Like many during this pandemic, I’m cooking more than ever. I’m also experimenting more than ever, though the results are mixed. Today I’m going to talk about one of my successful experiments; Taiwanese Steamed Pork Buns.
I started with local, organic, mill direct spelt flour from Janies Mill with local, farm to table pork from a local family. Then I used foraged wild edibles with the pork to make the filling.
I harvested some wild garlic. A word on that, most of the “onions” you try so hard to get rid of in your yard is actually ricombole garlic. It comes back because there are tiny little bulbs left in the ground. But that’s ok! You can eat it! When it is young, the greens are soft enough to be chopped and eaten too.
I also harvested some garlic mustard (which is an invasive species taking over my state) which is to say that I kept some of the stuff I ripped out of the ground to kill it. If you aren’t familiar with garlic mustard, it has the usual brassica flour petaled flower, but in white and breaks of garlic. The leaves are a bit strange than the usual variations of mustard, but it’s pretty distinct.
Another mustard gone wild that is fairly common is shepherdspurse. It invaded a few hundred years ago and is now naturalized throughout most of the country. It gets its name from the seed pods that form and look like the pulses Greek shepherds historically wore around their waist. It is closely related to Peppergrass, which tends to have round seed pods.
Ok, I’m starting to feel like all the wild edibles are some kind of escaped mustard, because the last ingredient I harvested was commonly called rocket, and in a similar situation as the Shepherds Purse, it’s been naturalized from Europe/Mediterranean/Asia like all the other members of the brassicaceau/cabbage/mustard family.
Finally, came the mushrooms. It was a strange year for morels. They no sooner fruited than they got baked by a heat wave. Still managed to harvest a few pounds, but the mushrooms were bordering on manky some days. I usually go for a fancy round cut on the morels, but having to work around frost burn and heat damage, I just chopped them.
I chopped, and sautéd all of the ingredients before adding the raw pork. The filling mixture was seasoned with a dash of soy sauce, miren, sesame oil and scallions. Mix it well and put it in the refrigerator to chill.
I started the spelt dough in the morning and left it on the counter in a covered bowl to rise. It was a super easy recipe:
- 5 cups spelt flour
- 2.5 teaspoons yeast (which I got from Janie’s Mill- they have been a life saver!)
- .25 teaspoons salt
- .50 teaspoon honey (also local, farm to table)
- 1 cup warm water
Mix the honey and yeast in the warm (around 100°) water. The honey will feed the yeast and give it a good bloom. While it is coming to life, mix the salt into the flour and form a mound of flour with a well in the middle. When the yeast is nice and foamy, slowly pour it into the well in the middle of the flour to make a sticky dough. I recommend oiling your hands before you start. Knead it until it is smooth.
Once it is a nice dough, form it into a log and use a knife to cut it onto about 1 inch pieces which you roll into a ball. When you have the dough balls portioned out, get your pork mixture out of the refrigerator
Roll the dough balls out into round, 6″ circles, then use a spoon to put a large dollop of filling into the center.
I HIGHLY recommend watching some YouTube videos on how to close a pork bun. I made a mess of it. They got better towards the end, but the first few were uuuugly.
I steamed them until the internal temperate was 165, because I was largely winging this and had zero idea how long they should go. The leftover filling got turned into meatballs (in soup the next day)
After steaming, I gave them about 5 minutes to settle down and then we taste tested them. They are delicious! Great flavor, and the texture of the spelt bun is amazing. The morels really shine, too.
Overall, a success and yet another way to eat morels that doesn’t involve frying. May I never eat another friend mushroom again.
So, pork buns!! Things aren’t dire in the pantry, but I stretched it a little further with foraged foods, at the same time giving it a vitamin and mineral kick. That’s a win as far as I’m concerned. The preperation also gave me some time outside while social distancing and helped me feel productive.
I feel that being active and doing something positive like foraging during these times of uncertainty go a long way towards having, and keeping a healthy mental state right now. So much is out of our control that this one tiny thing that we CAN control (foraging) is good for our mental equilibrium.
Please comment if you give this recipe a try. I’d like to know what kind of foraged fillings you use and how they turned out! Stay safe and happy foraging.