vegetables for about 3 minutes, then add the sesame oil, white pepper, sugar, and vegetarian oyster sauce. Continue to cook the mixture over high heat for an additional 4 minutes until all the excess moisture has evaporated and the veggies are slightly browned. Place the vegetable filling on a large plate to cool completely to room temperature.

5.) When the filling has completely cooled to room temperature, mix in the green onions with the veggies, then preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

6.) Place a sheet of the phyllo on a work surface, then spray it lightly and evenly with vegetable oil spray. Place 1/4 cup of the veggie mixture on one side of the phyllo sheet (my sheet was 9″ x 14″), about 1″in from the edge on the short (9″ side). Form the filling roughly into a 4″ log. Fold in the long (14″) sides of the pastry evenly around the filling, then roll the egg roll up in a sushi-like fashion, until you a finished egg roll. Repeat this step 12 times to make 12 egg rolls.

7.) Lightly spray a large baking sheet with the same vegetable oil spray, then park the egg rolls on the baking sheet seam side down. Give each egg roll a final even, light spray of oil, then bake them for about 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

8.) Let the Baked Veggie Egg Rolls cool on a cooling rack for a few minutes, serve them with Orange Oolong Sweet & Sour Sauce on the side, and enjoy!

Kalua Pork Buns

For a dish that’s so flavorful and simple to make, Kalua Pork should really be on your dinner table tonight.  Kalua pork is a Hawaiian island favorite, traditionally made from roasting a whole pig in an underground oven called an imu, which is filled with burning wood and covered with banana and ti leaves.  When made at home, the Kalua Pork is a no fuss recipe that can easily be made healthier, especially with a secret swap out ingredient.
One of the key ingredients for home cooks making Kalua Pork is liquid smoke.  If you’ve ever used it before you know that it’s some pretty potent stuff.  Liquid smoke is made when smoke from burning hickory is condensed into liquid form.  It’s added to Kalua pork to imitate the taste of burning koa wood, the type of wood traditionally used to cook this Hawaiian specialty.  The problem with using liquid smoke is that it’s extremely assertive in its smokey taste and can easily overwhelm a dish if you don’t using it sparingly.  This is where smokey, savory Lapsang Souchong tea comes into the picture.

The leaves of Lapsang Souchong, a black tea, are dried over pinewood fires which is how the tea gets its characteristic smokiness.  Where liquid smoke is bold, and one-note in flavor, the smokey taste of Lapsang Souchong is gentler and more well-rounded.  The tea’s sweeter notes are reminiscent of the layers of banana and ti leaves that are laid over and around the pork while it is roasting away in the imu pit.  Unlike the oddly concocted process used to get liquid smoke flavoring, Lapsang Souchong gets its smokey flavor when tea leaves naturally absorb their ambient smokey environment.  Its taste is one-of-a-kind and something any tea lover shouldn’t miss.

Although it’s common to use the pork shoulder cut to make Kalua Pork, I’ve made also made this recipe with the leaner pork loin cut with great results.  If you are using pork shoulder, make sure to trim off any and all the visible fat on the outer edge of the meat.  With pork loin you can leave some more of the fat on since it’s such a skinny cut of meat.  If you are interested to see the difference between the two, the first picture of this post shows Kalua Pork from a pork loin cut, and the second photo shows the darker meat from the pork shoulder cut (yes, I made it twice…it’s that easy and that good!).

Pickled Red Onions make the perfect finish for this meaty, luscious braised pork.  The onions add a crunchy, bright bite to the small sandwiches and a beautiful punch of hot-pink color as well.  Stuffed into make-ahead steamed Chinese Fold-Over Buns, Kalua Pork makes a tasty tea snack, easy portable lunch, or unexpected gourmet dinner.

Hawaiian Kalua Pork Buns with Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:

{Kalua Pork}

3 lb pork shoulder trimmed of all fat on edges or pork loin

2 tsp Hawaiian salt

2 cups brewed Lapsang Souchong tea (2 Tbsp of loose tea brewed for 5 minutes in 212 degrees F water)

{Pickled Red Onions}

1 medium red onion

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp white sugar

3/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp black pepper

{Chinese Fold-Over Buns}

{Garnishes}

scallions, thinly sliced

cilantro, roughly chopped

Equipment:

crock pot

medium bowl

2 forks

Directions:

1.)  Place trimmed pork shoulder, salt, and tea in the crockpot.  Flip the pork over a few times to distribute the salt evenly, then cover the crockpot with the lid and set on high.  Cook the pork for 3-3 1/2 hours, flipping the meat every hour or so.

2.)  Make the Pickled Red Onions.  Very thinly slice a red onion.  Scatter the salt on the sliced onions and let them sit for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, rinse and drain the onions thoroughly under cold water.  Add the vinegar, sugar, and pepper to the onions and mix until the sugar dissolves.  Place the bowl of pickled onions in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

3.)  When the meat is done, it will pull apart easily into shreds using two forks.  Remove any remaining bits of fat, and shred the entire piece of meat.

4.)  Stuff the shredded Kalua Pork into freshly steamed Chinese Fold-Over Buns, then top with Pickled Red Onions, scallions, and cilantro.  Enjoy!

Chinese Fold-Over Buns

Chinese Fold-Over Buns are the naked version of those steamed pork buns that dim sum lovers can’t get enough of.  Having a unique pocket-like shape, Chinese Fold-Over Buns eliminate the need for pre-stuffing buns, which is one of the more complicated steps in bun making.  After a quick steam, these tender pillows are ready to serve with a cooked filling of your choice.

If you want the texture and look of your buns to be similar to the kind you get at a Chinese restaurant, search for some bun flour, also called Hong Kong or bao flour, at your local Asian market.  Hong Kong flour is a flour that’s lower in gluten than all-purpose (AP) flour.  It steams up fluffier, whiter, and brighter than buns just made with plain AP flour.  Look for the flour package that has white, steamed buns on it and you should be good to go.

If you prefer to use all-purpose flour that you can find at a regular American grocery store that’s fine too.  I would suggest making a blend of all-purpose and cake flours, where for every 1 cup of flour in this recipe, you use 3/4 cups of AP and 1/4 cups of cake flour.  This flour blend will give you a bun texture closer to that of Chinese restaurant buns, but they still won’t be as white and fluffy as the buns made with Hong Kong flour.

These Fold-Over Buns actually take to freezing very well.  If you don’t plan on eating them right away, set them aside to cool to room temperature after they’ve been steamed off and then place them in ziplock bags to place in the freezer.  When you are ready to use them later, just remove them from the zip locks and steam until them until they get soft and warm throughout.  You could also warm them in the microwave, but they will get a bit tougher and chewier this way.

And while we are talking about having extra buns stashed in the freezer, here are some more ways that you could enjoy these tender, soft bun pockets:

* Chinese Roasted Duck, Scallions, & Hoisin Sauce (the classic)

* Kalua Pork & Pickled Red Onions

* Store-bought Roasted Chicken & Olive Tapenade

* Korean BBQ & Kim Chee

* Teriyaki Chicken & Pickled Ginger

* Smoked Salmon & Capers

* Cucumber & Herbed Cream Cheese

* Pastrami & Sauerkraut

* Applewood Smoked Bacon & Tomato

* Roasted Turkey & Roquefort Bleu Cheese

* Fried Chicken & Sweet Pickles

* Hummus & Sun Dried Tomatoes

* Black Forest Ham & Gruyère

* Nutella & Strawberries

* Peanut Butter & Grape Jelly

Ok, you get my point. The buns are extremely versatile.  They are the original version of crustless tea sandwich bread!

In my upcoming posts, I’ll be giving you even more ideas on how use this very versatile bun dough.  For today, I’m pairing these beautiful buns with my recipe for Kalua Pork and Pickled Red Onions for a true taste of Hawaii.  My slow cooker recipe for Kalua Pork uses Lapsang Souchong tea to give the luscious meat a gentle, smoky savoriness.  The recipe takes about 5 minutes of real work and then some patience, but the results are totally worth it.

And if you don’t have patience, store-bought roasted chicken can be stuffed into these buns for a tasty and easy meal.  Pair these with a hot, soothing cup of Asian tea and you’ll be enjoying the simplest of gourmet meals.

Chinese Fold-Over Buns

Makes 12 large buns.

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups Hong Kong flour

3/4 cup water + 1-2 Tbsp more if needed

2 tsp SAF instant yeast

2 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder

1/4 tsp fine salt

4 Tbsp powdered sugar

2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

extra oil for coating proofing bowl

Equipment:

stand mixer with mixing bowl and hook attachment

large whisk

large proofing bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

rolling-pin or scale

parchment, to line steamer

Directions:

1.)  Using the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the dry dough ingredients into the mixing bowl. Use a large whisk to stir all the dry ingredients together, so that they become evenly incorporated.  Place the bowl in the stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and start to mix on low-speed.  Add the water and oil.  Continue to mix on low-speed.  If the dough isn’t coming together after 3 minutes and looks dry, gradually add 1-2 Tbsp of water until the dough comes together.  Continue to knead the dough on low for an extra 10-15 minutes until the shaggy mass becomes a soft and supple ball of dough.

Pull off a piece of the dough and conduct a windowpane test, where you gently try to pull the dough out into a very thin membrane-like sheet that does not tear.  If you aren’t able to do this easily and the dough breaks apart, continue to knead the dough on low-speed for 2-3 more minutes, then try this windowpane test again.  Passing the windowpane test means that the dough has been sufficiently kneaded.

2.)  Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl to proof, coating all sides of the dough with some of the same oil.  Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough proof in a warm, draft free place for 30-40 minutes or until the mass has doubled in volume.

3.)  After the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a work surface.  Give the dough a few light kneadings, then roll the dough out into a rectangle, and portion it out into 12 equal pieces (see below).  You can also use a scale if you prefer.  Roll out each of the 12 dough pieces into a ball.

4.)  Place any dough balls that you aren’t immediately using under clear wrap to prevent them from drying out.  Roll each ball into an oval shape about a 1/4″ in thickness (just eyeball it).  Try to keep the thickness of the dough even throughout in each piece.  Fold one half of each oval onto itself to create a half-moon looking bun. 

5.)  Place buns in a bamboo steamer lined with parchment, then cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let the buns rise for about 15-20 minutes in a warm, draft free place, long enough for them to have just doubled in puffiness.  Meanwhile, fill a large wok or stockpot up with water to a depth of 4″.  Set the water on high heat to reach a full boil.

6.)  Place bamboo steamer filled with risen buns on top of wok or stockpot, place steamer lid on, and steam the buns for about 8 minutes, or until they are light, fluffy, and puffy.  Your Chinese Fold-Over Buns are now ready to be stuffed with a filling of your choice, or you can even eat them plain…enjoy!

PB & J.  You thought I was just kidding, didn’t ya?

Dim Sum Recipe #7: Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings

If you’ve been to a dim sum tea lunch, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a truly carnivorous affair…a pork lover’s fantasy, to put it simply.  The exceptions to this might be some braised tofu or bean curd specialties, some bright green stalks of Chinese broccoli (minus the oyster sauce), or the occasional deep-fried veggie egg roll.  Even many of the desserts are made with animal-based ingredients like lard or gelatin.

Vegetarian dumplings are certainly available at dim sum restaurants, but for some reason they don’t have iconic or distinctive names like Siu Mai or Ha Gao do.  I came across a Vegetarian Dumpling Recipe from an Asian food blog that I love called Coriander & Garlic, written by a gal with the pen name, Swisspris.  After a quick run to the market this weekend and a minimal amount of time in the kitchen, I was in vegetarian dumpling heaven.  The recipe was incredibly delicious and just as tasty as the ones that come off of those hot, steaming dim sum trolleys!

My recipe for Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings is adapted from the Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling recipe over at Coriander & Garlic, with 2 of my favorite ingredients added in:  shiitake mushrooms and, of course…tea!

Fresh shiitake mushrooms are hands down my favorite Chinese vegetable.  I love every bite of them.  They have a meat-like flavor with a dense bite that you can really sink your teeth into.  Since the original recipe at Coriander & Garlic calls for vegetarian oyster sauce (a.k.a. vegetarian stir-fry sauce in the US) which is made with mushroom essence, the shiitakes are a welcome addition here.

I’ve also steamed the dumplings in a strong green tea base.  This steaming method gives a slight tinge of color to the dumpling skins, but more importantly it lends a very gentle, fresh fragrance to the dumplings.

Green teas are often described by tea experts and sommeliers as “vegetal,” which is exactly why I even thought to use the brew for steaming these dumplings.  Today I’m using an organic Chinese green tea called Chun Mee for steaming these veggie pockets. Chun Mee has a bright, grassy flavor with a layer of smokey depth, so it’s the ideal tea for showcasing the delicate Napa cabbage, sweet carrots, and earthy shiitake mushrooms.

Shiitake & Napa Dumplings chun mee

You can steam any dumpling with tea, just chose one that complements the ingredients being used.  For a meat-based dumpling, I would consider using an oolong or even a Chinese black tea, as the flavors in the tea will be stronger, and bold enough to shine through.

Since we are showcasing the dumpling and not the tea by itself, it’s fine to use the more common, supermarket variety of tea here.  The tea bag form also helps to make cleanup much easier.  Save your best quality, full leaf teas for drinking.  The humble (and economical) everyday green tea bag will work great here.

Part of the charm of making dumplings is that you can play around with how you package them up.  My creations have taken on a pointy triangle looking shape, which were a bit easier and faster for me to get right.  Swisspris’ pleated version were so perfectly executed that I just didn’t even want to go there.

Please also check out Coriander & Garlic’s simple recipe for a black vinegar-based dipping sauce to serve with these dumplings.  Puckeringly tasty and healthy, the sauce helps to bring all the mild veggie flavors to life.

Celebrate springtime’s bounty of Chinese vegetables with a batch of steamy Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings!   Thanks to a very delicious recipe adapted from the Coriander & Garlic blog, I’m happy to say that this is a time where both the words healthy and delicious can be used to describe this easy Chinese meal.  Thank you Swisspris!!

Dim Sum Recipe #7:  Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings

Adapted from the Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling recipe at Coriander & Garlic blog. 

Makes about 30 dumplings.

Ingredients:

4 Napa cabbage leaves, sliced thinly

1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded

1 tsp salt

8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and diced into 1/4″ pieces

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp light soy sauce

7 oz of firm tofu, well-drained and squeezed into a course purée

2 Tbsp vegetarian stir-fry sauce (also called vegetarian oyster sauce, I used Lee Kum Kee brand)

1 tsp sesame oil

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp grated garlic

extra Napa cabbage leaves and shiitake mushrooms, for serving on the side (optional)

30 round potsticker wrappers

small cup of water for sealing potstickers

4 cups of water

5 green tea bags (I used Tazo’s Chun Mee)

Equipment:

large strainer

grater, for carrots

large mixing bowl

large bamboo steamer, fitted with perforated parchment paper

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

1 Tablespoon measure

small pastry brush (optional)

large work surface for making dumplings

water thermometer

measuring cup

Directions:

1.)  Place wok on high heat, and add the vegetable oil.  When hot oil starts to shimmer, add all the diced shiitake mushrooms.  Stir-fry the mushrooms for about a minute, then add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the cooking mushrooms.  Continue to cook on high heat until much of the excess moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms look slightly browned.  This will take about 4-5 minutes.  Place the cooked mushrooms into a large bowl to cool, and set aside.

2.)  Place the Napa cabbage and carrot into a large strainer and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt.  Mix the salt in evenly and let this sit for 10 minutes in the sink to drain off excess water from the vegetables.  After 10 minutes, rinse the Napa and carrots in running water, then use your hands to squeeze out any extra moisture in them (this takes some hand/arm strength).

3.)  Add the Napa, carrots, tofu, vegetarian oyster sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, sugar, and garlic to the mushrooms sitting in the mixing bowl.  Mix the ingredients together thoroughly.

4.)  Lay out dumpling wrappers on a large work surface, then fill them with 1 Tbsp of the filling. Use a small pastry brush (or your fingers) to dab the edges of the wrappers with water, then seal the dumplings.  For easier wrapping, it’s helpful to form the filling in a triangle shape before sealing the wrapper edges (please see picture below).

5.)  Place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer lined with perforated parchment, at least a 1/2″ apart from one another.

If you have a double layered steamer and have extra shiitake mushrooms and Napa cabbage, place them in the extra steamer to tea-steam along with the dumplings!

6.)  Place the wok on high heat and add 4 cups of water.  Monitor the water heat with the thermometer.  When the thermometer registers about 175 degrees F, shut off the heat and add the 5 tea bags in to steep.  Leave the tea bags to soak for about 3 minutes, then remove them.

Now bring the tea up to a full rolling boil over high heat.

7.)  Place the steamer of dumplings (and the steamer of shiitake and Napa, if using) over the boiling water to steam for 10 minutes.  Serve the dumplings with black-vinegar dipping sauce and enjoy!

Dim Sum Recipe #5: Pork & Chive Potstickers

With all the Chinese New Year festivities going on this weekend, anyone celebrating is sure to find themselves short on time.

Potstickers are probably one of the simplest dim sum specialties you can make at home. From start to finish you should be able to get a golden heap of beautiful pan-fried dumplings out in less than an hour.

I love chives.  They are my favorite herb, and I try to sneak them into recipes whenever I can.  If you’ve ever had Chinese chives before, they have a stronger flavor than that of American chives, and are a darker shade of green as well.

Since Chinese chives are sometimes hard to come by, I’ve used a mix of both spring onions and chives in this recipe.  The chives bring a light freshness to the dumplings while the spring onions bring depth and vegetal flavor.  Both are used more as a vegetable than as a garnish, so they are added to the meat filling liberally.

Many potsticker recipes encourage you to get a fatty grind of pork to make dumplings with. After all, it’s that incorporated fat that makes the dumpling flavorful and juicy.  Luckily, even though this recipes calls for extra lean pork, you don’t have to sacrifice too much in the way of taste because I’ve sneaked in a secret ingredient here…tofu!

When tofu is combined with lean ground pork, the meat is able to retain more moisture during the cooking process.  The result is a luscious yet healthful dumpling that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating.  You actually don’t even notice the tofu when biting into these yummy potstickers.  Don’t skip out on adding it though, if you do you’ll be missing a key ingredient to this recipe, and the meat will taste noticeably dryer.

Enjoy these potstickers for lunch, dinner, or even as an appetizer.  Easy to make and eat, potstickers are everyone’s favorite Asian tea snack, especially during Chinese New Year!

Pork & Chive Potstickers

Makes 4 dozen dumplings.

Ingredients:

{Dumplings}

1 lb. extra lean ground pork ( I used 95% lean)

1 1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp + 2 tsp oyster sauce

1 1/2 tsp white sugar

1/2 tsp powdered chicken bouillon

1/8 tsp white pepper

1 egg white

1 1/2 tsp grated ginger

4 green onions, sliced thinly

2-.75 oz packages of chives, finely chopped

5 oz. soft tofu

round potsticker wrappers, enough for 4 dozen dumplings

small cup of water for sealing potstickers

1 cup chicken broth, divided into 1/4 cup portions

8 Tbsp canola oil, divided into 2 Tbsp portions

{Dipping Sauce}

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 Tbsp vinegar

squirt/dab of your favorite Asian hot sauce

chopped cilantro

Equipment:

large non-stick frying pan with lid

1 Tablespoon measure

small pastry brush (optional)

large work surface for making dumplings

heat-proof spatula

Directions:

*** I cook 12 dumplings at a time for even cooking and because they fit into a large pan perfectly.  The directions reflect cooking 12 dumplings at a time.  If you are making all 4 dozen dumplings, repeat steps #2 through #5, 4 separate times.  

1.)  In a large bowl, mix ground pork with sesame oil, soy, oyster sauce, sugar, chicken bouillon, white pepper, egg white, and ginger.  After this mixture is thoroughly mixed, add in green onions and chives and gently mix into meat.  Squeeze tofu with your hand until it resembles a course purée.  Mix this mashed up tofu into the meat mixture until it becomes homogenous.

2.)  On a large work surface, lay out 12 potsticker wrappers.  With a 1 Tbsp measure, measure out 1 Tbsp of the filling and place it in the center of each wrapper.  Dip a small pastry brush in a small cup of water and apply a light coating of water on half of the outer edge of each wrapper.

3.)  Fold each dumpling in half to make half moons, attaching the “dry” side to the side that has been moistened with water.  Prop dumplings up on their base.

4.)  Place a large non-stick frying pan on stove top and turn on heat to medium.  Pour 2 Tbsp of oil in the pan and let it come to temperature.  Place dumplings onto heated oil so that they make good contact with the hot pan.  You can place the potstickers in the pan slightly separate from one another or snugly lined up so that they are touching depending on how you would like to serve them later.  Let the dumplings cook at medium heat for 3 minutes (uncovered).

5.)  After 3 minutes, place heat on high and immediately pour in 1/4 cup of chicken broth.  Place cover on and continue to cook the dumplings on high heat for about 4 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated and you start to hear a lot of commotion going on in the pan.  Turn off heat, remove lid carefully, and run a heat-proof spatula under the potstickers, then transfer them to a serving platter.

6.)  To make dipping sauce, combine soy sauce, white vinegar, Asian hot sauce, and chopped cilantro.  Serve aside hot potstickers and enjoy!

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #3:  Ha Gao Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #4:  Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Dim Sum Recipe #4: Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

If you’ve ever walked on Grant Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown you’re sure to encounter a long line of people waiting in front of Golden Gate Bakery.  This bakery’s storefront is quite unassuming, so if you don’t know what’s going on and try to look past the mobs of people waiting, you’ll see two main colors emanating from inside the store:  pink and yellow.

Once you actually get past the front door you begin to realize that your time spent waiting might just be worth it:  there are an astounding number of sunny yellow egg custard tarts being shoved into hot pink pastry boxes!

The egg custard tarts at Golden Gate Bakery have a pale yellow custard with a light yet dense flan-like texture.  They are also quite large and deep, which means that they can be filled with considerable amount of egg custard.

What I consider the most special characteristic of this tart is its rich and super crispy crust, a feature that makes this Dan Tat stand out from all the rest.  The ultra crispness of the tart shell is a fleeting thing though, so it’s wise to eat these tarts within a few hours of buying them.

As simple way to keep their tarts distinctively crispy, the bakery workers at Golden Gate take great care to cut a large opening in the corner of each box of tarts that go out.  I thought it was odd at first, but later understood why.

A few months back, I did a post on Apple Strudel where I used oil spray and phyllo dough as my secret ingredients to create a super crispy and flaky pastry crust.  What’s great about that recipe is that I was able to avoid using extra butter when making the strudel crust.

For my Chinese Egg Custard Tart recipe, I’ve used the same technique and ingredients to get similar results.  The traditional way of making Dan Tat crusts is with a lard dough and a water dough, which are rolled methodically to create layers.  The technique used is very similar to the technique used to make puff pastry.  It’s a lengthy process, one which requires a good amount of patience, time, and skill.

This recipe is much simpler. It requires a minimal amount of patience, time, and skill–nothing like that required for the traditional method of making Dan Tats.

My secret ingredient here is canola oil, sprayed in between each layer of phyllo.  Using the oil spray is effortless and simple, and helps to eliminate the need to use lard or butter.  I also use French brioche molds here, which give just the right size and depth so that the tarts can be filled with a decent amount of custard.  The molds are also used as pie weights, to prevent excessive rising while the phyllo is baking.

With these tips and tools, the result is a super light and flakey crust that literally shatters after you’ve sunk your teeth into the custardy flan-like filling.  Just like the Golden Gate Bakery Dan Tat’s, these tarts are best when eaten fresh, on the day of baking.

If you are thinking of trying to make any sweets for Chinese New Year, this Chinese Egg Custard Tart recipe is the one you want to make.  This is a traditional recipe made simpler and lighter, with the use of more modern ingredients and technique.  Made easy, fast, and healthier, these sunny little egg tarts will be a cheerful and scrumptious addition to your Chinese New Year table!

Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Makes 6 tarts.

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 Tbsp hot water

3 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup evaporated milk

3/4 tsp vanilla

pinch salt

canola or vegetable oil spray

8 sheets of phyllo dough

Equipment:

fine mesh strainer

large liquid measuring cup

round cookie cutter, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch larger than diameter of brioche/tart mold cavity (I used 4″)

paring knife

12 large brioche or tart molds (I used Matfer) or 6 large brioche molds and 6 pieces of foil bunched up to make pie weights

baking sheet

cooling rack

6 cupcake liners (optional)

Instructions:

1.)  In small bowl, stir together hot water with sugar, and mix until sugar dissolves.  In a separate mixing bowl stir together eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla together until evenly incorporated.  Add in sugar water and mix thoroughly.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup.  Set aside.

2.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  On a large work surface, lay down one sheet of phyllo, then evenly and thoroughly spray it with canola oil spray.  Repeat this process with the remaining 7 pieces of phyllo, stacking each phyllo piece directly on top of the previously sprayed piece.  When all 8 phyllo pieces have been stacked, give the layered phyllo rectangle a final even spray of canola oil.

3.)  Spray the inside of 6 brioche molds with canola oil spray.  Use a round cookie cutter to cut out 6 circles of layered phyllo, using paring knife to cut around cookie cutter to assure clean edges.  Place each layered dough circle into a mold and lightly press the phyllo into the mold, pressing it in so that there are no air pockets.

4.)  Spray bottoms of remaining 6 brioche molds then place them directly atop each of the dough crusts.  This will help the dough stay compact (and not rise) and make room for more custard filling.  Alternatively, use bunched up foil shaped into balls to achieve similar results.  Place crust-filled brioche molds onto a baking sheet.  Bake the phyllo crusts in oven for 6 minutes.

5.)  After 6 minutes, remove the par-baked crusts from the oven.  Let cool for a few minutes then remove top brioche molds or foil balls (be careful, the molds will still be slightly hot). Carefully pour custard liquid into par-baked crusts, filling each crust until it is almost full.

6.)  Carefully place in oven, making sure to keep the custard from flowing over the edges of the crusts.  Bake for 15 minutes until the custard is set and doesn’t jiggle in the center.  Remove custard tarts from oven, let them sit for a few minutes to cool, then push/slip them out from the brioche molds and transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling (this prevents a soggy crust).  If you prefer, place tart in cupcake liners for easy serving.

Do you love Dim Sum?  Please check out the other recipes from my Dim Sum Series:

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #3:  Ha Gao Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #3:  Ha Gao Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #5:  Pork & Chive Potstickers

Dim Sum Recipe #3: Ha Gao Dumplings

The great thing about being Chinese American is that you can celebrate New Year’s, twice, every year.

It’s also ironic though, because just after creating all the these January New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and make better choices, by February the Lunar New Year is a time where stuffing yourself silly is definitely encouraged if not mandatory.

Dumplings, noodles, rice cakes…go for it!

You see, Chinese New Year’s is like Christmas for the Chinese.  It’s the no holds barred holiday of the year where even if you aren’t skinny you’ll be told that you are just to encourage more eating.  “Please, eat!!!” your Chinese aunties will say.  And to make the holiday that much more calorific, Chinese New Year festivities last for two whole weeks!

As you already know, I love my tea foods and dim sum and because this a fact, I find that making dim sum at home can be just the right time to lighten things up a little.One of the quintessential food items to feast on during Chinese New Year celebrations are dumplings.  My favorite are the steamed ones, and Ha Gao are at the top of that list (right behind Siu Mai).  These white, translucent little pouches might seem light and healthful when they arrive at your table delicate and steaming, but Ha Gao dumplings actually contain a fair amount of pork fat or lard.

Not all dim sum recipes are easy to make healthier.  Luckily, with the use of a special ingredient in this Ha Gao recipe, it can be done.  The secret ingredient?  Vegetable oil spread, which brings some richness to the shrimp filling by serving as a replacement for pork fat.

I know the dim sum masters out there are probably quite displeased with me right now, but the way I see it–balance is key, especially when it comes to food choices.  Oh yes, and there are no pleats on my Ha Gao.  I’ll leave the fancier tricks for those same dim sum masters to execute!

The slightly chewy texture of the homemade wrapper is what makes this recipe especially delicious.  The dough easily comes together in not more than 5 minutes.  It’s common to use a Mexican tortilla press to flatten the dough balls into flat wrappers, but it’s really not necessary.  Just use any flat bottom pot or bowl and press down evenly and deliberately.

The more pressure you exert the flatter (and thinner) the wrapper will be.  Especially if you are new to the process, don’t press the skins too thin otherwise they will be really hard to work with.  Slightly thicker than a nickel coin thickness is about right. The process is very similar to making homemade tortillas.

I’ve made two versions of Ha Gao here.  One type is the more traditional filling with a white wrapper.  The other kind has spinach in the filling and some emerald green matcha in the wrapper for taste and color.  At the end of 2013 I went matcha-crazy, and apparently I am still suffering its effects.  At least this time, I’ve ventured into the savory realm!

Celebrate Chinese New Year and your New Year’s resolutions with light and steamy Ha Gao shrimp dumplings.  There is nothing like opening a bamboo steamer lid to find these delicate pouches staring up at you.  This is one time where making a dish homemade is worth the extra effort.  Eat these elegant dumplings fresh out of the steamer without hesitation or guilt…hey, you can only celebrate New Year’s twice every year!

Ha Gao (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings)

Makes 24 dumplings.

Ingredients:

{Filling}

12 oz. peeled, deveined shrimp

2 tsp less-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp sherry

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp grated ginger

3 Tbsp non-hydrogenated vegetable oil spread (I used Natural Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks) @ room temperature

2 tsp white sugar

1/8 tsp white pepper

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 of 8 oz. can of sliced bamboo shoots, drained and diced

2-3 stalks green onion, sliced thinly

****Green Wrapper Variation:  2 cup spinach, microwaved for 1 minute (uncovered), then chopped finely

{Ha Gao Wrappers- makes 24 dough balls}

Note:  You can easily make both the white and green wrappers for one batch of filling by cutting the wrapper recipe in half and placing one portion of the ingredients in one mixing bowl, and the second portion (with matcha added) into another separate mixing bowl.  You’ll end up with 2 doughs, one dough ball making 12 white wrappers and another dough ball making 12 green wrappers. 

2 cup wheat starch

1 1/3 cup tapioca flour

1/2 tsp fine salt

2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated vegetable oil spread (I used Natural Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)

1 cup water just before boiling (175 degrees F)

*** Green Wrapper Variation:  mix 1/2 tsp matcha green tea powder into hot water

Equipment:

bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

1 Tbsp measure

parchment paper, cut in circle to size of bamboo steamer and perforated with 1″ cuts throughout

food processor

one large ziplock bag

scissors

large flat-bottom pan or mixing bowl

Directions:

1.)  In a food processor, process 6 oz. of the shrimp with the 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil spread.  Cut the other 6 oz. into a 1/4″ dice.  Mix all filling ingredients together with shrimp, gently mixing in green onion last (and spinach if using).  Set aside in fridge to chill.

2.)  Place dry dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Add the hot water and oil and mix the dough with chopsticks (or a spoon) until you get a shaggy dough, then knead the dough for about 2 minutes until you get a smooth dough that is very slightly tacky without actually sticking to your hand.

ha gao wrapper dough

3.)  Divide dough in half and roll each dough ball into a log, about 12 inches.  Cut the log in half, then cut each half into half again.  Cut each of the 4 shorter logs into 3 pieces.  You will get 24 dough pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, then place in airtight container and set aside.

*** Green Wrapper Variation:  If you have decided to make both the white and green wrappers, you should execute steps 2 and 3 once for the white dough and again for the green.  As a result you will have 12 dough pieces from the white dough and another 12 pieces from the green dough.  

4.)  Cut all 4 edges off of the ziplock bag to create 2 squares of plastic.  You will use the two plastic sheet pieces to make wrappers.

5.)  Place a dough ball on top of one square of the ziplock bag, then place the other plastic sheet on top.  Using both hands on opposite sides of the flat-bottom pan,  press down directly onto the dough ball with a deliberate and even pressure.

Press dough ball until you get a 3 3/4″circle (or just under 4″) that is about 1/8″, slightly thicker than a nickel.

After the dough ball is flattened, peel off top plastic sheet carefully.  Flip the wrapper onto one hand, then peel off the second (bottom) plastic sheet to free the wrapper carefully and completely.  If your wrapper doesn’t detach from the ziplock sheet easily your dough has too much moisture and you should knead in some more tapioca starch into it to create a less-tacky/sticky dough.

6.)  Fill the wrapper with 1 Tbsp of the shrimp filling (regular filling for the white dough, and spinach filling for the green dough).  Fold half of the circle over the other half and press lightly to seal and create a half-moon dumpling.  Pinch the edges of the half-moon to seal.  Sit the dumpling up on its base and bring both edges in on one side.  Press edges of dumpling just off the vertical center of the dumpling, creating a propped up pouch-looking dumpling.  Repeat this process to make all 24 dumplings, then place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer lined with perforated parchment.

***  Make Ahead Tip:  Dumplings can be made up to 2 hours ahead of time and placed in fridge until steaming time.  Dust bottoms of uncooked dumplings with tapioca or wheat starch to prevent sticking.

Fill a large wok or stockpot half full with water and bring to a full boil.  Place bamboo steamer on top of wok or pot, then steam for 12 minutes while water is on full boil the entire time.  Eat Ha Gao fresh, right out of the steamer with soy sauce or chilli sauce for dipping.

Love Dim Sum?  Please check out my other recipes!  And as Chinese New Year comes closer there will be more to come!

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #4:  Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Dim Sum Recipe #5:  Pork & Chive Potstickers

Dim Sum Recipe #2: Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Char siu bao are to the Chinese tea lunch what egg and watercress sandwiches are to an English afternoon tea.  These barbecued pork buns are the quintessential Cantonese tea snack, and no excursion to yum cha is complete without them.  The most traditional char siu bao are steamed, but for my second blog post on dim sum I’m going to share with you the slightly westernized, baked version of this delicious treat.

Rising to the occasion…

Making these buns is a two-step process.  First, you make the filling and then you make the bun dough.  To make things simpler, you might want to prepare the meat filling a day before you plan on baking the buns.  The second part of the recipe is making the bun dough, where a water roux (also called a tangzhong) is used to add extra moisture and softness to the lightly sweetened dough.  Soft and supple is considered to be the ideal texture for Asian breads, very different from the ideal for French breads like baguettes, and the tangzhong is how we achieve this.  This dough recipe works equally well in both a stand mixer with a dough hook or a bread machine.  If you are using a stand mixer, be careful not to over mix, which would result in a lumpy, non-elastic dough that won’t allow you to get those smooth, shiny bun tops!

Honey-shellacked for extra softness.

With the use of some brown cupcake liners (that remind me of Sprinkles Cupcakes) and a tart/cupcake pan, I was able to make a rounder, taller bun, almost brioche-like in appearance.  You can certainly use a standard cookie sheet or pan, but you will get slightly shorter bun that is a bit more spread out.  For special parties, try using different patterned or colored cupcake liners for a modern and fresh look for your char siu baos.  The buns I’ve made here are topped off with some black sesame seeds and chopped chives, which are also mixed into the filling for a fresh pop of green color and fanciness.

Honey BBQ Char Siu Pork Buns

Makes 16- 3″ buns.

Ingredients:

{Bun Dough}

3 cups bread flour

3 Tbsp Bird’s Custard Powder

1 Tbsp nonfat dry milk

1 Tbsp instant yeast (I use SAF instant)

1/4 cup white sugar

2 Tbsp butter at room temp

3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup water

bench flour and oil for proofing bowl

{Water Roux}

1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp bread flour

{Filling}

2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

1 small yellow or brown onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp rice wine or sherry

3/4 pound roasted Chinese barbecued pork, diced into 1/4″ cubes

6 Tbsp water

4 tsp oyster sauce

4 tsp low sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp sugar

5 tsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1- 3/4 oz. package of fresh chives, chopped

{Garnishes}

1 egg, mixed with 1 tsp water

1 Tbsp honey, mixed with 1 tsp hot water

2 Tbsp black sesame seeds

2 Tbsp chopped chives (reserved)

Equipment:

Stand mixer with dough hook attachment or bread machine

rolling pin or scale

2- 12 hole muffin or tart pans, or 1 muffin/tart pan and 1 regular baking sheet

cupcake cases/liners

pastry brush

Directions:

1.)  Make the Pork Filling.  Put a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Add the oil to the pan and then add chopped white onions.  Cook onions until softened and lightly carmelized, about 5-7 minutes.  Pour in the sherry or rice wine and let it cook out.  Lower the heat to medium and add in the diced pork.  Cook this mixture for an extra 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix all the rest of the ingredients (except chives) in a small bowl to create a slurry.  Add the slurry to the pork and onion mixture, wait for it to come to a boil, and cook the filling until it becomes dark brown and translucent.  Turn off the heat and transfer the filling to a medium bowl.  Cover the filling and set it aside to cool to room temperature.  When filling has completely cooled, mix in all but 2 Tbsp of the chopped chives.  The remaining 2 Tbsp of chives are used later to garnish the buns.

2.)  Make the Water Roux.  Place a 1/2 cup of cold water into a small saucepan and add the 2 Tbsp of bread flour.  Mix well until the mixture resembles homogenized milk, then turn on stove top to medium heat.  Cook the roux until it thickens up and has the consistency of a thick yogurt, making sure to keep the mixture a pure white color by not overcooking.  The mixture should not exceed 150 degrees F.  Place the mixture into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making contact with the top surface of the roux (to prevent a skin from forming).  You should end up with about 1/3 cup of roux, ready to use when it has cooled back down to room temperature.

3.)  Make the Dough.  Using the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the wet dough ingredients (including the roux) into the mixing bowl.  Place the bowl in the stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and start to mix on low speed.  Add the yeast, sugar, milk powder, and custard powder first.  Then add the bread flour gradually, a cup at a time, scraping down the insides of the mixing bowl periodically.  Increase the speed to low-medium and continue to mix until the shaggy mass becomes a soft and supple ball of dough.  If necessary, gradually add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dough comes together.  Knead the dough for 10 minutes.  Transfer the ball of dough to an oiled bowl to proof, lightly coating all sides of the dough with some of the same oil.  Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough proof in a warm, draft free place for 30-40 minutes or until the mass has doubled in volume.

4.)  Portion Out the Dough.  After the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a work surface lightly dusted with bench flour.  Give the dough a few light kneadings, then portion dough out into 16 equal pieces (see below).

5.)  Make the Buns.  Roll out each of the 16 dough pieces into a roughly 4″ round or square, making sure to keep the thickness of the dough even throughout in each piece.  Fill each flattened piece with 1 1/2 Tbsp of meat filling.  Gather the edges to pinch and seal, then flip the bun over so that the smooth side faces up.  Place buns into cupcake cases and transfer to a 12 hole muffin or tart pan, then cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let the buns rise for 30-40 minutes, or long enough for them to have doubled in puffiness.  Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

6.)  Finish and Bake.  After the second rising, brush the tops of the buns with egg wash, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, or until buns turn a light golden brown.  Remove from oven, transfer to a cooling rack to sit for a few minutes, then give the buns a generous brushing of thinned honey.  Sprinkle with fresh chives and serve!

*** Tip:  Store leftover buns in fridge for up to 5 days.  When you are ready to eat them, reheat the buns in microwave for 15-20 seconds or until warm and soft again.

Step-By-Step:

Key ingredients for soft, sweet buns: water roux (a.k.a. tangzhong) and Bird’s Custard Powder

Chop, chop, chop.  Chives, char siu pork, and onion.

For my char siu, I took the healthier and easier way out by using a store-bought brand of char siu sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand) to marinade a very lean pork tenderloin and then baked it off.  The char siu you find in a Chinese restaurant will most certainly be a fattier cut of pork.

First proofing: wait for dough to double in bulk.  It was cold on this day so I put another bowl of warm water underneath the bowl with the dough…worked like a charm!

After the 1st proof, section the dough into 16 equal pieces.

I sectioned out my dough by rolling it out into a 16″ x 6″ rectangle and then cut it into 16 equal pieces with a knife. Another option is to roll the dough into a long log and cut.  You can also use a kitchen scale to weigh, which would be the most exact way to get equal peices.

Mix in chopped chives after the filling has cooled

Start at bottom of this picture and work up.  Flip “pinched” & sealed” bottoms over to reveal a smooth bun top and place finished bun in a cupcake liner.

Egg wash and sesame seeds after 2nd proofing.

Warm out of the oven, with some Chinese jasmine tea for sipping.

Warm out of the oven, with some Chinese jasmine tea for sipping.

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #3:  Ha Gao Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #4:  Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Dim Sum Recipe #5:  Pork & Chive Potstickers