Lazy White-Girl Asian Buns

They say you can take the white girl outta China, but you can’t get China outta the white girl. I’m kidding…I don’t think anyone is saying that. But it’s a fact. Having spent three years living in China, I get very excited for certain food, drinks, rituals and holidays that are indigenous to that completely crazy place. It’s like I’m a native by proxy; as if I was born there. So when Chinese New Year hits, I get 50 shades of nostalgia. I remember the smells, the sounds, the food, my friends and the utter chaos. In Beijing, the wheels come off the bus. The entire city, for days on end, is exploding in fireworks. We lived on the 8th floor of an apartment building, Tian An Hao Yuan or Park Apartments, and the fireworks would hit up against our windows…it was that crazy. And it’s non-stop, all hours of the day and night. There is a slight stillness in the morning when you’ll hear the occasional fireworks off in the distance and the ground is littered with mounds of firecracker debris. I was usually on my way to Xīngbākè (Starbucks), rushing to get a coffee, dodging more fireworks and all-night revelers, enjoying the only moments of relative quiet. Hours later, the crazy would all start up again.

Chinese New Year is a huge holiday and most (many?) expats would head out of town and go somewhere warm and exotic with fruity cocktails because it is ‘it hurts to breath!’ cold in Beijing at this time of year. The trees are bare, the spit frozen over on the sidewalks and it looks very much the communist country that it is. I never wanted to leave during this time because I couldn’t imagine any better city to be in at that moment. A normally harsh and all-business place is suddenly completely celebratory. You can watch a clip of Chinese New Year in Beijing here (I picked a video from my last CNY in China).

One year the Mandarin Oriental hotel burnt to the ground from CNY fireworks. My friend, Lauren, called over from her apartment to tell me to look out of my window. We watched as it went from one floor to the entire building engulfed in flames, in what seemed like seconds. The hotel hadn’t even opened yet and was only weeks (months?) away from doing so. We tried to go look at it the next day but the police had sealed off the entire area and they weren’t letting anyone through. You can read about it here and watch some video of it burning. I sat on my couch that night, the person formerly known as my spouse was away somewhere, my kids were in bed, and I watched this beautiful building burn to the ground. So many people had spent so much time and effort, all gone. The Mandarin burned on the last day of CNY and what would be my last year in China. Six months later the kids and I moved home to California. Many thought the fire was a bad sign for the upcoming year. Coincidentally, or not, that year was probably one of the worst and best of my life. So maybe they were a little bit right. Now, six years later the entire thing seems like some distant dream. Like a life I heard that somebody else lived.

My favorite way to celebrate our past (for both me and my kids) is, no surprise, by way of food. I came up with this beauty around the Mid-Autumn Festival (another Chinese holiday). I was calling this a savory mooncake. Whatever we want to call it, it’s a super delicious appetizer that intersects at the road of Dim Sum, dumplings and mooncakes. We’ll be eating these on Sunday, watching the Super Bowl, handing out red envelopes (hong bao), celebrating our past and looking forward to our future. Gong xi fa cai, happy new year! xo

Quick Notes:

  • These are ‘lazy’ because we’re using puff pastry instead of making our own dough. Some may call it lazy, I secretly call it genius.
  • I love Trader Joes but I am not wild about their puff pastry. The most widely available brand is Pepperidge Farms and I think it’s one of the best, easily procured, ones.
  • You may very will have some left over mixture. Make an Asian-style burger or some Asian noodle stir-fry thing. Just a thought.
  • These can be made and baked ahead of time, thrown in the fridge and then reheated for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  • Get creative with the ingredients…you can use spinach instead of bok choy. I thought about adding lime zest, just cause. Rice? Why not.

lazy white-girl asian buns | Recipe via DisplacedHousewife

lazy white-girl asian buns | Recipe via DisplacedHousewife

lazy white-girl asian buns | Recipe via DisplacedHousewife

Lazy White-Girl Asian Buns

Makes 18-24 Buns

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package puff pastry (17.3 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (or paste); amount dependent on desired heat
  • 2 teaspoon of corn starch
  • 1/4 cup green onions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white part green onion, minced
  • ½ cup mung bean sprouts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bok choy, julienne (could sub in spinach)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • Toasted sesame seeds, I like black and white to adorn the tops
  • 1 egg, whisked (any size, we won’t need a lot)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Set the puff pastry out to thaw. It should take about 45 minutes. Consider it like pie dough and don’t let it thaw to the point of being warm. You can also let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F; make sure a rack is in the top third of the oven.
  3. Cover a rimmed baking sheet in parchment paper.
  4. Make your filling by whisking together the soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions, mung beans, bok choy, cilantro, corn starch, garlic and ginger in a large bowl.
  5. Lastly add the pork and gently mix until it everything is fully blended.
  6. In a smal bowl, whisk together your egg and 1 teaspoon of water for your egg wash.
  7. Once the dough is soft, roll it out just a bit. You want it so that a 2.5-inch round cutter will go three times across the top and three times down (for a total of 9 circle cut-outs per sheet of pastry)*. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.
  8. In each pastry circle, put about 1 tablespoon (maximum) of the pork mixture in the center.
  9. Pull the dough up around the top, like a purse and pinch to seal it closed. This can feel a little frustrating because they’re small and they resist coming together. Force it. Be the boss. Then flip the bun over and put the seam side down on the parchment covered baking sheet. Repeat until all of the buns are filled and sitting on the sheet…like little terra cotta soldiers. 
  10. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sesame seeds…like an artist.
  11. Put the baking sheet on the top rack in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they are nice, golden and cooked through. This is important with pork. ;)
  12. Your done. If you want something to dip these in…I can’t  help but think some Chinese mustard would do fine right about now.

*I’ve used different puff pastry brands, some will give me up to 12 per sheet.

{ on my mind }

lazy white-girl asian buns | Recipe via DisplacedHousewife


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13 Comments

  • Kim 2017/09/08 at 3:17 PM

    Hi! I am planning to make these for Chinese New Year and surprise my Chinese sister in law. :-) I saw on your Instagram account that you had a recipe for mooncakes and watched the Instagram story (very cool!). I bought the mooncake press but can’t find it anywhere on your site. Did I miss it somewhere?

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/09/08 at 8:34 PM

      Hi Kim! The recipe for the mooncakes I made in my Instagram Stories are in the most recent issue of Bake From Scratch magazine…it’s not on my site because I specifically made it for them. There are lots of delicious recipes in that issue — you should get it! …and I love these little savory mooncakes — they are the perfect appetizer!!! Have fun baking!! xoxo

      Reply
      • Kim 2017/09/09 at 4:03 AM

        Hi! Perfect, I will definitely pick up a copy. Thanks!

        Reply
  • Oscar Blues makes a Super Bowl Smörgåsbord - 2016/02/14 at 9:16 PM

    […] • Puff Pastry with Asian Pork Filling […]

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  • Super Bowl Smörgåsbord » 2016/02/07 at 8:42 PM

    […] • Puff Pastry with Asian Pork Filling […]

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  • Sinead 2016/02/03 at 12:41 AM

    OK. I have printed five recipes from the internet today, and four of them are yours. (The other was from Nigella, so to my mind you are in exquisite company.) This sounds delicious. Actually, nearly everything you suggest sounds delicious. (So much so, in fact, that I am willing to look the other way when you start talking that chia seed and detox ish. I’m not one to end a great relationship over a fleeting indiscretion. :) )
    I, too, was an expat. Spent half of my adult life in France and I would happily go back tomorrow if I could. Such experiences are transformative if one allows them to be. Your blog and your IG feed are absolute delights. Gong xi fa cai to you, too!

    Reply
    • DisplacedHousewife 2016/02/03 at 12:47 AM

      Wow Sinead, thank you so much!! Umm, I have a crunchy, granola side to me that comes out every once in awhile…although the older I get, it’s mostly only in January.;) (I wish I could use emojis here.)

      Being an expat is a great experience that I wish everyone could have. It opens your eyes to so many things…and makes you appreciate what’s around you.

      I hope you have a wonderful New Year + Super Bowl!! I can’t wait to see photos of what you make!! xoxo

      Reply
    • DisplacedHousewife 2016/02/03 at 1:03 AM

      PS Sinead…I would love to hear more about your time in France!! xo

      Reply
  • Sarah 2016/02/03 at 12:32 AM

    I am making these for super bowl these look amazing

    Reply
  • Jimmy 2016/02/02 at 11:29 PM

    These look great!

    Reply

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