While there are very few foods I don’t love, I have a particular soft spot for dim sum, the mainly Cantonese delicacy of small stuffed steamed or fried dumplings served as a lunch. The variations on this idea can be endless, but most people have heard of cha siu bao which are a fluffy almost bread like steamed dumpling filled with slightly sweet barbecue pork.
A favourite of mine at a Sunday dim sum lunch at The Courtesan with its modern take on Chinese cuisine, I wondered if they’d work with the Caribbean favourite of slightly sweet jerk pork instead. A little experimentation later taught me that the very light white fluffy dough for those buns is difficult for a novice to get right so I went for a simpler lighter chewy baozi style wrapper instead. They were much easier than expected and fantastic with the jerk pork inside.
Jerk Pork Steamed Buns or Baozi (serves 4)
For the jerk pork:
- 500g pork belly, bones removed
- 4 spring onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stalks
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 tablespoons black treacle
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon guava jelly (optional)
For the baozi:
- 250ml warm water
- 2 teaspoons fast acting yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 450g plain flour
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablesppons light soy sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons Bajan or Jamaican hot sauce
Start with the pork. The long ingredient list may look intimidating but it’s very easy. Ask your butcher for the pork belly in slices with the ribs removed. Any non halal butcher in Brixton will sell pork belly.
Either using a small hand blender or chopping very finely, simply combine all the ingredients except the guava jelly together to make a thick coarse paste. Spread it well over the pork, taking care not to get it on your hands as the Scotch bonnet will cause quite the tingle. Cover the pork and marinate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
Heat the oven to 140℃ and put the pork into an ovenproof dish with a lid. Add the guava jelly if you have some from last month’s recipe and put the lid on the dish. Roast the pork for 1 hour 30 minutes. It will be soft and tender. Allow to cool slightly, then pull apart gently with two forks and stir the fat and cooking juices together.
While the pork is cooking, start preparing your baozi dough. Using warm, but not hot water, stir the yeast, sugar and baking powder together in a jug with the water until it all foams. Add a pinch of salt to the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle of the flour. Add half the yeasted water and start to bring the dough together with your hand. Gradually add the rest of the water, stopping if the dough seems sticky.
The dough will look ragged and messy at this stage but have come together in one piece. Lightly oil your work surface and lift the dough out of the bowl. Knead it on the oiled surface until it is smooth and almost glossy. This will take 3-4 minutes. Return the dough to a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
After the hour is up the dough will have doubled in size and puffed up well. Knock it back and remove from the bowl. Knead it for another 5 minutes on and oiled surface again until it is smooth, springy and elastic. Cut it in half, returning half to the bowl and covering again. Roll the other half out in a long sausage shape.
Cut this sausage of dough into 8 pieces and roll each piece out with a rolling pin or wine bottle until it is about a 2mm thick circle of dough. Put a spoonful of the jerk pork in the centre of the circle and lift it up so it is flat in the palm of your hand. Use your finger and thumb to pinch the dough directly together, turning the dough anti clockwise away from you as you continue to pinch. You will end up with a small dumpling with a crimped top.
Set each dumpling into an oiled steamer and repeat until all the dough is used. You will probably have some pork leftover. Steam the baozi for 15 minutes on a medium heat until the dough is lighter in colour. I did mine in two batches as I didn’t have a big enough steamer.
Serve immediately with the dipping sauce on the side. It is sweet, salty and spicy at once but you can leave the hot sauce out if you like your food milder. These steamed dumplings make an excellent light lunch or starter and could be filled with chicken, tofu or sweet potato if you don’t eat pork.