Today's Taste of Home Tuesday is a more complicated recipe than the weeknight meals I promised I would post, but it's one of my favorite dishes. These Vietnamese pork buns freeze extremely well, so with just a little bit of elbow grease you can have delicious steamed buns for lunch any time you want.
Bánh bao is very similar to the Chinese baozi. If you've ever eaten at a dim sum restaurant, you've probably seen cha siu bao, or steamed buns filled with Chinese bbq pork. The Vietnamese version is filled with seasoned ground pork, Chinese sausage (lạp xưởng) dried shitake (nấm đông cô) or dried wood ear mushrooms (nấm mèo), jicama, onion, and a slice of hard boiled egg.
The inspiration for cooking these bao this weekend came from the new Pixar short that is featured before Incredibles 2. The short is written and directed by Domee Shi, and its about the story of a Chinese mother with empty-nest syndrome who makes adopts a steamed dumpling after it comes to life one day. Shi is the first woman to direct a Pixar short.
I'm not gonna lie, I started crying like three seconds into the short and I was still sniffling during the exposition of the movie. The man sitting next to me was definitely weirded out and was probably a little salty I was sitting next to him and his date. I've been out of college for a little over a year now, and the last time I've flown back to my hometown was for Christmas. My parents drive to DC to see me about once a month, and I often joke about how frequent that is, but I'm sure that when my sister and I aren't around, my parents feel the same way the mom in the short did.
It will take a while to get a hang of pleating the bao to get the iconic shape. I googled a LOT of videos on how to fold bao before I got mine to come out right. I found this video to be the most useful when learning to pleat bao. The trick is to use your thumb to push the filling down from the inside of the bao as you pinch together the layers with your other hand. The first one I tried to fold looked hideous:
By the time I had folded my 12th bao, I finally got the perfect pleats I was looking for.
My mom even said that mine looked prettier than hers! You can follow along with me making these bao and other dishes on my new instagram page, @cookingwithsuzzy. I like to try all sorts of recipes that don't go in this blog because they're other people's recipes.
When I was still in school, I'd often fly back to New York after a school break with a suitcase full of frozen bánh bao that my mom made. She would double or triple our family recipe, wrap each bun in plastic wrap, and freeze them right before I had to go back to school. Popping one of these in the microwave at 2am when a college essay was ruining my life made me feel a little bit more at home in the big city. These didn't quite taste just like my mother's bao (all the more reason to try making them again), but they did transport me home for a few minutes.