Disneynature’s Born in China comes out today and I can hardly wait to see it. If you haven’t caught a Disneynature movie before, then you’re missing out. The scenery in these movies is magnificent–definitely the type of flick to enjoy on Earth Day (tomorrow!) over a good cup of tea. In celebration of Born in China’s opening, making some Panda Veggie Buns sounded like a great idea. Chinese steamed buns are often filled with sweetened bean paste or meat, but this version is chock full of vegetables coated in a sweet and savory sauce.
For a hearty taste, I’ve stuffed mushrooms, cabbage and baked tofu into these buns. There are also some bamboo shoots for a crunchy texture and a spoonful of hoisin, which tastes like a cross between sweet barbecue sauce and miso paste.It’s actually not that hard to transform regular steamed buns into panda buns. Some paper punches and shiny sheets of jet black nori make this decorating job a cinch–the hardest part is choosing the shape of the panda’s nose. Dot or heart? Your choice!Attach the nori cut-outs after the buns are steamed, not before. This allows the nori to keep its shape and not warp from too much moisture. The smallest amount of ambient steam on the surface of the buns will help the seaweed to stick.Although any Chinese tea will pair well with Panda Veggie Buns, a delicious cup of Bamboo Tea seems curiously appropriate. These bright green leaves steep to release a mellow, caffeine-free brew that’s pleasantly sweet like boiled asparagus. Steamed Veggie Buns and Bamboo Tea? Now that’s gotta be a panda approved pairing!Panda Veggie Buns
Makes 10 buns.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp SAF instant yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup lukewarm water + 1-2 Tbsp water more (if needed)
1 cup cabbage, sliced & diced
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and diced (I used 4 large mushrooms)
1/4 cup bamboo shoots, diced
1/4 cup baked tofu, diced
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp ginger, grated
1/2 tsp garlic, grated
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp rice wine or sherry
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 sheets nori
wok or large skillet
stand mixer with dough hook attachment
large bamboo steamer
wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer
parchment paper, cut into 10- 2 1/2″ squares
large heart punch (1 7/16″), for panda eyes and ears
small heart punch (5/8″) or regular hole punch, for panda nose
1. Make the Bun Dough. Follow Steps 1 & 2 of my Adzuki Bunny Buns recipe to make the dough.
2. Make the Filling. Place a wok on high heat. Add the cooking oil, then wait for it to shimmer. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the mushrooms, bamboo and tofu, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sugar and pepper to the mix, continuing to cook on high. Add the rice wine, then let it cook out. Add the cabbage and stir-fry until wilted, about 2 minutes. Finally, mix in the hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Take the mix off the heat and transfer to a plate to cool completely.
3. Form the Buns. After the first rise, take the dough out onto a work surface. Portion it out into 10 equal pieces. Shape each dough piece into a ball, then flatten each ball into a disk about 3 1/2″ in diameter and fill it with 1 Tbsp of the filling. Gather the edges of the flattened dough disk, pinching them together to seal. Flip the filled dough ball over, then roll it into a ball . Roll the ball into a slight oval. Place this shaped bun on a small square of parchment paper.
4. Steam the Buns. Shape a total of 10 buns, placing them at least 1″ apart in the steamer. Cover the steamer and let the buns rise for about 15 minutes, until just slightly puffy. Meanwhile, boil some water in a wok or stockpot so that the water is at least 2″ deep in the pot. Steam the buns for 12 minutes over water at a full boil. After the buns have finished steaming, let them slightly cool before decorating.5. Create the Pandas. Punch out a large heart. Cut it in half so that there are 2 equal half-hearts. Use scissors to round out the shorter end to make 2 panda eyes. Now punch out another large heart. Cut it in half so that there are 2 equal half-hearts. Use scissors to cut out 2 “D” shaped panda ears. Finally, use the small heart paper punch (or a regular hole punch) to punch out a nose. Attach pieces of cut nori atop the buns. The residual steam on the surface of the buns should help the nori to adhere. If not, use light dabs of water to affix the nori pieces. Happy Earth Day 2017!