Thursday, August 17, 2006

Recipe: Siopao

Siopao (pronounced SHOW-pow) are these yummy little round meat-filled steamed buns that my mother-in-law makes. She's Filipino, but I understand the Chinese make something similar and serve it as dim sum. It's an excellent way to use up a few pieces of leftover chicken. In our house we use these as lunch, especially when the kids have invited all their friends over and we don't have enough of what we were planning to serve for lunch to serve to all their friends; but you can serve them with a dinner or for appetizers. I also use it to destroy the evidence of chicken dishes that nobody ended up liking and nobody but me will choose on leftover night, like the chicken in curry sauce that I thought was divine. Besides curry, barbecue pork and many other flavors make excellent siopao. If I have time I fry up the chicken for a minute with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and chopped green onions. If you're a vegetarian I don't see why you couldn't substitute leftover tofu or a veggie mix. As long as it's chopped you should be fine.

A quick note about steamers: if all you have is a tiny bamboo steamer, you're gonna be there forever. Try to use a steamer that can take at least half a dozen siopao at once, even if you have to improvise one. If you're going to try to cook batches in parallel, set up two steamers rather than trying to stack more than one steamer over the same pot of boiling water. For some reason the siopao take longer to cook that way, just as long as if you'd done them in sequential batches.

You can make them larger or smaller according to your taste; larger ones will take much more filling. These end up about 2 1/2 " in diameter.

makes about 20 buns

2 meaty pieces of leftover chicken or equivalent amount of leftover cooked pork, with or without sauce
approx. 1/2 stick butter
2 10-ct. packs refrigerator biscuits OR 1 double recipe of your favorite baking powder biscuit dough
wax paper
steamer (I use my pasta pot with the pasta insert inside)

Shred the meat; if desired and available, mix with sauce. Cut 20 squares of wax paper approximately 2" on a side. Cut butter into pats and cut each pat in quarters.
Take each biscuit* and flatten it into a circle with your hands. In the center of the circle put one quarter-pat of butter and about a tablespoon of meat. Gather edges of circle together and pinch to make a ball. Place ball seam-side down on a square of wax paper. Place wax paper side down in hot steamer for 10 minutes or until surface of ball is shiny and springs back when touched. Remove wax paper before eating.

* if working with homemade biscuit dough, break off and roll balls of dough approximately 1 1/2" in diameter.