Custard Buns (Lai Wong Bao)

Real talk – I totally messed up this recipe the first time. Putting together a few recipes, I finally found one that works for these Chinese custard buns (lai wong bao, or egg yolk buns). The trial and errors were totally worth it though to relive my favorite snack from my time in Boston! I worked on the outskirts of Chinatown, and picked up one of these custard buns every day on my walk back to the bus. Yum!

There was one special ingredient and special piece of equipment that I had to get for this recipe: custard powder and a bamboo steamer. Custard powder, an uncommon ingredient in American recipes, is a starchy vanilla powder cooked with milk to create a custard. The bamboo steamer, while helpful, could probably be improvised with a colander and wire rack.

Ingredients

Custard Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch or wheat starch
  • 3 tbs cream
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
  • 2 tbs butter

Steamed Bun

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbs powdered sugar
  • 6 tbs milk, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Custard Filling

  1. Heat several inches of water to simmer in a large pot to be used as a double boiler.
  2. In metal or otherwise heatproof bowl, beat together eggs and powdered sugar.
  3. Add milk and heavy cream and combine.
  4. Add flour, cornstarch, and custard powder and whisk until there are no lumps. Add butter and combine.
  5. Place bowl over simmering water and stir continuously until custard has thickened to about the consistency of dense cake batter.
  6. Remove from heat and, once cooled, refridgerate until ready to use in an airtight container.

Steamed Bun

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes until mixture becomes frothy.
  2. Stir in flour, sugar, 3 tbs of milk, and salt. Combine thoroughly.
  3. Add additional milk 1 tbs at a time until a dough is formed. Knead for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth.
  4. Coat with oil and allow to rise for a little over an hour or until dough has tripled in size.
  5. Remove custard from fridge and spoon balls of the custard onto a sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Pinch a ball of dough onto cutting board and spread into a thin circle about 4 inches in diameter. Put a custard ball in the middle of the dough and wrap. Roll around to ensure that the bun is sealed.
  7. Heat bamboo steamer over simmering hot water. Place each bun on a square of parchment paper to prevent sticking. Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

 

Quick Tofu Fried Rice

Last week, I tripped while running….and broke my fall on my phone. I lost all my pictures from recent road trips, my cat and dog, and the pictures from this dinner date! Fortunately, I make this fried rice all the time for weeknight dinners, so the simple ingredients and time weren’t too hard to track down to remake the recipe for photoshoot (and Friday night dinner!) purposes.

I really only have two “go-to” starches for my easy week night dinners: potatoes roasted in a one-pan meal, and rice from an automatic rice cooker. Since I also have a lackadaisical attitude towards measuring ingredients (this blog has been a special challenge for my “pinch of this” attitude), I usually end up with more rice then I need. Luckily, that leftover rice can be turned into a delicious meal the next day! If you’re more disciplined with measuring ingredients than me, some cooked rice chilled for at least half an hour (sometimes I put it in the fridge) will dry the rice enough to be fried.

Like a lot of our other recipes, this one is versatile and can be used with whatever ingredients you have on hand. Different toppings that I have used in the past include peas, diced carrots or celery, ginger, and sriracha.


Ingredients

Fried Tofu

1/2 block of tofu – Use more if desired, though you may have to fry in batches

2 tbs sesame oil

Fried Rice

2 cups cold, cooked rice

2 tbs sesame oil

3 cloves garlic

3-4 tbs rice vinegar

3-4 tbs soy sauce

1 1/2 tbs ginger

1 tbs powdered porcini mushrooms (or 80z sliced mushrooms)

1/2 tsp white pepper (or ground black pepper)

Chile pepper, cilantro, lemongrass to taste (optional)

2 eggs

1 tbs sesame seeds, optional

Instructions

Fried Tofu

  1. Unpack tofu and “press”- I usually do this between two plates over my sink with a soda (or wine) bottle on top of the plate – something heavy! Press for about half an hour to remove excess liquid from tofu.
  2. Slice tofu into thin, bite-sized rectangles (about 1/2 in. thick).
  3. Heat sesame oil in wok or flat griddle over medium heat. Carefully arrange tofu on surface and use spatula to “squish” the pieces. It should make a shrill sound as the moisture is further removed (this is normal!). Repeat several times over 3-4 minutes, or until the shrill sound is less intense.
  4. Carefully flip tofu. It should be golden-brown. Squish with spatula for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan to a plate and set aside.

Fried Rice

  1. Add second part of sesame oil to wok and heat over medium-high heat. Mince garlic and saute until golden.
  2. Add rice and separate with spatula to spread evenly throughout pan. Fry for about 2 minutes. If using fresh mushrooms, add these now as well.
  3. Add 3 tbs of soy sauce and rice vinegar to pan and stir to coat rice. If necessary, add a bit more of each to fully cover rice (but give it a minute to absorb to be sure!)
  4. Add spices and stir throughout.
  5. Finally, stir in baked tofu and any additional vegetables until heated through.
  6. Create a well in the middle of the fried rice and add both cracked eggs. Allow to heat until the whites begin to become translucent. Scramble eggs throughout rice until fully cooked.
  7. Serve with sesame seeds for garnish as desired.