Saturday, November 14, 2009

Char Siu So Bang--Char Siu Pastry

Finding good char siu is becoming a challenge. While char siu is becoming increasingly available in American supermarkets, it's tailored to American tastes, lean, sweet, with no nuances. Good char siu should have streaks of fat which keep the meat moist and have hints of hoisin and soy. The best place to find good char siu is in neighborhood Chinese markets where the customers want the fat and the seasoning that they associate with the meat.

Char siu so bang is a simple pastry to make, one that can be prepared up to the baking stage and frozen until you are ready to bake. Employing the two stage Chinese short pastry dough, it requires some advance planning when making the dough to allow for chilling between stages, but is not difficult to make at all. Once the dough is ready to roll out and cut, the final assembly and baking is quick and easy.

The richness of these pastries make them more suitable for a light snack than an appetizer before a meal. They are great with cocktails and would be perfect as an offering at a holiday cocktail party.

The recipe is adapted from Ellen Leong Blonder's Dim Sum, a little jewel of a book with a number of accessible, delicious recipes wonderfully illustrated with the author's own watercolors.

Flaky Pastry Dough

Water Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting when rolling out
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening or lard
approximately 1/4 cup ice water

Combine flour with sugar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in ice water until the dough is moistened and just holds together when pressed. This may require a little more or a little less than 1/4 cup. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead just until the dough holds together as a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then form the dough into a 5 x 8 1/2-inch rectangle. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Short Dough
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or lard

Cut the shortening into the flour unit mixture resembles coarse meal. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then shape the dough into a 3 x 4-inch rectangle. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

After both doughs have been refrigerated at least an hour, unwrap the the water dough and place it on a floured surface with a long edge toward you. Unwrap the short dough and center it on top of the water dough, with a short edge toward you. Fold the sides of the water dough over the short dough, with the edges overlapping slightly. Press the overlapping edges and both ends to seal in the short dough completely. Roll out in the direction of the folds to make a rectangle about 6 x 18 inches. Fold the dough in thirds to form a 6-inch square. Wrap in plastic an refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Unwrap the chilled dough and roll it out again in the same direction to make a 6 x 18-inch rectangle as before. Fold, wrap and refrigerate another 30 minutes. Repeat the process one more time and refrigerate at least another 30 minutes and up to 1 day before the final rolling and shaping.

Roll the chilled dough into about a 13-inch square. With a knife trim the dough to a 12-inch square. Divide the dough into twelve 3 x 4-inch rectangles.

Char Siu Filling

2 tsp peanut oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
2 TBS water
1 TBS hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 TBS water
4 ounces char siu, finely chopped

In a small bowl stir together the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, water, hoisin sauce and sesame oil.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, then add the oil. When it's almost smoking, add the shallots. Stir and cook for about three minutes until limp. Stir in the sauce mixture and heat until bubbling. Add the cornstarch slurry and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the char siu. Set aside to cool.

Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling across the center of each pastry rectangle in the 3-inch direction. Fold the dough over the filling like enclosing a photo in a letter. Press down to seal in the filling on all sides. Crimp the ends with tines of a fork for a decorative seal.

Beat an egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush this over the top of the pastries. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (I used black sesame because that's what I had in).

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 400º oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Although best served warm, they're still delicious at room temperature.
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  1. I just love the fatty porky juiciness of cha siu from my favourite Chinese BBQ shop. I hate lean cha siu and won't go back to a shop if I can't find the fat stuff. This looks yummy!

  2. wow, looks exactly like what we have in restaurants in Hong Kong, how professional!

  3. Mmmm, that sounds great! Are you affiliated with the bearded man I met at the Foodbuzz outstanding in the field dinner? These recipes all look amazing.

  4. Yes, lean cha siu is like fat free cheese, why bother?

    foodhoe, I am indeed affliliated with that bearded man you met at the dinner. We inhabit the same skin. Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Thanks for the credit and link to my book. Your pastries turned out great! This happens to be one of my favorite dim sum, so it's fun to see someone else enjoy making and eating them.

  6. Ellen,

    Thank you for creating such a lovely, accessible book. My sister had given me Every Grain of Rice some years before, and I also use that regularly. I love the straightforwardness of your recipes, along with the stories and illustrations. I always recommend them to anyone looking for authentic home-cooked Chinese food.

  7. Yum-my mouth is watering just looking at these!


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