Crispy Gochujang Tofu Bao Buns (vegan)

After having Korean fried chicken in a restaurant a while ago, *that* spicy gochujang sauce stuck in my mind. It’s like a grown up version of the sauce on sweet & sour chicken. I made it at home, using it to coat crispy tofu (coated in cornstarch and pan fried) to stuff into pillowy soft bao buns. I actually made these a while ago but never got round to posting the recipe! Now that I’ve been going a bit bao crazy I thought I would get this one up on the blog at the same time so there are some filling options for people to look at. We used this sauce last night for coating katsu seitan and it was epic – we had it with pickled radish/red onion and carrot ribbons which was a great combo. I think the sauce would work well on katsu sweet potato for an easy option. These are a bit ‘involved’ since you do need to do the whole tofu pressing, coating & frying situation. I also roasted some butternut squash to go in the buns but you can leave it out if you want (or use something seasonal like roasted carrots instead). However, […]

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Assembling Bao buns filled with crispy gochujang tofu, lettuce and butternut squash

After having Korean fried chicken in a restaurant a while ago, *that* spicy gochujang sauce stuck in my mind. It’s like a grown up version of the sauce on sweet & sour chicken. I made it at home, using it to coat crispy tofu (coated in cornstarch and pan fried) to stuff into pillowy soft bao buns.

I actually made these a while ago but never got round to posting the recipe! Now that I’ve been going a bit bao crazy I thought I would get this one up on the blog at the same time so there are some filling options for people to look at. We used this sauce last night for coating katsu seitan and it was epic – we had it with pickled radish/red onion and carrot ribbons which was a great combo. I think the sauce would work well on katsu sweet potato for an easy option.

Bao buns filled with crispy gochujang tofu and lettuce with a bamboo steamer

These are a bit ‘involved’ since you do need to do the whole tofu pressing, coating & frying situation. I also roasted some butternut squash to go in the buns but you can leave it out if you want (or use something seasonal like roasted carrots instead). However, once you’ve done the prep it’s easy to keep the components warm or reheat them, making the whole thing perfect for when you have a few friends round.

You can get frozen bao from Chinese supermarkets or, if you want to make them yourself, see my post for an in-depth recipe with some helpful shaping GIFs.

Crispy Gochujang Tofu Bao Buns

Crispy Gochujang Tofu Bao Buns

Yield: 12 buns (serves 3-4)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

Squash:

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons gochujang
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Tofu:

  • 340g (12 ounces) extra firm tofu
  • 50g (1/2 cup) corn flour (cornstarch)
  • 2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

To serve:

Instructions

For the squash:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Cut the butternut squash into pieces about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Toss with the vegetable oil on a baking tray. Roast for 30-40 minutes, flipping halfway through roasting, until starting to turn brown around the edges.

For the sauce:

  1. Mix all of the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. Add a bit of water if needed to thin it out so it's drizzleable.

For the tofu:

  1. Press the tofu: drain the tofu, wrap in 2 layers of kitchen towel and place on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board and place something heavy (like a few cookbooks) on top. Let sit for 30 minutes to drain.
  2. Unwrap the tofu. Cut into 12 planks.
  3. Place the corn flour in a wide, shallow bowl. Toss the tofu in it to coat well, shaking off excess.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the coated tofu in a single layer and fry on both sides until crisp.
  5. Remove to a dish lined with paper towel to drain. Repeat the frying with the remaining tofu, adding more oil to the pan if needed.
  6. Once you've fried all of it, toss the tofu into the bowl of sauce and stir to coat. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  7. Keep warm in an oven at 100°C (215°F) until serving.

Warm the bao:

  1. Place the bao into a steamer and cover with the lid. Fill a wide saucepan with a ~1 inch depth of water and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Turn the heat down to low then place the steamer into the pan.
  2. Steam for 5-6 minutes if they were frozen, or 2-3 minutes if they're fresh.

Assemble:

  1. Take the warm bao and fill with a leaf of gem lettuce, some of the warm crispy tofu and a piece of butternut squash.
  2. Eat warm!

Notes

  • Gochujang is a spicy, Korean fermented chilli paste. It can be found in many Korean or Chinese grocers and even in larger supermarkets in the 'world food' aisle.

Bao buns filled with crispy gochujang tofu and lettuce with a bamboo steamer" data-pin-description="Crispy tofu with a sweet & spicy gochujang sauce in soft, fluffy bao buns. Great for a plant-based dinner!

Have you made this recipe?
I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

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Grilled Asparagus Bao Buns (vegan)

Although sometimes I like a bao filling which takes a bit more time to prep, these asparagus bao are super fast to make. I keep frozen unfilled bao on hand which only take 5 minutes to heat up so this is a good one for weeknights if you do the same. Since asparagus is in season at the moment I’ve been going absolutely crazy for it. It’s probably one of my favourite vegetables – so delicious and SO quick to cook. I made these for lunch a couple of weeks ago for a friend who came to visit and we sat on the sunny balcony eating them. They were so quick to make (plus I had so many buns) that I ended up having them again for dinner too that week! I think the grilled vegetable vibe is definitely going to be big for me this year, especially when I can chuck them into a bao and have dinner all done and dusted. You can get frozen bao from Chinese supermarkets or, if you want to make them yourself, see my post for an in-depth recipe with some helpful shaping GIFs. Have you made this recipe?I’d love to see how […]

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two bao buns filled with grilled asparagus, sesame seeds, miso glaze and carrot ribbons on a wooden board.

Although sometimes I like a bao filling which takes a bit more time to prep, these asparagus bao are super fast to make. I keep frozen unfilled bao on hand which only take 5 minutes to heat up so this is a good one for weeknights if you do the same.

Since asparagus is in season at the moment I’ve been going absolutely crazy for it. It’s probably one of my favourite vegetables – so delicious and SO quick to cook. I made these for lunch a couple of weeks ago for a friend who came to visit and we sat on the sunny balcony eating them.

bao buns overhead filled with grilled asparagus and carrot ribbons

They were so quick to make (plus I had so many buns) that I ended up having them again for dinner too that week! I think the grilled vegetable vibe is definitely going to be big for me this year, especially when I can chuck them into a bao and have dinner all done and dusted.

You can get frozen bao from Chinese supermarkets or, if you want to make them yourself, see my post for an in-depth recipe with some helpful shaping GIFs.

Grilled Asparagus Bao Buns (Vegan)

Grilled Asparagus Bao Buns (Vegan)

Yield: 8 buns
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 250g (9 ounces) asparagus
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons black bean sauce
  • 1 tablespoon miso or doenjang
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce (or 1 tbsp maple syrup + 1 tsp hot sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Mushroom ketchup or vegan Worcester sauce

To serve:

Instructions

Cook the asparagus:

  1. Peel the tough ends of the asparagus and trim off the very base. If you have quite thick asparagus spears, cut them in half down their length. Place in a roasting dish, drizzle with the oil and toss to coat.
  2. Mix the black bean sauce, miso/doenjang, chilli sauce, rice vinegar, tomato ketchup and mushroom ketchup in a small bowl until smooth.
  3. Heat a grill pan on the highest heat on the stove (or you can use a barbecue). Place the asparagus spears into the pan and grill, until blackened on one side. Flip and grill the other side.
  4. Once that side is blackened, brush the asparagus spears with some of the glaze and turn so you can coat the other side too. Grill for 1 minutes then remove from the pan.
  5. Repeat with any remaining asparagus.

Warm the bao:

  1. Place the bao into a steamer. Fill a wide saucepan with a ~1 inch depth of water and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Turn the heat down to low then place the steamer into the pan.
  2. Steam for 5-6 minutes if they were frozen, or 2-3 minutes if they're fresh.

Assemble:

  1. Fill the warm bao with the asparagus, some kimchi and carrot ribbons. Eat immediately.

Notes

  • I love the vegan kimchi made by The Cultured Collective in the UK
  • Black bean sauce is also known as black bean garlic sauce. You can get it from supermarkets in the 'world food' aisle or from Chinese grocers.
  • If you're not veggie/vegan you can use Oyster sauce instead of the black bean sauce and standard Worcestershire sauce instead of the mushroom ketchup.
  • Mushroom ketchup is a common veggie alternative to Worcestershire sauce, found in most large supermarkets.
  • If you don't have a grill pan/BBQ, a cast iron pan will also work. You can also just roast the asparagus on a baking tray in the oven at 180C (350F) for 10 minutes with the oil, then brush with the glaze and roast for 5 minutes more.

Bao buns filled with grilled asparagus, carrot ribbons and cilantro, topped with sesame seeds on a wooden board

Have you made this recipe?
I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

The post Grilled Asparagus Bao Buns (vegan) appeared first on Izy Hossack - Top With Cinnamon.

How to make Bao Buns

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of bao restaurants in London. These soft and fluffy steamed buns are incredibly delicious and usually not too pricey. BUT you can make them at home which can be a fun weekend ‘project’ to do (and you can freeze extras for weeknight dinners!). The idea of steaming bread can seem daunting so I’ve gone in deep here with as much detail as I can muster! I’ve made them quite a few times at home now so, although I’m definitely not an expert, I may have some tips to help you! What is a bao bun? Really, calling these bao buns is incorrect (bao means bun, so it’s like saying ‘bun bun’). They’re usually called gua bao but are also sometimes known as Taiwanese hamburgers. However their popularity in the West has spread with the name bao buns, so here we are! The usual filling is glazed pork belly but you can basically fill them with whatever you want. I think a good formula for vegetarian fillings is: grilled/deep fried vegetables (or tofu/seitan) + something crunchy (lettuce, carrot ribbons, shredded cabbage) + sauce + pickles (kimchi, red onion/radish, kraut). Where can […]

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Steamed gua bao buns in a bamboo steamer

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of bao restaurants in London. These soft and fluffy steamed buns are incredibly delicious and usually not too pricey. BUT you can make them at home which can be a fun weekend ‘project’ to do (and you can freeze extras for weeknight dinners!). The idea of steaming bread can seem daunting so I’ve gone in deep here with as much detail as I can muster! I’ve made them quite a few times at home now so, although I’m definitely not an expert, I may have some tips to help you!

What is a bao bun?

Really, calling these bao buns is incorrect (bao means bun, so it’s like saying ‘bun bun’). They’re usually called gua bao but are also sometimes known as Taiwanese hamburgers. However their popularity in the West has spread with the name bao buns, so here we are! The usual filling is glazed pork belly but you can basically fill them with whatever you want.

I think a good formula for vegetarian fillings is: grilled/deep fried vegetables (or tofu/seitan) + something crunchy (lettuce, carrot ribbons, shredded cabbage) + sauce + pickles (kimchi, red onion/radish, kraut).

Where can I buy bao buns?

I have to say, as much as I love making things from scratch, sometimes I just want a super easy dinner and frozen bao buns are a godsend for that. I buy packs of frozen Bao from the big chest freezers in my local Chinese food shop. They have a variety of names I’ve come across: ‘gua bao’, ‘double slice bun’, ‘Hirata bun’ or ‘Taiwan burger bun’. If you want to make them yourself though, read on!

Bao buns filled with crispy gochujang tofu and lettuce with a bamboo steamer" data-pin-description="Crispy tofu with a sweet & spicy gochujang sauce in soft, fluffy bao buns. Great for a plant-based dinner!

Can I make vegan bao buns?

Yes! This recipe below is vegan (with non-vegan adaptations you can make if you’d like). I just use all water and vegetable oil so it really is an easy recipe to make. Plus they come out just as fluffy and soft as the ones containing milk.

I have a couple of vegan filling options too:
Grilled Asparagus Bao
Gochujang Tofu Bao

A bamboo steamer with bao buns in a pan on the stove

How do you steam bao buns?

I have a 2-layer bamboo steamer I got from a Korean supermarket when I lived in Leeds! You can get them online or usually at larger Korean/Chinese/Japanese food shops. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer you can use a metal one, you just can’t fit as many buns into them as you can with a bamboo one (as they are stackable). If you don’t have a steamer you can hack one by placing a large metal colander into a large pot with a bit of water at the bottom of the pot, then cover with a large pot lid/plate/foil.

For bamboo steamers: place the steamer into a wide saucepan or pot that it can fit snugly in. Pour water into the pan, I usually do a ~1-inch depth and top up the water as needed while steaming so it doesn’t run dry. The most important thing is that the water level doesn’t rise above the base of the steamer as you don’t want the water to come into direct contact with whatever is in the steamer. Bring the water to a boil over a medium heat, fill the steamer with your buns (they expand quite a bit when steaming so leave some room around them) then cover with the lid. Place into the pan of water and turn the heat down so the water is simmering. Let the buns steam for 5-6 minutes – do not remove the lid during this time as the trapped steam inside is cooking the buns!

I use a pair of kitchen tongs to remove each layer of the bamboo steamer from the pan so I don’t get burnt by the steam.

Can you freeze bao buns and can you reheat frozen ones?

When I make bao I usually make a large batch so I can freeze most of them for easy dinners later on. To do this, steam all of the bao as instructed. Then line them up on a baking tray – I like to leave the little parchment square on the bottom of each bun so I can use it when I reheat them later. Freeze the buns for 1-2 hours on the tray then tip them into a resealable bag. Label and date them for future reference! You can reheat the bao straight from frozen, just pop a few into your steamer and steam for 5-8 minutes until hot in the middle.

Placing shaped bao buns onto a baking tray
placing shaped bao buns into a bamboo steamer

How do you keep steamed buns warm?

Keep them in the bamboo steamer with lid closed. They should stay warm like this for ~10 minutes. When having them for dinner, I usually actually cook all the bao ahead of time and then re-heat a couple at a time by steaming for 1-2 minutes before eating. That way you always have hot ones to eat.

Why are my bao buns not white?

The addition of baking powder/bicarbonate of soda can cause a yellowing of the dough after steaming. You may notice that if you don’t knead the baking powder into the dough thoroughly, there will be little yellow spots on the buns (this is just an aesthetic issue, they’ll still taste fine). The yellowy tinge can also come from the flour – if your flour is unbleached, as most is in the UK, the buns will not be super white. You can buy bleached white flour from some Chinese supermarkets if you’re really after that snowy white look.

Can I make wholewheat bao?

Yes! Just replace 1/3 of the flour in the recipe below with wholemeal (wholewheat) bread flour. They’ll be a little bit denser/ chewier but still delicious. I wouldn’t recommend doing 50% or 100% wholemeal flour as it’ll make the buns too dense and they won’t be fluffy.

How to make Steamed Bao Buns (Gua Bao)

How to make Steamed Bao Buns (Gua Bao)

Yield: 20
Active Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 420g (3 1/2 cups) plain white flour (all-purpose flour), plus more for kneading
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1/4 oz or 7g) easy bake yeast (instant yeast)
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250g (1 cup) warm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for the bowl + brushing
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Instructions

Make the dough & first rise:

  1. Place the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir together to combine.
  2. Add the warm water and vegetable oil to the bowl and stir together to form a rough dough. Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a work surface and knead together, dusting lightly with extra flour as needed to prevent it sticking to the surface (just try to add as little extra flour as possible). Knead for about 10 minutes - the dough will be slightly sticky and quite soft but should be stretchy and smooth. You can also use a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted to knead it if you'd like.
  3. Pour a little extra vegetable oil into the bowl you were using. Place the dough in and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour to rise until doubled in volume (I place it in my oven, turned off, with a baking tray full of boiling water on the rack below - it makes the perfect warm, steamy environment for the dough to rise in).
  4. Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto your work surface and pat out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle the baking powder all over the surface of the dough, roll it up, and then knead for 5 more minutes so the baking powder is incorporated.

Shape the buns & second rise:

  1. Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces. Shape each of these into little balls, dusting with more flour as needed to stop them sticking to the work surface.
  2. Cut 20 squares of baking paper, each roughly 3.5 inches (9 cm) wide.
  3. Take each ball of dough and roll it out into an oval about 3.5 by 4.5 inches (9 x 12 cm). Brush the surface of each oval with a light coating of vegetable oil. Fold each oval in half to get a half-moon shape. Place onto the individual squares of baking paper.
  4. Set aside to rise for 20 minutes on your counter so they get a bit puffy.

Steam the buns:

  1. Gently place a few of the risen buns into your bamboo steamer - I can fit 3 buns in each layer of mine so a total of 6 buns. Make sure when you do this you don't squish the buns, so lower them in by grasping the corners of the baking paper square. You also want to leave room for expansion as the buns will rise even more when they are steamed - try to make sure they're not touching each other/ the edges of the steamer or they'll stick.
  2. Put the remaining risen buns on a baking tray in the fridge to stop them overproofing as the first batch steams.
  3. Fill a wide saucepan with ~1 inch (3 cm) of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat then lower the bamboo steamer in, covering it with its lid. Turn the heat down so the water is simmering and let the buns steam for 6 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly then remove from the steamer so you can steam the next batch, you may need to top up the water to prevent it running dry (you can take the dough straight from the fridge, no need to let it come to room temperature).
  5. Eat the buns warm! If they cool off, you can reheat them once more by steaming again for ~2 minutes.

FREEZING BUNS:

  1. Steam all of the buns as directed above. Allow to cool to room temperature then place on a baking sheet (with the baking paper squares still attached). Freeze on the tray for 1-2 hours until solid. Tip the frozen buns into a resealable bag which is labelled and dated. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  2. To reheat, place frozen buns into a steamer. Steam for 5-8 minutes until piping hot inside.

Notes

  • you can use melted butter or lard in place of the vegetable oil if desired
  • you can replace half of the water with warm milk in the dough for a slightly softer result
  • if you don't have easy bake/instant yeast: first mix the yeast with the warm water in a jug and set aside to bubble up for 5 minutes before pouring into the bowl of flour/salt/sugar/oil.

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