Zen and the Art of Mantou

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you to know that I'm moderately fixated on food and food preparation. A single dish can seize my spirit and consume it in a gulp, completely pulsing through me until I satisfy my craving. As you might imagine, this can be a difficult habit to maintain. But other times, it's immensely rewarding- I might chance across a recipe both easy to prepare and utterly delicious, with many permutations and variations so one never bores of it. Lately, my thoughts have turned to steamed bread, steamed buns, anything carby and mushy has struck my fancies, so tonight, I set out to make mantou, or steamed Chinese buns.I used a ridiculously easy recipe from Almost Bourdain, following the ingredients to the letter save the castor sugar, but I substituted confectioner's and no harm was done. While my dough didn't quite have the sterile, puffy sheen hers did, they came out just fine texturally, ghetto steamer and all. I ended up using a layer of tin foil and olive-oil rubbed coffee liner on top of a colander and boiling water and it worked just fine, though a bit cramped. The first batch was victim to the claustrophobic environment and turned out a bit squished, but were fluffy and squishy inside.Seeing those gorgeous, fluffy babies turned me into a monster in roughly twenty seconds flat. I went buntastic. I whipped up a chicken teriyaki mix and stuffed it into a few buns. I topped buns with sugar. I ate the plain buns with a blatantly nontraditional, but overwhelmingly delicious smoky mix of soy sauce, olive oil, paprika, and black pepper. Steamed buns are wonderful.
Of course, having a careful sous chef certainly enhances the process.After four batches, I was all bunned out, and so was the pot. Water evaporates quickly, so next time, I'd probably try to refill as I went. But a half batch makes about eight dense buns, so come hungry and bring friends. I'll be making these again, though with a little recipe tweaking to achieve a fluffier, more absorbent consistency.

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