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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bao Buns

Ok, so this is my take on one of my food truck favorites. A true bao should be made with a real deliciously soft bao bun, then stuffed with almost any variety of yummies. Unfortunately, with the lack of readily available Vietnamese grandmothers to kidnap for my love of eating, I opted for pillowy potato buns I found at the local super market. These worked quite well, but if you ever have the pleasure of eating a freshly steamed morsel, have at it.

For the meat:

• 1 1/2 lbs dark meat chicken (or pork if you prefer. Just keep in mind you should sear the pork, then braise it for about an hour to ad hour and a half, where as the chicken only takes about 30 min.)
• 4 Tbs soy sauce
• 1 tsp fish sauce
• 1/4 C rice wine vinegar
• 1/3 C chicken or vegetable stock
• 4 Tbs peanut butter
• 1 Tbs brown sugar
• 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
• 1 tsp minced ginger

For the cucumber "pickle":

• 1 English cucumber
• 1 carrot
• 1/4 C rice wine vinegar
• 2 tsp sugar

For the garnish:

• 4-6 buns (either bao or potato)
• 1 C shredded cabbage (I used savoy, but feel free to experiment.)
• 1/2 C cilantro and mint

Ok. I know it looks like a ton of stuff, but really, once you get the ball rolling, it kinda makes itself.
First, let's make the "pickle". Either use a mandolin, food processor, or really sharp knife to thinly slice the cucumber. Add to a med size bowl. Grate in carrot for a nice pop of color and hint of sweet. Dress with remaining pickle ingredients and stir to evenly coat. Cover with plastic wrap ad pop in the fridge.
Next, it's time to make the marinade/sauce for your meat. Combine everything in a heavy bottomed pot. Do not cut the meat into smaller pieced, as we will be shredding it later once it's cooked. I let mine marinate for about 1/2 hour, but it's not a necessary step. Cook on a nice med-low heat for about 30 min if using chicken thighs, or 90 if using pork belly. Once the meat is fully cooked and tender, remove from the sauce. Let it cool enough to handle. Using a pair of forks (or your hands... Just one more reason to lick you fingers clean) gently shred the meat and put back in the sauce. I've noticed it way easier to shred chicken while it's still pretty hot.
If your sauce is a little too loose, make a slurry of 1 part corn starch and 1 part COLD water. Add it to the sauce and bring to a boil. This will help being everything together.
Now it's time for assembly. This is the most fun part. Take a bun and tear it open. Pile on a nice scoop of meat. Add a heap of cabbage and herbs. Pickles can go either on the side, or right on top (I personally like these cukes a little too much and pile them on, then douse the sandwich in the dressing.) Mmmm...
Time to enjoy!

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