This one is a keeper. If elegance is refusal then this one embodies indulgence. But only in the sense of flavor. The plate is a paper-lined vessel for a fluffy bun bursting with flavorful garnishes–all accouterments for a marinated salmon that leaves your taste buds spewing, wrapping up with the elusive umami flavor. The salmon, retaining its pillowy white wrapping, and topped with crisp cucumbers and scallions proved itself worth the effort at first bite.
It’s dinners like this that bring me joy. I never thought I could make steamed buns from scratch, especially without a steamer or steam basket. It forced me to be inventive. See my notes below for suggestions. I found this recipe on Rachel Khoo’s website , where I spend quite a lot of time. I believe I have a major girl crush. Her recipes and the simple way of presenting them call to me over and over again.
The recipe for the buns calls for powdered milk, which I haven’t had since I was a kid, though I went looking for some this winter when trying to make my own spicy hot chocolate recipe. It’s not easy to come by. Milk or powdered milk is a way of enhancing the dough to make a softer bun due to the milk fat acting as a tenderizer by interfering with gluten production. Enzymes, like glutathione, in milk can lead to weakened gluten structure and could make the dough too soft. High-heat dry milk is used by pros to avoid this problem. In case you don’t have powdered milk, scalding regular milk above 180F de-natures the enzymes so you could substitute that in for the powdered milk. I just thought it would be fun to use a new ingredient. Just don’t forget to flour every surface, your hands, the table, the rolling pin, GENEROUSLY. Don’t be afraid to look like the Swedish chef muppet with flour all over you. The beauty is in the battle.
This recipe has the essence of home in it, which is odd considering that foreign flavors comprise the entire structure. We often go to Flushing, NY (home of the US Open) after work or working out and inevitably end up in one our favorite restaurant there where we order all sorts of dumplings, buns and soups. We’ve been going there for years. It was a place my husband went to after high school back in the day when classes let out, well before I was even in the picture. Then I showed up and the ritual soon became, hang out with his friends, eat in Flushing. Then Mets games, Flushing. Then US Open, Flushing. Then visit mother-in-law, Flushing. Then just Flushing. That kind of history sticks with you. Everyone around us is a stranger, many of them far away from where they grew up, but while we’re in there, our faces deep in steaming bowls of comfort, we’re all home. It’s a fleeting and warm feeling not easily recreated. This tastes like that.
I left the ingredients in metric form as well as US measurements since I pretty much adapted directly and figured I shouldn’t make it harder for the rest of the world if the conversions have already been done.I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with lots of good food and company.
TERIYAKI SALMON BUNS
Adapted from Rachel Khoo
For the Salmon:
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine)
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- 1 red chili, cut into rounds
- 2 salmon fillets, about 150g (5½oz) each
For the bun dough:
- 160g (5¾oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tbsp dried skimmed milk powder
- 1½tbsp caster sugar
- 1 scant tsp fast-action yeast
- 1 tsp baking powder
- A pinch of sea salt
- 90 ml (3¼fl oz) warm water
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra to grease
- A handful of fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 lime, quartered
- 1 small cucumber, cut into thin rounds
- 4 spring onions, sliced thinly at an angle
Whisk together the soy, mirin, honey and chili in a shallow baking dish, then add the salmon fillets, turning them to coat. Cover and place in the fridge. Put the dry ingredients for the bun dough into a large bowl.
Mix together, then make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients. Use a spoon to bring together, then turn out and knead for 2-3 minutes, or until you have a smooth dough. Place in a bowl greased with vegetable oil and cover with a tea towel or clingfilm. Leave to rise for 45 minutes, or until nearly doubled in size.
Cut out 8 pieces of baking paper about 10cm x 10cm (4in x 4in). Dust the work surface and your hands with flour, roll the dough into a fat sausage, cut into 8 equal parts and roll into balls.
Dust your work surface again, flatten the balls and roll out with a rolling pin into 15cm x 7cm (6in x 2¾in) oval shapes about 3mm (¹/8in) thick. Brush each one lightly with oil and fold in half. Place each on a square of baking paper and leave for 30 minutes to rise.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F and cook the salmon in the baking dish for 20 minutes, spooning the marinade over the fish after 10 minutes. Set up a steamer and place the bun dough on the baking paper directly into it.
Do this in batches if you don’t have lots of space for them all, as they will expand as they cook. Steam for 5-8 minutes, or until fluffy, pale and firm to the touch.
Meanwhile, place the coriander, lime, cucumber and spring onions in separate bowls. When the salmon is cooked, pour any remaining marinade into a small jug. Serve the buns with the teriyaki salmon, bowls of garnishes and the sauce on the side for self-assembly.
If you’re like me and you don’t have a steamer, use a metal colander: Place a metal colander inside of a large pot and fill with just enough water so ingredients in the colander won’t touch the water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover.
If you’re also like me and don’t have a metal colander (bday gift anyone?) No problem! Make 3 large equal-sized balls out of aluminum foil and arrange in a triangle in the bottom of a large pot. Place a heat-proof plate, such as a pie plate, on top. Fill the pot with water up to just below the plate, bring to a simmer, and cover. You can also balance a metal rack from a baking pan over a boiling pot of water and steam it that way.