April 28, 2016
Steamed Buns are Hot!
Steamed buns, in any form, are a versatile and very interesting food item. In Asia, steamed buns are filled with a variety of seasoned meat and other foods— all of which are designed to give big flavor. They’re seen on almost every street corner in the East and are a popular item on every dim sum menu. Most traditional dim sum steamed buns feature a filling that is completely enveloped by the bun, but “butterfly style buns” are gaining in popularity. Butterfly buns are folded and are more easily adapted to our Western tastes because they accept many of the foods that our diners already know and love.
Grouped together under the generic term of “steamed buns”, Bao buns are another idea that is taking Chefs by storm. Bao buns are popular all over Southeast Asia and China. Chefs see them as a versatile and exciting platform on which they can be very creative. Steamed buns of one type or another are found in many other countries around the world you might not expect, including Germany. Dampfnudlen, as they are known, are a dessert form of steamed buns. They’re served with vanilla sauce and sprinkled with poppy seeds.
Perfect as a sharable appetizer or the basis of a food truck, steamed buns have a place on every menu. Think about merging popular flavors that you already work with and using the steamed bun as a vehicle. With that as a starting point, you’ll easily come up with concepts like Baja fish taco steamed bun. Serve with a spicy fish (grilled or crispy) and top with a cilantro-lime crema, pickled red onions, fire roasted jalapeno mayo and fresh pico. Or, perhaps Thai peanut chicken— with roasted chicken, spicy Thai cucumber and kale slaw, and finished with Thai peanut sauce and scallions.
A while back I was entertaining some friends at an excellent, Chef-owned restaurant in a trendy neighborhood and we snapped up an order of crispy fried oyster steamed buns with a spicy slaw and sweet chili mayo. I couldn’t help but marvel at the simplicity of the idea and the great combination of flavors and textures. Which got me thinking about something that I just have to try out next: crispy soft shell crab steamed buns with a spicy sauce and vegetable component to round out the textures and temperature.
A little unexpected, but I’m sure it will all fall together!