This gua bao pays homage to the Asian American immigrant table. It’s filled with a hodgepodge of flavors from various cultures — dishes together on a table that never resembled friends’ dinner tables growing up but is steeped in tradition all the same.
BAO OR GUA BAO WRAPPERS
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1½ cups warm water (95 F to 115 F)
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 pounds beef brisket
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons black vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
cold marinated pickles
thinly sliced scallions
chopped peanuts, almonds or pine nuts
MAKE THE BAO OR GUA BAO WRAPPERS:
1.In a small mixing bowl, combine the yeast and the 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Add the warm water and give it a little stir. Let it sit uncovered for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
2.In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour in the activated yeast mixture.
3.Mix with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until clumps form. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth like a baby’s butt.
4.Place the dough in a large clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof at slightly warm room temperature (75 F is ideal) for 1 hour, until the dough doubles in size.
5.Transfer the dough back to the work surface and cut into 4 equal pieces.
6.Roll each piece into a large log.
7.Cut each log into 2-by-2-inch pieces approximately the size of marshmallows.
8.Place each piece on your work surface, cut side up. With the palm of your hand, press down to make a roughly flattened circle.
9.If making bao wrappers: Dust both sides of the circles with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll around the edges to create a circular wrapper of your desired thinness (or roll into an oval shape for gua bao). The wrapper is now ready to be filled and folded.
10.If making gua bao wrappers: Dust each side with flour and then, using a rolling pin, roll into an oval shape. Use an oiled chopstick to fold the oval in half to create a clamshell shape. Line a bamboo or metal steamer with a steamer liner or parchment paper with holes underneath, and place the gua bao wrappers on top, making sure to leave space between each one, as they’ll expand. You may need multiple steamers if cooking all the wrappers. Place the steamer on top of a boiling pot of water and cover. Steam for 10 minutes, until cooked through.
PREP THE BRISKET:
The night before, in a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dry rub. Pat the beef brisket dry and cover the entire surface with the rub. Place the meat on a rack that’s sitting on a tray and refrigerate overnight.
COOK THE BRISKET:
The next day, preheat the oven to 250 F. Place the meat the on a large piece of aluminum foil and tightly wrap around the meat to cover. Roast for 2½ hours.
MAKE THE BARBECUE SAUCE:
While the meat is roasting, place the butter, ginger and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until sizzling and fragrant. Add the onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is semitransparent, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and continue to stir together until incorporated. Once it’s really bubbling, turn it down to a simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes to thicken.
Place the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth. Store in the fridge until the meat is ready.
STEAM THE BAO:
Roll each wrapper into an oval shape. Oil a chopstick and place it in the center of the oval, folding the dough over it to create a clamshell shape. Line a bamboo or metal steamer with a steamer liner or parchment paper liner with precut holes. Place the gua bao wrappers in the steamer, making sure to leave space between each one, as they’ll expand (you may need multiple steamers or to steam in batches). Fill a pot that will fit your steamer with an inch of water and bring to a boil. Place the steamer in the pot and cover. Steam for 15 minutes, until cooked through.
FINISH ROASTING THE BRISKET:
After 2½ hours, uncover the meat and brush with half the barbecue sauce (reserving the other half to serve). Turn the oven up to 350 F and roast the brisket uncovered for 30 minutes.
ASSEMBLE THE GUA BAO:
Unfold a wrapper and fill with a few slices of brisket, a row of pickles, scallions and a shower of cilantro. Spoon some extra barbecue sauce over the brisket, top with chopped nuts and serve.