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Vegan Gua Bao - 刈包

Have you tried Gua Bao before? It's a soft fluffy bun that has a unique shape with an open 'mouth' that's filled with a delicious filling. This Vegan Gua Bao recipe is simple and used a homemade bao recipe. They are then paired with flavorful filling of braised tofu, pickled mustard, and sweet crushed peanuts. Give it a try today!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Dough resting time (varies based on temperature)1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Appetizer, Breakfast, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Keyword: Bao, comfortfood, tofu
Servings: 3 people
Author: woonheng

Equipment

  • Steamer

Ingredients

Gua Bao Dough

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 245 g all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon oil

Braised Tofu

  • 16 oz [397g] firm tofu sliced to 6 slabs
  • 3 slices ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch of knotted green onion
  • 1 dried chili
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegan 'oyster' sauce
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon thick caramel sauce for color
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon water + ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • oil for cooking

Sour Mustard

  • 8 oz sour mustard soaked in water for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 dried chili softened

Garnish

  • a handful of cilantro
  • crushed toasted peanuts with sugar

Instructions

How to make the Gua Bao

  • Mix the sugar and warm water in a cup, then add the yeast. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast turns foamy.
  • Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir to combine. Add the yeast mixture and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Stir in the oil.
  • Now fit the mixer with a dough hook and knead the dough at a low speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. (If there are still dry spots of flour after 2 to 3 minutes of mixing, add some water, 1 tablespoon at a time.)
  • Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and divide it into 6 pieces (about 65 grams each). Work with one dough at a time and cover the rest with a cloth to prevent them from drying out.
  • Knead each piece by hand to remove air bubbles. Now roll it into a ball, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut out 6 (4x3-inch) parchment rectangles and set aside.
  • Lightly flour a work surface. Uncover a dough ball and flatten it with your palm. Roll into an oval about 3-inches in diameter (about ¼-inch thick).
  • Brush the top with oil, then fold in half to form a semi-circle. Place on a parchment rectangle and transfer this to a steamer filled with water.
  • Repeat the above step with the remaining dough balls.
  • Proof the baos for 45 minutes or until they have fluffed up. To check, gently poke the dough, if it bounces back, then it's ready.

How to make the Filling

  • While the baos are proofing, work on the filling.
  • Prepare the sour mustard: Wash and rinse the soaked sour mustard with clean water 2 to 3 times. Thinly slice.
  • Heat a large pan and add the oil. Sauté the ginger, garlic, and chile until fragrant, then add the sour mustard.
  • Stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the sugar and continue to cook for another minute. Dish out and set aside.
  • Prepare the braised tofu: Heat a large nonstick pan and add a drizzle of oil. Pan-fry the tofu until golden brown. Transfer to a plate.
  • Using the same pan, add a little more oil and sauté the ginger until aromatic. Add the garlic, scallion, and chile, and keep cooking until fragrant.
  • Pour in the water and add the star anise, cinnamon stick, and season with the sauces, sugar, sesame oil, white pepper, and salt (if needed).
  • Add the tofu back to the pan and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Now drop the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce is reduced to one-third of its volume.
  • Remove the ginger, garlic, scallion, chile, star anise, and cinnamon. Combine the cornstarch with ½ teaspoon water, then stir this slurry into the sauce to thicken the sauce. Turn off the heat.
  • Cook the proofed bao: Turn on the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-high and steam the bao for 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them stay in the steamer for another 8 minutes before removing them.

How to Serve

  • Remove the bao from the steamer, then stuff with braised tofu, sour mustard, crushed peanuts, and cilantro.

Video

Notes

  • For a homemade vegan 'oyster' sauce, please click here
  • It's crucial to knead out all the air bubbles and have a smooth dough. If the dough is not smooth, you'll likely get a wrinkled top as well, but small dents are normal.
  • Check the above section if you prefer to knead by hand. 
  • If you are not using a bamboo steamer, be sure to wrap the lid with a towel before steaming the baos.