Monday, October 3, 2016

How to make a Lazy Dragon

Happy news on the book front:

The New York Times featured All Under Heaven in its Cookbook Issue last week. Huzzah! To quote this lovely review by Sara Bonisteel, "'All Under Heaven' follows the illustrated tradition of books like Shizuo Tsuji’s 'Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art' and Julia Child’s 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking,' and therein lies its strength. Ms. Phillips’s simple line drawings cover everything from pulling noodles to removing pig hairs. It’s almost as good as watching over the chef’s shoulder." 

I mean... I'll stop swooning in a minute or two.

I am so looking forward to SF's LITQUAKE Festival this Sunday (10/9 from 11:00 to 5:30), where I'll be camped out with a table full of food and books. Be there or be square. Or be at home watching a ballgame. (#1 is the correct answer.) 

This last week the wonderful radio host R. Gallyot of KWMR in West Marin conducted a radio interview with me called "Some Dim Sum." This interviewer is someone who really loves the foods of China, and since we had only a half hour last Tuesday, we concentrated on "The Dim Sum Field Guide." He asked lots of great questions about the finer points of dining etiquette and we had such a good time that I am clamoring to go back. Actually, I'm pretty much ready to move to this lovely coastal area just north of the Golden Gate at the drop of the hat. Check out these photos of Point Reyes and West Marin if you want to be convinced.

And finally, I was in Bon Appétit! I got to natter there endlessly about my love for char siu ribs and delve into the reasons why this is pork candy. I waxed poetic over why I get all hot and bothered about those gooey, red, meaty, juicy, amazingly addictive slabs that lure me into Chinese delis. There's lots of info there on what goes into a perfect slab of ribs and explains to some degree my inability to resist the temptation. Just please don't get me started on Cantonese roast duck or braised chickens or just about anything else that hangs in a great deli window.

I am still convinced that I'm dreaming all of this.

*  *  *

Your basic Lazy Dragon
My mother-in-law made this beautifully named dish – and how can you ever come up with a better name than Lazy Dragon, I ask you – for her family when my husband was still a tyke, and he’s never forgotten it. It was a rare occasion when she made it (for she never really enjoyed hanging out in the kitchen), but her eldest son still thinks fondly on those couple of times when she fed the family well on her steamed breads. Even today he gets more than a bit misty-eyed at the thought of her steamed bread (mantou) made with powdered milk, for he would rush home from school whenever he knew it was on the menu.

Since these steamed breads mean so much to him, over the years I’ve figured out how to make pretty much everything that he used to munch on as a kid. A Lazy Dragon isn’t particularly hard if you’ve ever made, say, mantou or filled buns (baozi). In fact, it’s a million times easier than wrapping up a bunch of baozi since you really are just curling the filling inside of the dough like a jellyroll.  

I’m basically using ground pork and cabbage here, but you can use just about anything you’d like. Just count on making around 2 cups / 900 cc of filling. If you are a vegan, chopped mushrooms with onions would be delicious, as would any other vegetarian recipe for baozi. If you don’t want pork, ground turkey is fabulous. Beef would be great, too. You can also sub in spinach or bok choy for the traditional napa cabbage and then season it however you want. My mother-in-law also added cellophane noodles, which she would soak in cool water until they were soft and then chop into smallish pieces. Really, this is another one of my World Famous Templates, and you really can’t go too wrong.
Fluffy vs juicy layers

The only thing I’d suggest you keep an eye on when making a Lazy Dragon is ensuring that the sauce is thick, because soupiness will inevitably sog up the bread. So, simmer down the sauce toward the end to make the seasonings cling to the ingredients. I’d also caution against thickening the filling with things like cornstarch, since you already have that lovely bread working on your side, and you don’t need another layer of starch to gum things up.

Now, let’s get to the part where I talk about the eating end of the recipe. A Lazy Dragon is one very fun thing to serve, especially now when the weather is cooling down and you want to serve something warm and filling. Kids go bonkers over the very idea of dining on a dragon (use spinach juice if you really want to flip them out). Actually, if you were to serve this in honor of the Khaleesi to celebrate the next season of Game of Thrones, I wouldn’t hold that against you in the least. Names aside, Lazy Dragon is a wonderful variation on the baozi theme, not only because it requires a heck of a lot less work, but also because the dragon turns out to be much juicier and a whole lot more interesting that the usual stuffed bun (imho).
Lots of punchy flavors & textures

Why it’s not made all the time is beyond me. Here’s to changing all that...

Lazy dragon
Lănlóng 懶龍
North China
Serves 4 to 6

Steamed bread:
1 teaspoon active bread yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
10 tablespoons (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) / 150 ml warm water
1½ cups / 230 g Korean bread flour, plus extra for kneading (or, 1 cup / 120 g all-purpose flour mixed with ½ cup / 60 g pastry flour, plus extra all-purpose flour for kneading)
Toasted sesame oil, as needed 

5 dried black mushrooms, either soaked overnight in cool water or soaked for at least 30 minutes in boiling water
2 tablespoons dried shrimp
Boiling water, as needed
Half a small head of napa cabbage (about 14 ounces / 400 g), chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
4 green onions, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces / 225 g ground pork or dark turkey meat
2 tablespoons / 30 ml mild rice wine
1 tablespoon / 15 ml regular soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

Spray oil

Leave a clean edge
1. First make the bread wrapper: start at least 4 hours before you want to serve the Lazy Dragon. Place the water in a measuring cup and sprinkle on the yeast and sugar. Give the yeast time to wake up and foam, about 20 minutes; if it is not foamy by that time, the yeast is too old and you’ll have to buy a new batch.

2. Place the flour in a medium work bowl and then stir the foamy liquid into the flour to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it until it is smooth and shiny, adding more flour if necessary. When it is as soft and supple as an earlobe, clean out the mixing bowl, dry it thoroughly, and rub a bit of sesame oil all over the inside. Place the dough in the bowl, turn the dough over a couple of times so that it is completely coated, cover it with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise either on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours or in the refrigerator for about 8 hours, or until the dough is at least double in size.

3. While the dough is rising, prepare the mushrooms and dried shrimp, if you haven't already done so, by covering them in separate bowls with boiling water. Soak them until the water is cool and the ingredients are supple. Drain the mushrooms, remove their stems, and finely dice them. Drain the shrimp, remove any discolored or hard areas, and mince them. Place the cabbage in a colander set in the sink and toss it with the salt.

4. Squeeze the liquid out of the cabbage. Set a wok over high heat and add the sesame oil when the wok is hot. Swirl the oil around and then add the ginger and onions. Toss them in the oil, and as soon as they smell great, add the cabbage. Continue to toss these over high heat, and as the cabbage starts to wilt, break up the raw meat and add it to the wok. Toss these together until the meat has lost most of its pink color. Then, drizzle the rice wine and soy sauce around the edge of the wok and sprinkle both the sugar and black pepper on top. At this point, you probably will have lots of liquid pooling up in the bottom of your wok, so scoot the ingredients up the sides of the wok so that the juices can heat up rapidly at the bottom and evaporate easily. As soon as the liquid has reduced to a tablespoon or so, toss the ingredients with this syrupy mixture. Take a taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Remove the wok from the heat and let the filling cool down to at least body temperature.
Pinching the dragon

5. Now it’s time to roll out the dough. Turn the dough out onto a dusted board and roll it out into a rectangle about 12 inches high x 15 inches wide (30 cm high x 38 cm wide) –  it does not have to be exact. Spread the cooled filling over the dough, leaving around ½ inch / 1 cm space along both sides and the bottom, and about 1 inch / 2 cm clear at the top, as this will help keep the filling from spilling out as you roll up the dough. Starting with the edge nearest you, roll the dough up to form a long cylinder that’s not too tight, as you want to give the dough room to rise some more. When you get to the end, pinch the end of the dough into the cylinder to seal it and also pinch the two ends closed. Gently roll and shape the cylinder into a rope around 20 inches / 50 cm long. Spray a steamer basket with oil and, even better, line it with steamer paper or damp cheesecloth to help prevent the dough from sticking to the steamer. Arrange the rope in the steamer so that it looks like a snoozing dragon. Cover the steamer and let the dragon rest for around 20 minutes – if you need to wait longer than that before you cook it, place the steamer in the refrigerator so that the dough does not over-expand.

6. Fill the steamer’s pan with a couple inches of water and bring it to a full boil. Place the covered steamer over the pan so that it fits tightly. Reduce the heat to medium, or to maintain a steady boil. Steam the dragon for around 20 minutes, and then remove the steamer from the heat. Let the steamer rest for another 10 minutes or so to assist the dough in keeping its shape. Remove the dragon to a serving platter and slice into wedges. You can also freeze it, either uncooked or already cooked. Serve this as is, or with a chile sauce on the side.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your husband, mantou made with powdered milk is absolutely divine.