kruizing with kikukat

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Call it Manapua

A few months ago, The Help's photo was featured in the Huffington Post article, 23 Food Things Only Chinese-American Kids Would Understand.  It was his photo of "bao", the first item of the list, that compelled the reader to consider that "baos make the best snack ever."

If you grew up in Hawaii, you may not know what "bao" is.  I didn't know what a bao was until I went to the mainland for college.

There was a grease pit on the Ave (University Avenue NE, Seattle), called Mustard's.  Needless to say, I hardly went to that place because I hated the name and didn't care much for the food (teriyaki had chili pepper seeds all over the meat...gross).  But like many of the other Asian places, Mustard's was a hit with the local (Hawaii) kids because you could get shoyu food (teriyaki) there.  I did a quick web search, and I don't think Mustard's is in business anymore.

Mustard's had a basic menu. . .about a dozen or so choices which came with rice and some kind of veggie salad.  Most of the choices were some kind of teriyaki.  I noticed in Seattle that Asian take-out places were quick to sell teriyaki, no matter what type of Asian ethnicity of the owners.  In addition to the teriyaki offerings, Mustard's sold steamed bbq pork buns.  A friend of mine went there (I went with him) and ordered "manapua".  Manapua is the local (Hawaiian) term for what the rest of the world calls "bao".  The person at the counter told him, "we don't sell that".  When he pointed to the white pillowy buns, the guy said, "thats hom bao".  My friend was adventurous so he agreed to buy one.  When he tried it, he was puzzled. . .it was manapua!

Since that fateful fall day some thousand years ago, I've come to realize that manapua is called hom bao or char siu bao in every place other than Hawaii.  But it is the same thing. . .chopped bbq pork encased in an eggless yeast dough.  And it does make a great snack (like the Huffington Post article states)!  Traditionally, manapua is steamed, hence the white color, but baked manapua is also popular, at least in Hawaii.  The dough of the baked version is not the same as the steamed version.  The baked manapua dough usually contains egg and is yellowish in color.  Both doughs are slightly sweet.  I think most of my friends actually prefer the baked version, but I'm traditional and prefer the snowy white bun (steamed).

My favorite places for manapua are Chun Wah Kam, Char Hung Sut, and Legend Seafood Restaurant (this place calls it char siu bao).  All places are in Honolulu so it's not like I can just run down to the corner to get it when the urge arises, but I try to bring some home when I go to Honolulu.  Manapua freezes/reheats well.  Because it's not so easy to get here (frozen kine in the store just doesn't cut it), if I really want manapua, I make my own.  The BBQ Country Ribs, last weeks post, makes a great filling for manapua.  If you bought over 8 lbs of country style spareribs from Safeway, you'd have tons of leftover bbq pork too!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     6 1/4 c flour + more for dusting
     3/4 c sugar
     2 1/4 tsp yeast
     1/3 c warm water
     1 tsp salt
     1 1/2 tbsp Crisco shortening
     1 c hot water
     3/4 c milk

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Set aside.  Stir together flour, sugar, salt.  Combine hot water, milk, and crisco.  Add to flour mixture.  Add yeast mixture.  Using a dough hook, mix on speed 2 for 5 minutes, stopping as necessary to scrape sides of bowl.  Place in a greased bowl and let rise for an hour.  While dough is rising, make filling as follows:

     2 1/2 c char siu (Chinese barbecued pork), diced
     8 water chestnuts, diced
     2 tbsp diced onion
     2 tsp sugar
     1 tbsp shoyu
     1 tsp hoi sin sauce
     1 tsp red bean curd
     1/8 tsp (or less) red paste food coloring

Stir fry all ingredients except food coloring for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add food coloring.  Set aside to cool.

Cut 36 squares of waxed paper (3 x 3 inches).

Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes.  Turn out onto floured surface.  Divide dough into 36 pieces.  Flatten and fill with a tablespoon of filling.  Place seam-side down on waxed paper squares.  When double in size, steam for 20 minutes.

It's official...I'm back at work.  Boohoohoo.

On the bright side, the Ds are home!!!  They managed to get in yesterday, amidst the much-ado-about-nothing threat of post-tropical cyclone Wali. 

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