Some of my favorite types of foods are the ones that evoke specific memories: orange and berries reminds me of “frozen fruit cups” my mom would make in the summer; tamale pie is birthdays, every year; tuna sandwiches is Sunday lunches with my aunt. For me, bao has one of the most specific memories, mostly because I was so uncertain about it. My workplace had thrown me a going-away party when I moved to Flagstaff (oh how I still miss them so much!), and one of my coworkers brought in some bao. I was skeptical at first, no one knows why, since I am a fan of basically every other dumpling incarnation (samosas, empanadas, pierogies, etc.). But once I tried one, there was no going back.
My other favorite bao memory is how every year at our local farmer’s market there’s one stand that sells homemade bao, and every year my husband and I sit on the grass and dig in to our warm, steamed buns. Tradition is tradition, after all.
For those of you who have never gotten a chance to eat bao before, a.) I highly recommend it and b.) I highly recommend it. Bao is steamed/baked meat-filled Asian buns. Most commonly, I have seen pork as the meat in bao. Also, most traditionally, I have seen these buns steamed. However, we baked ours this time and they were fantastic. 10/10 would recommend. This recipe is time-intensive; three of us spent at least three hours with just the making of the buns. But it was so worth it. Here are the websites we used:
I’m pretty sure I just want to make and eat the milk bread as is for all time. It came out suuuuuuuuper sticky and I felt like spiderman when I was ripping sections off for individual buns, but it worked out perfectly. Once baked, the actually bread was unbelievably soft and luscious. I literally could die eating it and die happy. Our buns really spread out, instead of up, as well, so there didn’t feel like there was as much pork filling as maybe we would have liked, but in the parcelling process it was difficult to put any more filling in. Thank goodness that bread was so good, or else it might have been a disappointment. As it was, it was a lovely excuse to just get a bite of bread.
Best of all, I got to do it with these lovely ladies!