Nikuman – Japanese Steamed Pork Buns

Nikuman- Japanese Steamed Pork Buns

Nikuman is a Japanese sweet bun steam cooked with a savory meat and onion mixture filling. Nikuman is known as Baozi in Chinese. Before moving to Japan, I adored going to Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA to buy my favorite type of Chinese Baozi, filled with savory shredded pork, and sometimes shrimp, and vegetables. On our way home Sunday from a Mt. Fuji tour, we stopped along a toll road stop. As we walked past one restaurant, so quaintly placed was a chef was making Nikuman behind a glass window. We stopped and watched as the chef made Nikuman. Then, we purchased a few Nikuman buns to-go and savored our delicious comfort food. It was perfect therapy for my recent feelings of homesickness. Feeling inspired to make them myself for the first time, I came up with the following recipe.

Dough ingredients:
5 cups flour
2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water
1tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp honey

Filling ingredients:
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
3 fully hydrated chopped shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions chopped, white part only
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup ground pork or 1 cup shrimp
1 egg white
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
4 tbsp chopped bamboo shoots
1 tsp cornstarch or flour

1 tbsp rice vinegar (optional) to add with water to boil in steamer.

1. In metal mixing bowl combine warm water, yeast, and honey. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add flour and baking powder. Mix together on low until combined, and dough forms a ball shape. Coat dough with vegetable oil. Cover metal mixing bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise for at least 40 minutes.

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2. While dough is rising make filling mixture. Heat 4 tbsp oil, Sauté chopped shiitake mushrooms, chopped scallions and chopped bamboo shoots. Add grated fresh ginger and sesame oil at the end of sautéing. Let cool. In separate mixing bowl combine pork or shrimp, with egg white, ginger, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Add sautéed mushrooms and scallions mixture to the rest of the filling ingredients in other mixing bowl.

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3. With rising dough, roll into a log shape, separate dough into 8 separate bun shapes, place rising buns onto wood cutting board dusted with flour, and cover with damp towel to reduce dough from drying and let rise for ten minutes. After dough has risen again, push the centers in to a cup shape, then fill with filling ingredients. Squeeze and twist dough together in a clockwise direction.

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4. Once all eight dough dumplings are made, place them as fitting on parchment paper inside steamer. Add rice vinegar to boiling water as it helps keep dumplings whiter in color as they steam cook. If you can safely place a small kitchen towel under the steamer lid, the towel will absorb the water instead of dripping on your buns as they cook. Cook Nikuman buns for 15 minutes in steamer. Check that filling is completely cooked.

5.Serve Nikuman buns with chopped green scallions, hot sauce, chilli sauce or vinegar. Enjoy.

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