Are these vegan bao buns the ultimate comfort food? We think so. Filled with glazed sticky tofu, crisp veg and crunchy peanuts these soft and fluffy bao buns are fresh, hearty and umami-packed all at the same time.
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
160-180ml warm water
2 tbsp oil
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb ginger, minced
4 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp + 1 tsp sesame oil
280g firm tofu, sliced
150g red cabbage, thinly sliced
½ lime, juiced
150g cucumber, thinly slice
20g toasted peanuts, ground or chopped
15g fresh coriander
Start by making the dough. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and stir to incorporate. Add 160ml water and 2 tbsp oil, and use your hands to bring the dough together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 6 minutes, until the dough is soft, smooth and bouncy. Add an extra tbsp of water if the dough feels stiff or dry. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size - around 1.5-2 hours.
After an hour of rising, start preparing the filling. Combine the spring onions, garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and 1 tbsp sesame oil in a bowl. Add the tofu and stir it gently to coat it in the marinade. Let sit for 20 minutes.
Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat, and add the tofu along with 2 tbsp of the marinade (reserving 1 tbsp of it). Let cook, untouched for 6-7 minutes, until crisp on the heat-facing side. Flip the tofu and continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes until crispy on both sides. Remove from heat and brush lightly with the reserved marinade.
Next, prepare the veg by tossing the red cabbage in lime juice and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Set aside with your sliced cucumber until plating.
When the dough is ready, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and press the air out of it. Split the dough into 2 pieces, and roll it into equal sized logs. Split them in half, then cut those in half - creating 8 pieces. Working one at a time, flatten each piece and roll it out to be an oval that’s around 1cm thick, brush with sesame oil and fold.
Cut a piece of parchment paper into 8 pieces, and place each bao on a piece of parchment. Cover with a damp tea towel, and let rest for 30 more minutes - until puffed.
To cook the bao, set a steamer (either bamboo or regular) over a pan of gently simmering water. Steam two bao at a time - with their individual sheets of parchment and with 2cm of distance between them - for 8 minutes.
Let cool for a few minutes, then fill the bao with red cabbage, thinly sliced cucumber and 2 slices of tofu. Top it with spring onion tops, crushed peanuts and coriander.