Tofu Bao

One of the regular offerings at dim sum is cha siu bao, a steamed bun filled with pork. While I never crave the pork part of the bun when out to dim sum with my family, I do like to eat other sorts of steamed buns found in the freezer section of Asian markets. Usually finding buns filled with vegetable or sweet red bean, I have not seen a vegan equivalent to cha siu bao in area stores. This led me to make a tofu-filled vegan version of the bun. The recipe here makes ten buns.

tofu bao

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 14 ounces tofu (approximate)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)

Ingredients for the bun:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose if you don’t have bread flour)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon shortening

Start out by cooking the tofu. Slice it into pieces and cook it on a griddle as below (or in a frying pan or bake it or whatever suits you). Allow tofu to cool, then chop it into small cubes.

tofu cooking on the griddle

While the tofu is cooking, prepare the filling sauce. In a small pot, combine the soy sauce, sugar, vegetarian oyster sauce, ginger, and 1/2 cup water. Heat at medium temperature, stirring regularly until the mixture starts to boil. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the corn starch and tablespoon of water. When the pot is boiling, add the corn starch mixture, stirring quickly until blended in. When the sauce thickens, turn off the heat, and stir in the shortening and oil if using.

Pour the sauce into a medium sized dish. Add the tofu, and stir until well coated. Cover and place the filling in the refrigerator to marinate.

To prepare the bun dough, dissolve the sugar in warm water and sprinkle with the yeast. Allow this to sit for ten minutes while it gets foamy.

In a large bowl, blend the flours, and baking powder. Once the yeast mixture is ready, stir it and the shortening into the bowl of flour. Knead until smooth. Set ball of dough aside to grease the bowl it came from. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and set in a warm place to rise until tripled in size (about 1.5-2 hours).

Knead the dough into a ball, then form a long roll with it. Cut the dough roll in half, and cut each half into 5 pieces. Press each piece of dough into a circle approximately one centimeter thick in the center but thinner near the edges. Place about two tablespoons of the filling in the middle of the circle, then fold up the edges toward the center and pinch it all together to form the bun. Place each bun on a square of parchment paper.

steaming tofu bao

Steam buns for 12 minutes. Leftover cooked buns can be reheated in the microwave.

tofu bao innards

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