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Take a Bao

November 14, 2016

I learned a whole new skill last Saturday.

Thanks to Wes who organized, and the UC Davis’ Confucius Institute, a group of us got together at Wes and Margie’s house and learned the art of bao making. The institute is a partnership between UCD and Jiangnan University in China and their purpose is to promote understanding of Chinese food and beverages. They have a community service component, so, Saturday, we got to be that community. Staff and volunteers from the institute came by and basically walked us through the entire, fairly involved, process.

Here are four of the five who served as our instructors, lecturers and coaches:

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The prep involved a TON of chopping (mushrooms, bamboo shoots, chicken, green onions, ginger, etc) and measuring/mixing (broths, oils, soy sauce, sugar, sherry, seasonings, etc).. chicken had to be boiled, egg had to be scrambled, pepper ground… and of course dough made.

The dough also had to rise, which gave us time for a very interesting talk on the history of baos, the customs around their consumption, etc.

After a couple-three hours, it was time to actually construct the baos… which, actually, is where the real art is. The dough was rolled into tubes, and cut into pieces about the size of jumbo marshmallows. We learned how to roll those into small pancakes then stuff and seal them.

Our novice group formed a few dozen baos, awkwardly, then we were shooed away and the experts finished the remaining zillions.

This is a tray of baos prepared by our instructors.  I’d wandered back into the kitchen hell bent on perfecting my technique. I didn’t perfect anything, as you can see….

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Definitely not as easy as it looks.

After rising again, they were then steamed for 12-15 minutes. This steaming process is also a complex undertaking, one they didn’t put in our hands. But we did get to sample the final product and they tasted fantastic. The dough is more bread-like than I expected, which gave them an unexpectedly wonderful texture.

Different parts of China have different customs around the preparation, as well as the ingredients, how/when they’re eaten, etc. It was all fascinating.

Turned out to be a really worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.

Photos courtesy of Wes.

 

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