I absolutely love salmon. It’s so versatile, healthy and delicious and we eat a tonne of it at our house. Because we’re doing this Pescatarian diet thing, it’s a protein that’s on the menu at least once a week. We have quite a few high rotation salmon dishes, and I have to admit, I’m getting a tiny bit bored. That sounds so entitled, I know, sorry. That’s not really how I meant it. I know how lucky I am to have top quality produce like this available to me. What I really meant is that it’s time to think of a new angle; a lighter, more summery way with salmon; re-invent so dinner stays exciting.
A few weeks ago I had the most scrumptious lunch with Mr. B at Fourth Chapter, a reasonably new eatery in my neck of the woods. I had Southern fried chicken bao; fluffy steamed clouds of billowy goodness filled with crispy, lip-smacking fried chicken and zesty Vietnamese style slaw, topped off with creamy mayo. I thought I’d died and gone to foodie heaven, and was inspired to do a version at home. Salmon stood in for the chicken, so Miss S was OK, but I needed to make the bao gluten free, so Miss E could join in. Tricky! Just a few minutes Googling brought me to this recipe for gluten free chinese pork buns, and the fluffy bun part of the recipe worked perfectly for my bao. If you don’t need to be gluten free there are loads of recipes out there that you can use.
- 1 x quantity of gluten free bao dough
- 3 x fresh salmon fillets
- 1 garlic clove finely minced
- 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
- 1 tblsp sesame oil
- 3 tblsp gluten free soy sauce
- 2 tblsp runny honey
- 1/2 wombok chinese cabbage finely shredded
- 1/4 red cabbage finely shredded
- Handful of asian herbs such as coriander, mint or Vietnamese mint
- Sprouts if you like
- Juice of 1 lime, plus one extra cut into wedges to serve
- 2 tblsp fish sauce
- 2 tblsp sugar (grated palm sugar if you've got it, or regular brown sugar if not)
- Sweet chilli sauce
- The bao need to be the very last thing ready as they are best eaten warm and steamy, so prepare everything else first.
- For the Salmon:
- In a dish large enough to fit the salmon, add sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, minced ginger and garlic and stir together well.
- Add the salmon fillets, turn around to coat, cover and pop in the fridge to marinate for 10 minutes.
- Line the grill pan with foil to cut down on cleaning and pre-heat the grill.
- Remove form the marinade and grill the salmon, turning pieces as each side becomes glossy and slightly crispy until they are done all over.
- Set aside.
- For the Vietnamese style slaw:
- In a large salad bowl toss together the shredded wombok, red cabbage, herbs and sprouts and set aside.
- In a small bowl combine lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and whisk with a fork. Add sweet chilli sauce to taste. Set aside.
- In another small bowl add chilli sauce to mayonnaise, a little at a time, stirring and tasting until to your liking. Set aside.
- For the Bao:
- These will be steamed so prepare a couple of bamboo steamers if you have them, or the steamer insert to a pan, or failing that, use a metal cooling rack. Oil the surfaces lightly with a pastry brush and non-tasting vegetable oil such as canola.
- Boil up a kettle of water and get all your wok / pan etc ready on the stove.
- Make up a quantity of the bao dough (the one from the link above is very sticky, but it does work)
- Sprinkle the work surface with gluten free flour and bring dough together gently with floured hands. Work very briefly into a dough and when able to just handle it, cut into 16 portions.
- Again with floured hands, roll each portion lightly in your hands and then shape into a flat oval about the size of your palm and roughly 1/2 centimetre thick, trying not to let it get too sticky.
- Place into the steamer basket before starting the next one, do not overlap the pieces.
- You may need to steam in batches depending on the size of your steamer. I used 2 large bamboo steamers stacked, like in yum-cha.
- Once your bao pieces are arranged in the steamer, put the lid on, pour boiling water into the pan and bring back to the boil.
- Place steamer baskets on top, making sure they are snug and steam is not escaping.
- Steam for around 10 minutes, making sure the pan does not boil dry.
- Meanwhile, break salmon into chunky flakes, dress slaw and arrange on platters.
- Once the bao are ready, you could serve directly from the steamer (put a couple of tea towels on the table as they'll be damp), or carefully and quickly arrange on another platter.
- Put everything on the table along with the sweet chilli mayo and lime wedges and let the diners assemble their own bao.
- Have fun!