Gung Hay Fat Choy! Asian turkey and spinach steamed buns

Chinese lucky tigers by Brent Ho

This year, February 14th isn’t just for valentines. OK, it’s never really just about valentines, especially not when there’s also the Winter Olympics to become engrossed in…but in 2010, the 14th also finds the lunar calendar ushering in Chinese New Year. Even better, this is the year of the Tiger, robust and big-hearted, just what we need to dive into Vancouver viewing, Chinese food, and chocolate! I have a particular personal fondness for the tiger. Not only is it my birth year, it symbolizes passion, courage and dignity. It represents purpose I admire, and strength I aspire to, being a bit too prone to apologizing when I should be asserting. Moreover, the tiger seems an auspicious way forward, whether from a beleaguered economy or the wake of disaster. Mark Chinese New Year with some traditional “long life” noodles (long noodles symbolize longevity, but don’t break them, especially not on the first bite), citrus fruits (also symbolic of good fortune, especially the orange), and wearing lucky, regal red…which happens to mesh beautifully with Valentine’s Day, too. I’d love to share all my Mom’s great Chinese dishes, but for now, here’s a take on a Tasu-bao, or pork-filled steamed bun. This uses ground turkey, water chestnuts, and spinach for the filling, and in place of the sweet, fluffy white dough, I use a denser wheat one, adapted from an allrecipes pork bun recipe. The result isn’t really anything like a tasu bao, except that it’s steamed. However, though it appears deceptively complex, it’s fairly easy, and yummy, too.

For the dough:

  • 1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

1) Place the warm water in a large bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Stir in 1 cup of the flour, and mix thoroughly. Cover with a cloth, and let stand until bubbles appear, about 20 minutes.

2) Dissolve honey and oil in boiling water, and allow to cool to lukewarm. Stir into the yeast mixture along with the remaining flour. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray and the sesame oil, and place the dough inside. Turn over to coat, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

For the filling:

  • 1  pound  lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  teaspoon  minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3/4  cup  chopped water chestnuts
  • 1/4  cup  chopped red onion
  • 2-3 cups torn spinach
  • 1/4  tablespoons  light soy sauce

1) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add turkey to pan; cook until browned, stirring frequently.

2) Add broth, ginger, water chestnuts, and onion, and cook aproximately 5 minutes.

3) Add spinach and soy sauce and heat through until spinach is wilted, stirring regularly. Cover and keep warm until dough is ready to fill.

4) Remove the dough from the bowl, and roll it out into one long log. Slice the log into 1 inch pieces. Flatten each piece into a 3 inch circle using the palm of your hand or a rolling pin. Place approximately 2 tablespoons of the filling onto the center of each circle, and gather up the edges around the filling and pinch together to close the bun. Place each bun seam side down onto a square of parchment paper. Cover with a towel, and let rise for about 1 hour

5) Boil water in a large stockpot fitted with a steamer. Place a few buns at a time in the steamer rack. Cover, and steam buns over briskly boiling water for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining buns.

Photo credit: Flikr user Brent Ho

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