Steamed Buns Filled with Curry Chicken (Curry Chicken Siopao)

I remember feeling very special as a child when my mother packed the meat filled buns in my lunch. My classmates were fascinated by the fluffy white snowballs that made their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches wither in comparison. Found everywhere from dim sum restaurants to roadside stalls, siopao is the perfect example of how China’s vast influence as integrated into everyday Filipino cuisine. The steamed buns are made with a yeast dough that can be filled with any variation of meats, poultry, fish, or vegetables to make the perfect portable snack or light meal. I recommend that any filling you use be fully cooked before forming the siopao. The final steaming of the buns is relatively short and meant only to coat the dough and heat the stuff center.

Yield: makes 10 Siopao

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water.
2 1/4 teaspoons dried yeast, equivalent to one yeast packet.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

Chicken Curry Filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
one clove garlic, minced
one small tomato, diced
two green onions (scallions), finely chopped
1 teaspoon yellow curry paste or 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder.
1/2 pound chicken breasts, skinned and diced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon shrimp paste.
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
dash of freshly ground black pepper

Preparation Instructions:
in a small bowl, mix together the sugar, warm water, and yeast. Allow the yeast activator 5 min.. The yeast should bubble and become foamy. Add the oil to the yeast mixture and set aside.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Pour the yeast mixture over the flour and mix together with a spoon until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough 5 to 6 min. until smooth. Lightly oil the bowl and replace the dough in the center. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and allow the dough to rest and rise in a warm place for two hours.

Prepare the filling:
heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, tomato and green onions (scallions). Cook and stir for 2 min. until the tomato softens. Add the curry paste, chicken, coconut milk, chicken stock, soy sauce, and shrimp paste. Cover and simmer 8 to 10 min. until the chicken is fully cup. Remove the cover and cook over high heat 5 to 6 min. until the sauce thickens.

Remove from the heat and stir in lime juice, fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), and pepper. Cool the filling for 5 min. before filling the binds.

Form the siopao:
uncover the dough and punch it down. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll the dough into a foot-long log. Divide the dough into 10 pieces. Lightly cover the unused portions of dough until you are ready to use them so that they do not become dry. Take a portion of dough and using the palm of your hand. Press it into a 6 inch circle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Place 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the dough, drawing up the sides of the circle together at the top of the blind. Pinch and twist the top to securely seal in the filling. Place the bun seam side down on a 3″ x 3″ square of wax or parchment paper. Continuing this process with remaining binds.

Cook the siopao:
Arrange the buns in a steamer and steam for 12 to 15 min. until the buns of expanded in the centers are warm.