Cheater’s Baos

Would you scoff if I told you those fluffy, steamed Asian buns above were made with Pillsbury refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough?

Yup, the stuff in the tube.

Believe it.

When my buddy, Andrea Nguyen wrote her first cookbook, “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” (Ten Speed Press) in 2006, there was many a recipe that caught my eye. But none made my jaw drop like this one for “Shortcut Plain Steamed Buns.”

Years ago, Andrea learned this trick from her Chinese-American friend, Victor Fong, who, of course, learned it from his mother.

Crack open a tube of biscuit dough, then separate the rounds of dough. Pat each one into a flattened circle.  Then, fold each circle in half  to create half-moon shapes.

Place them in your steamer and after about 10 minutes — voila! In practically no time, you have puffy, steamed buns to fill with green onions, cucumbers, hoisin sauce and purchased barbecued pork or roast duck or anything else you so desire.

How cool is that?

Andrea suggests you use regular refrigerated biscuit dough, not the jumbo size. Since I only found the “Grands Jr.” at my grocery store, that’s what I used. The result is one tall, poofy bun, with noticeable layers and a buttery taste. If you use the regular biscuit dough, the resulting buns will be a bit more compact.

Imagine having fresh steamed buns at the drop of a chopstick, anytime you crave them, without having to run to an Asian market for ready-made ones or to spend hours making your own dough from scratch.

It may be cheating. But heck, I won’t tell, if you don’t.

Shortcut Plain Steamed Buns

(Makes ten 3-inch buns)

1 package (7 1/2 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough (use regular, not jumbo size)

Fill the steamer pan halfway with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Line steamer tray with parchment paper, leaving a few holes uncovered for heat circulation.

Unwrap package of biscuit dough. Take one round of dough and use your fingers to stretch it gently until the center is about half of its original thickness. Fold dough in half and place in steamer tray. It will look like giant smiling lips. Repeat with remaining dough rounds, spacing them a generous 1 1/2-inch apart and 1 inch away from the edge of the tray where condensation collects.

Place tray in the steamer, cover, and steam buns for 10 minutes, or until they have nearly doubled in size and look dry. Turn off heat and wait for steam to subside before lifting the lid, and then lift it away from you carefully to avoid condensation dripping onto the buns. Remove tray and use a metal spatula to transfer buns to a wire rack. If the buns are left to cool completely, transfer them to a plate and cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. (The buns may be steamed up to four hours in advance of serving and kept at room temperature. To serve warm, reheat in the steamer or microwave oven.)

Serve buns warm or at room temperature. They are not served hot because the meats that they accompany are not served hot.

From “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen”

More: Another Astounding Recipe — Making Potato Chips in the Microwave

More: Andrea Nguyen’s Baked Pork Buns

More: Momofuku’s Pork Belly Buns

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