These ‘lotus leaf buns’ (heye jia or ‘lotus buns’) have been on my to-make-list forever. At least, since I rediscovered them on my trip to China last May, where we had them several times in both Beijing and Shanghai. These lotus buns are a Chinese steamed bread-variety, made from the same dough as baozi, mantou or other steamed goodies. But their fun lies in the fact that they open up so you can stuff them with things and eat them.. like a bun. I had them with wonderfully crisp pork slices, spring onions and cucumber strips.
Of course there is no way I could surpass the beautifully shaped buns I had in a Shanghai restaurant (click here to see the picture) – really I would love to know how they become so prettily puffed up and with curves in all the right places. I searched the web for some photo instruction, but didn’t find any – only for the most basic of shapes. Finally I found the recipe in good old Pei Mei (volume 1, p. 365). Not that she helps out with the shape much…
For the dough, you will need: (makes about 20 small buns)
1.5 cups of flour
0.5 cup of water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of lard (if you want, otherwise omit or substitute little oil)
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, lard and water until it forms a dough. Knead well, then roll in snake-shape and cut or pinch into 20 pieces. Flatten the pieces out with your hand or small rolling pin until round in shape. Brush the top half of the circle with a little sesame oil and fold over.
Now is the time to be creative and try to shape it in a beautiful form, like a shell or lotus leaf. Use a blunt knife to make a criss-cross pattern on top (of the folded over half-circle), or imitate the pattern of a lotus leaf. Then use the back of the knife to dent the lotus bun from the folded open side to make it more like a leaf. Study the picture above to see what I’ve tried, but be creative here! I am open to new shapes or to an explanation on how to make the beautiful buns I had in China.
Steam over high heat in a bamboo steamer for 10 minutes. Enjoy with pork strips, charsiu meat, red-cooked pork belly or whatever you like.. you’ll love it!
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