Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nikuman: Japanese Steamed Buns

I was over on the blog La Fuji Mama earlier this week, and stumbled across this recipe for nikuman. If you haven't seen the blog, it's an interesting one, though I prefer her more traditional recipes to the hybrid ones she does.

And I won't copy her recipe over here. That would be tacky, right?

Now, I have fond, fond memories of these pork buns - the curry flavour was my absolute favourite, so this past weekend, I decided to try my hand at making them.

Let's just say the results were mixed. The filling was amazing. My husband claims it was better than any basic nikuman he'd had in Japan, and I think I agree with him. Totally tasty, if a bit greasy.

pork, soy, bamboo, onion, sugar, chile-garlic paste, ginger
But that is how they're supposed to be!

The challenge lay in the dough. It was crumbly. Very crumbly. After attempting to get crumbs to stick together for about 15 minutes, I ended up adding 3 or so tablespoons more milk to the mixture just to be able to form something that would hold together. I was terrified the recipe would be a total disaster; that the dough would be tough and not soft and fluffy and that 9:00 pm would roll around and I wouldn't have any dinner.

After 20 minutes of kneading, this is what my dough looked like:

Certainly not the smoothest, prettiest dough I've ever made in my life. You can understand my concern.

After letting the darned thing rest for half an hour, I divided the whole thing into eight pieces and attempted to roll them out into circles. Due to the elasticity of this dough, it has a nasty habit of snapping back into place after you roll it out.

And once rolled, I divided the filling into eight balls and placed one at the centre of each dough circle (well, they were supposed to be circles).

And attempted to pinch the seams closed. Heavy emphasis on the attempted.

The dough was beginning to look a bit prettier though!

Once I had four done, I started the steamer up and placed them, along with their parchment paper bases, into the top and steamed them for 15 minutes.

With trepidation and the buzzer alarm sounding off frantically in my ear, I lifted the lid to the steamer off.

Hm. Although split, they looked like nikuman.

Yep. That's definitely a steamed bun. Heck, the dough even felt springy!

I think Phil and I bit in at the exact same time. His bun spurted orange oil over our freshly washed sofa cover.

But you know what? It was worth it, because these were delicious.

If only I hadn't pulled a wrist muscle trying to knead that stupid dough (which turned out pretty tender in the end)!

**edit: these freeze beautifully. You can steam them from frozen for 15-20 minutes and voila!**

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