Pan Fried Buns Part I
Hello all, and welcome to a somewhat belated installment of TGC, the series where I show you how to make edible dishes using dirt cheap ingredients. The original item I was planning to make for this installment isn't coming along very well during my practice runs, so now we have this.
A warning before we begin: Unlike previous installments, this installment roughly follows an existing recipe online for pan fried buns. This blog details my first attempt at this recipe. It was actually quite a bit more difficult than anticipated, and did not turn out as well as I liked. So if you wish to follow this recipe, I recommend you follow the original. If you insist on following what I did, make sure to read to the end where there will be a "lessons learned" section where I list what I did wrong.
About This Dish
Recently I've been going through a lot of flour very fast experimenting with the huge number of things one can make with it. I thought about returning to my Chinese roots to see if there are any good recipes for pan fried buns. I came across this recipe, which intrigued me because it doesn't actually use baking powder or yeast or anything to actually fluff the bun wrapping.
Unfortunately, I didn't have any meat base on hand with which to make the filling. So I decided to go a vegetarian route. I also decided to play around with the wrapping, since the wrapping in the original recipe is completely unflavored.
A little bird flew by my window, chirping "cheap cheap"
1 5/8 cups flour*
6 tablespoons water at 80C (176F)
3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 onion, sliced into strips
Carrot, sliced into strips
1/4 small cabbage, sliced into strips
Scallions, sliced into strips
*If you checked out the original recipe, you'd notice some of the measurements are in metric and some are in the English system. Kind of retarded. 180 grams of flour works out to about 1 5/8 cups.
You will also need: 1 non-stick pan, 1 small pot for boiling water, a rolling pin OR a handleless glass. A tablespoon and a half-cup measuring cup is also recommended, but eyeballing the amount is also possible. 1 tablespoon = 1/16 cup.
The initial theorycrafting behind my method was to achieve a somewhat sweet bun wrapping with a strongly flavored salty/sweet filling, something that tastes good by itself but can also be dipped into various sauces.
A) The Wrapping
Measure out 1 5/8 cups (or 180 grams) of flour. On the side, partially fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Take the water off the heat for a while, then dump 6 tablespoons of this stuff (roughly 80C, don't exactly have a thermometer to measure) into the flour, mixing to combine with a spatula. Then, add 3 tablespoons of water one tablespoon at a time while kneading the flour together. During this process, I also added 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt to my dough to flavor it, which is a departure from the original recipe. Knead until you have a coherent ball of dough.
The more you fondle it, the smoother it gets. Think heterosexual thoughts.
Put a lid/plastic wrap on that thing and set it aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you can start work on your
For the filling, I decided on the three cheapest vegetables one could buy: cabbage, carrots, and onions. If you have ever eaten egg rolls from western style Chinese take-out, you know that cabbage is an ideal vegetable that stays crispy in fried items. Slice all the ingredients into strips, and heat up a pan to medium high with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Dump the carrots into the oil first to kill the aroma, then dump all the other vegetables in except for the scallions.
Take out the onions, dump in some mayonnaise and you've got your basic coleslaw
Add salt, sugar, and soy sauce to this mix. Cook just enough to wilt the vegetables. Add scallions during the last 30 seconds of cooking, stir it around, then take the pan off the heat. You want the vegetables to still be crispy at the end of all the cooking, and they've still got a ways to go.
The silicone to a pair of fake tits, in a manner of speaking.
C) Stuffing Dem Buns
Bring out your dough, and create a floured surface. Roll the dough out into a strip and then cut it into 10 pieces. One by one, roll the pieces of dough out into flat, thin discs. Place a small amount of filling in the center of the disc, then close the edges around the filling until you get a bun-shaped item.
Stuff the shit out of that shit but don't break the dough. Isn't American slang great.
In hindsight, you should keep the dough pieces covered with something damp to prevent them from drying out while you make the buns. This process may take a while depending on your manual dexterity and experience with pastries. I found it useful to use chopsticks to poke the filling into place while pinching the dough together. You can also do the same with the handle end of a fork/spoon.
Pics of my impotence to make you feel better about your own sorry buns.
Now you're almost done! Time for the easy part. Heat up a non-stick pan to medium, and also bring a small pot of water to boil (again) on the side. [/b]You may wish to wait for the water to come to (or near) a boil before starting to fry your buns.[/b] If you have a big pan that can fit all the buns, place 2 tbsp oil into the pan. If you have a small pan, place 1 tbsp of oil and half the buns into the pan. Fry the buns on both sides until golden.
The only step in the process that I haven't failed in some way LOL
Now, pour 1/2 cup (a bit less if you're frying only 5 at a time) of *BOILING* water into the pan and cover with a lid.
If you listen closely to the buns, you can hear "mmmph! mmmmmph!"
Cook until the water is all gone, then flip the buns to fry the other side for 15 seconds, and plate. Serve immediately. My personal recommendation for dipping sauce is chili paste mixed with Chinese rice vinegar (the brown kind).
You look like a genius with those buns
3.8 / 5 Partly my fault, partly the recipe. The bun wrapping without any fluffing agent just tastes kind of... flaccid, to be honest. This isn't exactly the recipe I was looking for, and can definitely be improved. I also screwed up on the sugar content in this recipe, as well as a couple of other handling areas. Overall edible, but with much room for improvement.
1) Flour has its own sweetness, especially when fried. The dough doesn't need sugar, and can most likely do without salt.
2) The filling is probably better off without sugar. A purely savory filling would go better with dipping sauces and contrasts better with the sweetness of the dough.
3) Vegetables in the filling were a bit too soft. The ideal preparation for this type of filling is probably to simply soak the vegetables beforehand while raw in salt and soy sauce. This will wilt the vegetables without cooking them.
4) Be careful while filling the wrappings. Make sure that the wrappings are evenly rolled out to prevent leakage.
Well, this installment was certainly more of a misadventure than an adventure. However, this is only part one of TWO for the 5th TGC. In the next installment, I will chronicle how I learned from these mistakes while experimenting a little with yeast in the wrapping.
Questions and comments are always welcome, as well as criticisms if you know exactly when and where I went wrong. If you would like to read more about dirt cheap cooking, feel free to browse the previous installments of TGC:
Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
Fake Fried Rice
Exhibit A: Banana Bread
If you weren't satisfied with this entry and want something easy and fail proof, try this recipe:
All the ingredients (with the possible exception of baking powder) are very cheap unless you live in Australia. Just follow the instructions to the letter for a perfect result. Dense. Moist. Flavorful.
Exhibit B: An Explanation for Chinese Cooking Wine
If you decided to follow the original recipe that this installment was based off of, you may have come across this ingredient in the recipe list. If you're not Chinese, you may be unfamiliar with it. Below a quick and dirty rundown on what it is and what you can do with it.
Chinese cooking wine is a staple of Chinese cuisine, commonly paired with meats (especially pork). It's basically a low grade Chinese rice wine infused with salt and sold for cooking purposes only. You can usually get it in many varieties for $2-4 US at large Asian supermarkets, making it significantly cheaper than buying red/white grape wines to flavor your meat. It's a budget option for people who cannot afford to follow the adage "you shouldn't cook with wine you wouldn't drink". When buying, look for the words "Shaoxing" somewhere on the bottle, which is a location famous for brown rice wines.
Common uses for Chinese cooking wine are to marinate or flavor "white" pork dishes that involve little or no soy sauce. It is also used with fish. If you would like to test whether or not you like "real" Chinese food, try the following with fresh (NOT frozen) whole tilapia or catfish: place the fish into a deep dish and soak in salt and Chinese cooking wine. Slice a few pieces of ginger and rub over the fish surfaces. Place ginger and a few scallion stalks in the belly of the fish, and steam until cooked through. Alternatively, lightly butter a large sheet of aluminum, wrap fish/wine/ginger/scallion combination with it, and bake at 375F for 45 minutes.
THE END (of part 1)