Friday, 29 June 2012

Baozi Recipe











Version 1

Yields 16 buns

  • 1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water, plus additional as needed
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I like White Lily)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Chinese cabbage or bok choy
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or rice wine
  1. For the buns, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Allow to proof until bubbly and creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the salt. Turn the mixer on low speed, and pour in the warm water-yeast mixture until the dough begins to form a ball. If it looks too dry, add more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it forms a ragged clump. Continue to knead on low speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny, and springy to the touch.
  3. (Alternately, you can do this by hand: Dribble the water into a large bowl holding the flour mixture, using one hand to slowly mix it in a circular direction. When it forms the ragged clump, turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and shiny.)
  4. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, flipping the dough to coat it in oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Store the bowl in a warm, draft free place until it doubles in size, approximately 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Prepare the filling (recipe below). Cut 16 squares (approximately 3-inches each) of wax or parchment paper. Spray each square with cooking oil.
  6. Punch the dough down, then divide in half. Roll each half into a rectangular log. Using a pastry cutter, slice each log into 8 pieces. Roll a slice into a ball, then shape it into a thin, flat disc (like a pancake). Try to keep the center of the disc thicker than the edges. (Once steamed, this keeps the bun from being too doughy on one side and too thin on the other.)
  7. Spoon a dollop of filling into the center of the disc. Pull the edges up around the filling and pinch together to form a bun. Place the bun on a square of parchment paper and cover with a towel. Continue this process with the rest of the dough until all of the buns are filled. Allow the buns to rest for 20 - 30 minutes.
  8. To cook, prepare the steamer basket. Working in batches, position filled buns (each still on its parchment square!) into the steamer, allowing room on all sides. (The cooked buns will be up to 50 percent larger.) I placed the buns seam-side down so they would have a smooth, round top.
  9. Steam the buns for 15 minutes, then remove the pan and basket from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the buns and serve immediately. To reheat heat buns (they will keep for a few days in the refrigerator), pop in the microwave for 30 seconds or re-steam.
  10. For the filling, combine the pork, cabbage, scallions, soy, sesame oil, and sherry in a large bowl. Set aside.

History of Baozi (Chinese Steamed Bun with filling)

Baozi are steamed buns in a variety of sizes stuffed with a variety of fillings. These are great snacks that you'll find all over China and you can always start an argument over which region produces the most delicious. In the southwest or northwest, baozi are stuffed with pork; in Sichuan, they can be spicy and dipped in hot sauce; around the Shanghai area, you'll find vegetarian baozi filled with spinach and tofu.

 Two types are found in most parts of China: Dabao, measuring about 10 cm across, served individually, and usually purchased for take-away. The other type, xiaobao, measure approximately 3 cm wide, and are most commonly eaten in restaurants. Each order consists of a steamer containing about 10 pieces. A small ceramic dish is provided for vinegar or soy sauce, both of which are available in bottles at the table, along with chilli paste.

In many Chinese cultures, these buns are a popular food, and widely available. While they can be eaten at any meal, bao are often eaten for breakfast. Due to the long history of Chinese immigrants in Malaysia, the Malays have adopted these buns as their own. A particularly Malay form of the baozi (called pau in Malay) is filled with potato curry, chicken curry or beef curry that are similar to the fillings of Malay curry puffs. Some variants have a quail egg in the middle, in addition to the curry. Due to the Muslim beliefs of Malays, these buns are usually halal. You can find Malay stalls selling the buns by the roadside, at pasar malams (night markets), highway rest stops and pasar Ramadans (Ramadan food bazaars).

There is a legend about the origin of Jiaozi. In the later years of the Eastern Han Period (Dong Han) an official called Zhang Zhongjing invented a kind of food to help poor people keep warm in cold winter containing hot pepper and some medicinal materials as the fillings.

Baozi, on the other hand, dates back almost 1,800 years. It is said that the history of baozi dates back to the Three Kingdoms period (220-280). Zhuge Liang (181-234), a military strategist of the time, was on an expedition to far South China when his army caught a plague. The incarnation of wisdom in Chinese history, he invented this meal shaped as a human head and made of flour and pork and beef to offer as a sacrifice and then as food to cure the soldiers' plague.

This food, originally called mantou (flour head), became a typical food of the Chinese people. In some parts of southern China, for example Shanghai, steamed bread, either with stuffing or not, is still called mantou. But in the north, people started to call stuffed buns baozi, with bao meaning "wrapping."

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Nikujaga Recipe

Because Nikujaga is a "mother's taste" food, there is a ton of variations. Here is some variations of Nikujaga


Version 1

  • Yield: 4-6 Servings
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: Around 45 mins
  • Ready In: Around 55 mins
  •     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •     8 ounces beef sliced thin (shortribs work great)
  •     1 onion thick slices
  •     4 yukon gold potatoes cut into large chunks
  •     1 carrot cut into large pieces
  •     4 fresh shiitake mushrooms stems removed and quartered
  •     1/2 cup sake
  •     2 cups dashi (low sodium beef stock also works)
  •     2 tablespoons sugar
  •     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •     3 tablespoons soy sauce
  •     5 ounce bag shirataki drained and rinsed
  •     3 ounces green beans trimmed

  1. Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, then stir-fry the beef until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl, with tongs or a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible.
  2. Add the onions and fry until translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms and continue stir-frying for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the sake and bring to a boil until you stop smelling alcohol (1-2 minutes). Add the dashi, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and then return the beef to the pot. Simmer, partially covered for 30-40 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the carrots and potatoes are very soft.
  4. Add the green beans and cook uncovered until they are cooked through. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop.


Version 2

Ingredients (serves four)
  • 200 grams cheaper cuts of beef (kiriotoshi)
  • 500 grams potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 1 bag konjac noodles (shirataki)
  • 20 grams kinusaya snow peas
  • Stock (2 cups dashi stock, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2.5 Tbsp each of sake and sweet mirin sake, 4 Tbsp sugar)
  1. Peel potatoes and cut in two to four chunks. If preferred, round off the edges to prevent the corners from breaking off. Rinse in water and drain.
  2. Cut onion into wedges. Wash konjac noodles, boil and cut into appropriate lengths. Cut beef into bite-size pieces and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sake (not listed above), so they will come apart easily when cooking.
  3. Boil snow peas and cut into thin strips.
  4. In a pot, bring dashi stock to a boil, add seasoning and then beef. Remove the scum. Add potatoes first and konjac noodles on top, cover with a drop-lid and cook over medium heat. Add onion wedges when the pot comes to a boil again. If you like your onions soft, add them along with the potatoes and konjac noodles. There's no need to stir.
  5. When the potatoes are almost soft, remove the drop-lid to let some of the liquid evaporate. As a final step, turn the contents from the sides with a spatula and cook until just a bit of liquid remains.
  6. To serve, pile the nikujaga high in a bowl and place the snow pea strips on the top.

Version 3

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Cook: Around 40 mins
  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 to 5 pieces each
  • 1/3 lb. beef, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 lb. yellow onions, sliced (about 1/3 inch wide)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 400 cc water (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons or more soy sauce (to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons or more brown sugar (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons sake or white wine
  • Prepare vegetables as described above. 
  • Heat a deep pan and add oil and beef. Saute for a couple of minutes, then add onion and potato. Continue sauteing for 3 minutes. 
  • Add water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sake or wine. 
  • Bring to a simmer half covered. Skim off any foam and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are done.

History of Nikujaga (Japanese dish of meat, potatoes and onion)

Nikujaga (肉じゃが?) (meaning meat-potato) is a Japanese dish of meat, potatoes and onion stewed in sweetened soy sauce, sometimes with ito konnyaku and vegetables. Generally, potatoes make up the bulk of the dish, with meat mostly serving as a source of flavor. It usually is boiled until most of the liquid has been reduced. Thinly sliced beef is the most common meat used, although minced/ground beef is also popular. Pork is often used instead of beef in eastern Japan.

Nikujaga is a common home-cooked winter dish, served with a bowl of white rice and miso soup. It is also sometimes seen in izakayas.

Since the main ingredients niku (meat) and jagaimo (potatoes) are historically not traditional Japanese foodstuffs, Nikujaga does not seem typically Japanese. But Nikujaga is a popular meal especially at home. It is a "mother's taste" meal. 

 If Japan had cowboys and burly lumberjacks, this would be their meal. It’s a real work horse of the Japanese home kitchen and quite literally translates to “meat and potatoes”. Being high in energy, low on prep time and very tasty, it’s no surprise why. This is also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, so you can make it in larger quantities and warm it up over rice for lunch.

It all started in Maizuru, a city in Kyoto Prefecture that was the site of an Imperial Japanese Navy base from 1901 to 1945 and is currently host to the district headquarters of the Maritime Self Defense Force. Credit Takao Shimizu, vice president of the city's sightseeing association, with the idea of reinvigorating the local economy by promoting the town as the birthplace of "Mom's home cooking." The idea came to him when he heard an MSDF official mention that the popular dish nikujaga originated in the galleys of warships.

Nikujaga is made of beef, braised potatoes, onions, carrots and stringed konnyaku, seasoned with sugar and soy sauce. Today, it is a staple dish in many homes and a popular item at izakaya taverns.

Although Shimizu read in a guide to Japanese cities that nikujaga originated in Maizuru, he could not verify the claim. Even so, he decided to promote the dish as a means of attracting tourists, and formed a kind of nikujaga awareness group in 1995.

The theory goes like this: Heihachiro Togo (1848-1934) was assigned to Maizuru Naval Station as its first commander in 1901 and stayed there for two years. As it happens, Togo had studied naval science in Britain from 1871 to 1878, so Shimizu reasoned he must have eaten beef stew occasionally. "We concocted a story that Togo ordered the cooks to fix something similar to beef stew," he said.

Group member Setsuko Iba took it upon himself to "complete" the Maizuru-style nikujaga, adding green peas and carrots to the original ingredients of beef, konnyaku, potatoes and onions, as described in the navy cook book.

Then the plot started to thicken. While Maizuru residents were laughing it up, congratulating themselves on their creative interpretation of folk history, officials in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, did not think it was such a lark.

City assembly members believed Togo was stationed at the Kure naval base from May 1890 to December 1891, and theorized that he likely introduced nikujaga to the navy diet at that time to prevent vitamin B deficiency. They also pointed out that Togo, as the chief of staff at Kure, (as opposed to commander, his rank in Maizuru) seems more likely to have ordered the chef to improve the diet.

In 1997, the city government promoted a food festival with the claim that nikujaga originated in Kure. The following year, 750 posters were put up in Japan Rail stations around western Japan advertising Kure as the birthplace of nikujaga (a tiny question mark being the only indication of the ongoing controversy).

Shimizu countered repeatedly that Maizuru was the dish's authentic birthplace. Finally, he and Kure officials agreed that both municipalities would lay claim to nikujaga, resulting in a friendly rivalry that would hopefully draw more media coverage -- and more tourists.

Last year, Shimizu scored a coup. He persuaded Calbee Foods Co. to produce a nikujaga-flavored snack. Shimizu approached the company after some university students told him young women would like to have something to eat while walking around tourist spots.

He asked Calbee to consider making a new product that would be sold only in Maizuru. After much hemming and hawing, the manufacturer decided to flavor its potato snack Jagariko with nikujaga and sell it exclusively in Maizuru in October.

Stocks, all 72,000 packs of them, sold out almost immediately, as did 42,000 more that followed.

Apparently, the efforts of both cities are starting to pay off. When people think of Kure and Maizuru, they are beginning to think of nikujaga as much as the former naval bases. "While talking about war itself is taboo, you can't avoid recognizing the navy's presence. But the situation has changed. We tell people Kure was a naval port and that nikujaga was born in the kitchens of the imperial navy," said Kure municipal official Satoshi Kanemitsu.