Monday, January 16, 2012

Shiitake Mushroom Hum Bao

We recently visited the Dahlia Lounge for a dinner and movie night.  It's a tried and true spot and probably one of the earliest restaurants I frequented often, starting way back in my just post college, real job, early twenties, footloose and first few extra dollars in my pocket days.  We'd go there for lunch and I'd have the fried rice with grilled shrimp.  It was my favorite, something I could likely eat every day, and it was unlike any other fried rice I had eaten before.  The other night, I had something I had also never eaten before... a shiitake mushroom humbao.  It was delightful.  Truth be told, I've been trying to stay off the carbs somewhat, but I was not going to let that hum bao go.  I offered Chris a bite and then he said hopefully, "you're not eating carbs right?"  I'm sure he was just looking out for me.


Sometimes, when I'm out and I eat something I really like, I often, in retrospect, wish I had put a little bit in a vacuum sealed bag to bring home so I could taste it again while I'm trying to recreate it.  But, the thought never crosses my mind at the time.  Instead, I just munch it down joyfully.  I should invent a handbag accessory for that purpose.
For the hum boa dough:
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/4 Cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Dissolve the sugar in the water then add the yeast and stir gently.  Let sit for about 10 minutes until the top is frothy. In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour and the salt.  Stir to combine, then with the mixer on low, add the water mixture in a steady stream along with the oil.  Knead the dough on low for about 5-6 minutes until the dough is well combined and smooth.  If the dough does not come together well, you may need to add a bit more water.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour.  It should be wet to the touch, but not too sticky.  
Take the dough out and knead with your hands until smooth.  It should only take a minute or two.  Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside.  Cover with a damp towel and let sit to rise for about 3 hours.  I love the little wafts of yeasty dough in the air.
While waiting for the dough to rise, make the shiitake mushroom filling.
If you are not yet ready to use the dough, cover and refrigerate it.  When ready to use, remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Flatten and pound a small well into the center.  Sprinkle the baking powder in to the well, and then fold the sides over making sure you seal in the baking powder.  Knead the dough for a few minutes to incorporate the baking powder.


Divide the dough into 12 to 24 rounds, depending on how big you want your hum boas.  I made 18 plus a few just plain buns, like those you use for pork buns, just for fun. 
Cover with a towel while you are wrapping your hum boas as you will be doing these one at a time.
To make each hum boa, flatten one piece of dough with the palm of your hand.  You can use a little rolling pin if you'd like or use your fingers to pull and flatten into a round.  Place a small round of the filling onto the center.  Bring up the side and pinch together tightly, making sure the filling is completely incased.  Don't worry, it'll get easier with each one you make.  Of course the thinner the dough, the less doughy your hum boa is.  I like it less doughy, but I am not a very adept hum boa maker.  
Arrange the buns in a steamer and steam for 15 minutes.  Make sure you allow enough space between them for them to expand a little during cooking.  Whenever you steam this type of food, make sure you put either some lettuce, napa cabbage, or cheesecloth, etc.  down to keep the buns from sticking to the bottom of the steamer.  
What am I going to do with so many? Well, it's difficult to just make a few, so after steaming them all, I put the ones we didn't eat onto a pan and froze them.  From there, you can take them out as needed and either steam or microwave until just warmed.


For the Filling:
3-4 Cups dried shiitake mushrooms, about 40 medium sized
1 Cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 Tbsp finely minced ginger
1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Cup water (I used half water and half liquid from soaking the mushrooms)
Freshly grated black pepper and sprinkle of ground white pepper
Soak mushrooms in hot water until soft.  I always rinse the mushrooms first before soaking.  Many times, if I am making soup, or other things with sauce, I like to add some of the soaking liquid, so I like to make sure I remove any debris, etc. from the mushrooms.
Squeeze out the excess liquid and thinly slice the mushrooms.  
Heat a little oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add in the shiitake mushrooms and toss to combine.  Add the remaining ingredients and turn heat down to medium low, cover the wok and allow the mushrooms to cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are quite soft and liquid has been absorbed.  Let cool before making the hum boas.
The dough was wonderful!  I am going to make that for my pork buns in the future.  A little off on the filling.  I think the shiitakes needed to be sliced even thinner and cooked longer.  But other than that, it was pretty good.  The dough was the right thickness... not too doughy.  Stella snuck one off before dinner and in a skip, tip toey, jog, took a bite and said, "yay, party in my mouth".  That's got to be good, right?

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