Monday, November 15, 2010

Bao zi like mom used to make

Everyone tells you that once your baby is eating solid food, you should feed him whatever you're eating rather than cooking him special meals. We do this at dinner time, but unfortunately, I have problems with feeding my 13-month-old baby cold cereal for breakfast and tv dinners for lunch, not to mention myriad sweet and/or fried crap for snacks. Last week once or twice I fed him frozen cha siu bao (steamed barbecue pork buns), which he loved, but which I felt had too much sugar and mystery red food coloring for my comfort. So, today I found myself making bao zi (filled buns) like my mom used to make.

Now, before you get all excited about some fabulous authentic Chinese recipe, check out the in progress photo:

Bottom left, filling; bottom right, bao zi ready for steaming. Middle and top right, canned biscuit dough.

Yep, my mom made bao zi using canned biscuit dough. I know this doesn't really eliminate every last chemical from my baby's diet, but hey: it's a start, and I figure the canned biscuit dough is no worse than the store-bought bread I feed him. I actually had a little trouble finding the right dough--everything now is huge and laden with "butter" (in quotes because do you really believe it's butter?). Over to the side, I finally spotted some store brand "Homestyle" biscuits that come 10 to a can, and it's a small can at that. They bake up into pretty lousy biscuits, but they're perfect for bao zi.

The filling was where it's all worth it to me: no mystery meat, no food coloring, and only a little bit of sugar, plus some veggies. I don't know what my mom put in hers, but I used:

Two boneless pork chops, ground in the food processor.
A little gelatin sprinkled on about 2 Tbsp of soy sauce.
A medium shredded parsnip.
A small shredded carrot.
A little (maybe 1 tsp) dark sesame oil.
Some grated fresh ginger.
Maybe a third of a cup of chopped scallions.
Some chopped cilantro.
Maybe a couple tsp sugar.
Some salt.

The filling was something of a what-do-I-have-in-my-kitchen? process--the only thing I actually bought for it was the pork--but I think it turned out pretty well.

Flatten a round of biscuit dough, then put a rounded teaspoon (or more) of filling on it. Stretch the dough up around and pinch closed on top. You can really stuff these--biscuit dough is stretchy and doesn't tear easily.

Steam for ten minutes. See how they puff up into pillowy goodness? That's why they're bao zi and not dumplings. Yes, the middle one is missing from the picture--I had to do some quality control testing.

I made twenty bao zi and still have filling left, so I'd say you could get about 25, maybe 28 bao zi out of two small pork chops. I ate, er, six, while steaming the second batch, so I'm hoping there will actually be some left for our cutie's lunch tomorrow, especially since I intend to serve these for dinner tonight for my sweetie and me :-).

Oh, as for my mom, she doesn't make these any more. Like any sane person, she buys her bao zi frozen from the store

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Flat Stanley visits Seattle

When I was a kid, there was an obscure book I loved called Flat Stanley, which I had checked out of the library once but which no one else had ever heard of. I remember thinking that hiding in the picture in the museum was cool, but also being puzzled as to how his skull got flat without crushing his brain. No one could discuss these things with me, because no one else had read the book.

Fast forward 30+ years, and Flat Stanley is not only not out of print, it's now something every kid reads, and has, like, 5,000,000,000 sequels and projects schoolkids do, where they mail Flat Stanleys to far-away friends and ask for pictures of his travels. I don't know how this happened, but I'm pretty impressed. Somewhere at some publisher there's a marketing genius who I hope has been properly thanked.

Last month, Flat Stanley came to visit us, courtesy of my sweetie's friend's third-grader.

Stanley and our cutie admiring the view.

Stanley awed by the Fremont Troll.

At Pike Place Market. See our cutie peeking out behind his daddy's head?

We had a good time :-).