For the baos
265g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp table salt
3.5g fast action dried yeast
20g caster sugar
7g baking powder
25ml semi-skimmed milk
100ml warm water
14ml vegetable oil plus extra for dough
For the fish
2 trout fillets
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 garlic clove, grated
10g ginger, grated
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
For the sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp rice wine vinegar
For the toppings
Cucumber, 3 slices per bao
Start with preparing the pickled red chillies ahead of time.
I've recently inherited a Kenwood food mixer that has a dough hook, so this recipe (based on this recipe from Jeremy Pang) uses that. I've made bao plenty of times before using the manual kneading process and they work out just the same. Today I'm choosing to drink beer in the time I've saved not kneading these delightful little buns.
First, add the flour, salt, yeast, caster sugar, baking powder to the mixing bowl. In another dish, combine the milk, warm water and vegetable oil.
Drizzle a little of the liquid into the flour mixture and start the mixer going for 2 minutes on a slow speed – adding in the liquid a little at a time. Increase the speed and let it go for a further 2 minutes until the dough is formed but still a little tacky. Sprinkle over a little flour and form into a ball. Coat the ball with about ½ tbsp of vegetable oil and put back into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside to prove for an hour or until doubled in size.
Whilst the dough is proving, you can start marinating the trout. In a bowl big enough to hold the trout fillets, combine the soy, ginger, garlic and chilli for the marinade and stir.
Remove the skin from the trout fillets by placing the fillets on a board, skin side down, then with a large sharp knife, cut into the trout as close to the skin as possible. I find it easier cutting outward first so I create a tab of skin I can hold. Once the first cuts have been made you can hold the skin taught using the tab and cut the remaining skin off with a flat knife.
Rub each side of the skins with table salt and place the skins flat on some good quality kitchen roll to absorb any moisture. Cover with some more kitchen roll on top and place a little weight on top. Set aside and leave for 30 minutes.
Add the trout fillets into the marinade, ensuring they're coated on all sides. Leave for at least 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the grill to 230°C (or high grill). Remove the skins from the kitchen roll and place onto a grill tray. They should feel pretty dry by now. Place under the grill on the top shelf, for around 5 minutes on each side or until crisp (but not burnt).
When the crispy skin is done, set the oven to 180°C. Have a peek at the dough at this point, it should be pretty much double in size at this point. If it looks like it needs more time to prove then you may want to wait a little longer to cook the trout. Whilst the oven is adjusting to temperature, add the trout and marinade to the centre of some foil and make a parcel with it. Scrunch it at the top so it cooks in all those lovely marinading juices. Cook for 20 minutes.
When the bao mixture has doubled in size, place it on a large flat surface with a little flour. With a rolling pin, roll it out so it's about 1cm thick. With a round cutter (no smaller than 9cm in diameter), cut out as many circles as you can with the dough. Ball together any off-cuts and make an extra bao. Rub the top of the bao with oil, fold in half then use the rolling pin to flatten and shape it into that classic bao shape. Place each bun onto a little square bit of baking paper. You can use this when steaming in a moment. Set a side and keep covered so they don't dry out.
Whilst the trout is cooking, chop the cucumbers and get your toppings ready to assemble. Add water to the steamer and place on a medium heat.
When the trout is done, remove from the oven and open the foil carefully. Make a little spout from the foil and pour the juices into a small frying pan on a medium heat. Flake the rest of the trout into large chunks and keep wrapped up in the foil until the buns are cooked.
Start steaming your baos – about 6-8 mins per batch of baos depending on the size. Remove from steamer and set aside. They're more malleable when they're warm so sometimes I press the centre down a little to help fit more filling in.
Whilst the buns are steaming, add 1 tbsp of soy sauce, honey and the rice wine vinegar. Stirring frequently to prevent burning and to help thicken the sauce.
When you're ready to assemble, place 3 slices of cucumber on the bottom of the bun, add the flaked trout on top with a drizzle of the sauce. Top with a few pickled chillies, Kewpie mayonnaise and coriander and don't forget that shard of crispy fish skin. The crispy skin won't be enough for all baos but they still taste great without.