Dandelion Bao

I have been obsessed with these little fluffy sweet steamed buns. After finding out that shepherds purse (another common mustardy weed) is the usual cultivated green used for these in Shanghai I knew I had to try them. After a few experiments I now truly believe that anything would be delicious inside – so why not dandelions? Why not indeed.

They work here because of the tasty additions of soy, sugar and toasted sesame oil. I have also blanched them briefly so they are cooked without adding any liquid to the mix and a little bitterness is removed. The bun recipe comes from The Woks of Life so I haven’t gone into much detail as they do it beautifully in that link. I’ve tried a few bao doughs recipes now and I really like this one for the addition of a little sugar and cornflour which makes for super light slightly sweet fluffy buns. Also I highly recommend playing with fillings. We made a kimchi and cheddar version when we were drunk last week and it may well have been one of the most perfect bites I’ve ever had.

Dandelion Bao

Makes 12

For the bao dough
300g plain flour Pinch of salt 20g cornflour Pinch of baking soda 170g warm water 15g sugar 3g dried yeast 12g neutral oil

For the filling 2 carrots finely grated 2 large handfuls of dandelion leaves 2 large handfuls of other wild greens – nettles, sow thistle, lime tree leaves, mustard greens 2 tbsp fermented wild garlic (optional) 2 scallions sliced finely 1 tbsp neutral oil 1 tbsp dark soy 1 tbsp sesame oil 1 tsp sugar  2 tbsp sesame seeds

Make the dough 
Mix the water, sugar, yeast and oil together and allow to bloom for a couple of minutes. Mix into the dry ingredients, turn out onto a clean surface knead into a soft silky ball for about 5 minutes. Cover and allow to rise for an hour and a half or until the dough has doubled in size. 

While the dough is rising make the filling. Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch all the greens very briefly plunging into cool water once cooked. Squeeze as much liquid out as possible and chop finely. Add the oil to a pan and bring up to a medium heat. Add the scallions and carrots and soften for 5 minutes. Add the sesame seeds, chopped greens, sugar and soy and mix thoroughly. Once everything is wilted and soft turn the heat off and add the sesame oil. Taste and adjust for seasoning – you may want to add more soy, sugar or sesame oil. 

Once risen knock the dough back and divide into 12 equal pieces. Using a little flour roll into a circle about 8cm across keeping the edges thinner than the middle. Pick up with one hand and add a tablespoon of filling to the middle. Now the tricky bit! Holding your thumb in one place that is holding the dough gather the edges in the whole way round until you get a cute little bundle. I recommend watching a few YouTube videos to get this right but even if they’re ugly (and lots of mine have been) they’re delicious! 

Steam on a layer of greaseproof or cabbage greens in a bamboo basket over simmering water for ten minutes. Turn off and allow to sit for a further five minutes before serving up. These are great with a little extra soy and some finely sliced scallions. 

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