When my parents brought me back to my homeland, Taiwan, I was lured by these delicious local street edibles such as Taiwanese beef noodle soup, fried scallion pancakes, or even Bào Bīng (剉冰), a Taiwanese shaved ice dessert. After my recent visits in Taiwan in 2012-2013 with my partner Doni, I was eager to veganize Taiwanese street food dishes. One of them was the vegan Taiwanese “gua bao”. A Gua Bao 刮包 is a Taiwanese sandwich/hamburger style bun, often stuffed with slowly braised pork belly, pickled cabbage, ground sweet peanuts, coriander and occasionally hoisin sauce (which I am not a huge fan of). The gua bao are a popular Taiwanese street food and are currently among the popular trends at food carts in the U.S.
You can find frozen gua bao packages at your local Asian markets, but most of them contain dairy (nonfat dry milk powder) or even pork fat or lard. So be wary if you wish to go with an easier method by buying those frozen gua baos. For this post, I would love to share a recipe for making vegan Taiwanese Gua Bao. You can fill these buns with any vegan meat (seitan, tempeh, tofu, or BeyondMeat, etc.), pickled asian slaw, Asian herbs (scallions, coriander), and anything else. This is your typical Asian “taco” version!
My mother has an amazing traditional baozi recipe, which are steamed buns with any fillings (my favorites are chives & tofu). I hope one day, I will feature them on my blog again with photos; few years ago, I wasn’t into food photography. There were few unsuccessful attempts using her recipe to make gua bao: they were not shaped as hamburger buns plus they weren’t glossy or slightly sweet or soft enough. I thought about adding vegan milk powder or vegan shortening to make it perfect, but never got to that part.
So I came across a well known Momofuku’s Pork Buns recipe from Momofuku by David Chang + Peter Meehan and had to give his recipe a try. Some of his ingredients call for pork fat and nonfat dry milk powder, which aren’t vegan, so I substituted these ingredients with vegan shortening and original soy milk powder. I also made a few measurement corrections. Please note, this is a long dough-making procedure lasting at least 3 1/2 hours, excluding the steaming time. This recipe makes about 40-45 buns (not 50 buns according to their recipe), do not freak out, they can be frozen after steaming, which still taste amazing after steaming them again for a few minutes!
I highly recommend this ingredient, Better Than Milk Vegan Soy Powder. You can also use hemp milk powder.
Pictured above, homemade gua bao with barbecue grilled Beyond Meat chicken-free strips, radish + Persian cucumber salad, crushed roasted peanuts & brown sugar and coriander. You can stuff anything between those soft beauties. Tasty, quick and miam!
They should be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball and weigh about 25 grams, or a smidge under an ounce. Roll each piece into a ball. It is a very tedious process but it is worth having accurate measurements without having slightly big or small “ball.”
Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval.
Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Note: You can also place parchment paper between the folded buns from sticking together, which is another effective method.
Helpful tools to have around
A bamboo steamer to steam your gua bao! Perfect for dumplings, baozi, and even vegetables!
Joyce Chen 10-Inch Bamboo Steamer Set
KitchenAid Hand Mixer
Cut out at least forty-five 4- inch squares of parchment paper just in case if something happens to one of them.
Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook, on the lowest speed possible.
Add the flour, sugar, soy milk powder, salt, baking powder, and shortening and mix on the lowest speed possible, just above a stir, for 10 minutes. The dough should gather together into a neat, not-too-tacky ball on the hook. When it does, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel.
Put it in a turned-off oven with a pilot light or other warmish place and let rise until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or knife, divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces.
Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into few pieces. They should be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball and weigh about 25 grams (We used OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale). Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the armada of little dough balls with a draping of plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
Coat a chopstick with the shortening. Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. You can also put extra parchment paper between the folded buns to keep from sticking.
Stick it back under the plastic wrap and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rise for 45 minutes: they will rise a little.
Set up a bamboo steamer on the stove. Do not crowd the buns in the steamer. Work at one batch at a time. Steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes. Let them cool on a rack before serving and remove the parchment before eating.
To freeze buns, place them in Ziplock bags or airtight containers and ensure the parchment paper is attached to the buns. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Reheat frozen buns, let the buns thaw for a few minutes and steam them (ensure that each bun has parchment paper) in a stovetop steamer for 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.
Instead of soy milk powder, use hemp milk powder or any dairy-free milk powder.
Adapted from Momofuku by David Chang + Peter Meehan