Red Cooked Chicken Bun

 

So, a few people have asked me for the recipe for my steamed buns with red cooked chicken, based on this picture:

Here it is.

Red Cooked Chicken Steamed Buns

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 3 ounces vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup shaoxing wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs.

Dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.

 

Add flour to the yeast mixture and mix until the dough comes together into a sticky ball. Turn out onto a well floured surface. Drizzle the dough with the oil and knead until the dough is smooth and firm, about 10 minutes. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and let stand until doubled in size.

 

Wile the dough is rising, make the filling. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add the sugar and cook until the sugar is lightly browned. Sear the chicken in the sugar, then add the star anise, garlic, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken from the pot, then raise the heat. Simmer until the sauce is thickened and remove from the heat. Shred the chicken into very small pieces and put back in the sauce. Set aside.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle the baking powder over the surface of the dough, then knead gently until well incorporated. Divide the dough into 2 1/2 ounce balls. Cover with a clean dry towel.

 

Working with one ball at a time, roll into a 3 1/2 inch disk that is slightly thinner at the edges. Spoon a generous amount of red cooked chicken filling into the center, then gather up the edges to form a topknot and pinch tightly shut. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Continue until all the buns have been formed. Let rise 30 minutes before steaming.

 

Line a bamboo steamer basket with parchment and fill with the buns. Cover the basket. Place the steamer in a wok or sauté pan. Pour water into the pan, but don't let it touch the bottom of the steamer rack. Bring the water to a boil. Let the buns steam until the dough is puffy and is slightly shiny, about 15 minutes.

 

Transfer the steamer to a plate and serve immediately,

 

Searching for Ramen, Bowls 2 and 3

Alas, I didn’t eat as many bowls of ramen as I would have liked on my brief trip to Manhattan.

Bowl # 2

My second bowl of ramen was at Momofuku Noodle Bar, Dave Chang’s noodle house in the East Village. We arrived for dinner unfashionably early, around 6:30pm, so the restaurant was relatively empty,

Momofuku interior

especially in comparison to how crowded it would get by the time we were halfway through our meal. We were seated at the bar, where we were able to watch the expediter keep the kitchen on target and one of the chefs painstakingly cutting vegetables into perfect little squares.

Before I get to the ramen, I want to mention the other plates we had.

First, there was the tomato salad.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with watermelon, avocado, and crab

I loved this salad. The watermelon was a wonderful, crunchy surprise, the avocado was buttery, the tomatoes were firm and juicy, and the crab was beautifully delicate. All of it tied together with a scrumptious dressing with hints of sesame oil.

Our next course was pork buns.

Pork Buns with hoisin, scallions, and cucumber

I can’t emphasize enough how delicious these were. The buns were pillow-soft. The pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with the richness cut by the flavor of the hoisin and the slightly bitter cucumber. After having one, I seriously considered skipping the ramen altogether and just eating these all night. In the end, the rainy weather helped me decide on sticking to my original plan.

My dining companion wasn’t in the mood for ramen, and ordered the cold noodles instead.

Chilled Noodles with Sichuan spiced sausage, spinach, and cashews

I was a little taken aback at seeing ramen noodles not in a soup, but I tried some anyway. I thought it was a pretty good dish, with it’s fiery sauce, spicy candied cashews, and fresh spinach. It’s all about the noodle, firm, chewy, delicious.

The Momofuku Ramen, however, was a disappointment.

rammomofuku1.jpg

Momofuku Ramen

Ramen is a soup primarily about broth and noodles. While in this particular bowl the noodles were delicious, the broth was thin, boring, and not hot enough. The yolk of the soft-cooked, slightly slimy sous-vide egg helped the broth a little, but not nearly enough. Two paper-thin slices of fish cake, a little shredded pork,a little thinly sliced pork belly, a couple of pieces of nori, and some scallions made up the rest of the meager garnish. This soup was not worth hype.

Bowl # 3

The last bowl of ramen on this brief tour of Manhattan was consumed at Tabata’s Midtown noodle house.

Tabata, in Midtown

I was quickly seated at the counter of this very crowded restaurant. In what felt like seconds, I was able to order a bowl of ramen.

Tonkotsu Ramen

The bowl I received quickly wiped out the memory of the Momofuku ramen I had eaten the night before. The thick, nearly milky-looking broth was intensely flavorful and addictive, with just a hint of ginger. The noodles were thick and chewy, and the soup was garnished with  flavorful slices of sweet roast pork, a soft-cooked egg, crisp bean sprouts, and an enormous mound of crunchy sliced scallions.

If I were to rank these from best to worst, Ippudo would win easily, followed by Tabata, and finally Momofuku in a so-distant-as-to-be-nearly-invisible third.

None of the bowls were perfect, but Ippudo’s and Tabata’s were certainly worth revisiting. If I had to build my perfect bowl based on these three soups, it would be the broth from Tabata, the noodles from Momofuku, and the garnishes from Ippudo.