This Mushroom Bao recipe is an exclusive from Meera Sodha’s new cookbook EAST: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing. Click here or on the image below to find out where you can purchase a copy of the book.
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Meera Sodha (author of Made in India and Fresh India and The Guardian’s vegan columnist) has just released a stunning new cookbook, East. Looking beyond India to East Asia and South East Asia, Meera found incredible inspiration for how to shift vegetables from the side to the center of the plate. This cookbook is a collaboration between Meera and the home cooks and chefs she met on her culinary journey east, and it features 120 vegan and vegetarian recipes from Bangalore to Beijing like Mushroom Bao, Pumpkin Malai Kari, Silken Tofu with Pine Nuts and Pickled Chiles, Brussels Sprout Nasi Goreng and Salted Miso Brownies.
There is genuine pleasure to be had in things that feel just right: the weight of a pound coin, a bath at the perfect temperature, the feel of a well-worn wooden spoon. To this list, I’d add the bao: this little bun, a staple of Taiwanese street-food stalls, is ergonomically designed for eating—it ﬁts snugly into the nook of a hand; the pillowy dough gives like memory foam; and the semicircular shape slots cleanly into the mouth.
For the bao buns
- 3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose ﬂour,
plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 cup warm water
- canola oil
For the pickled cucumber
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- ½ a cucumber, halved, deseeded,
and thinly sliced
For the mushroom filling
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
- 2½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 4 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1½ lbs oyster and shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- a handful of salted peanuts, ground or finely chopped
- Start by making the dough. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the water little by little and bring the dough together using your hands; you should have a sticky ball. Turn it out onto a ﬂoured surface and knead for 5 minutes, until smooth and bouncy, then place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place to double in size for 1 to 1½ hours.
- Meanwhile, put the vinegar for the pickled cucumber into a small saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer, then pour into a bowl, add the cucumber, and leave to cool.
- Turn the dough out onto a ﬂoured surface, knead for a minute to knock out the air, then divide into 10 equal pieces. Take one piece, ﬂatten it into a ½-inch-thick disk, then brush one half with a little oil. Fold the bun into a half-moon and place on a small square of parchment paper on a tray. Repeat with the remaining dough, then loosely cover the tray with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes more.
- Now for the ﬁlling. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, garlic, and sesame oil. Heat the canola oil in a frying pan on a high ﬂame, then fry the mushrooms for 6 minutes, until soft and browning at the edges. Stir in the sauce to coat, then turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes, until the sauce reduces and darkens.
- To cook the bao, set a steamer over a pan of simmering water. Put the bao, still on their parchment-paper mats, into the steamer in batches, making sure they don’t touch. Cover and steam for 8 minutes.
- Once done, ﬁll each bao with a generous tablespoon of mushrooms, 3 or 4 slices of cucumber and, for a little crunch, some peanuts.
You’ll need a steamer: the inexpensive bamboo ones are brilliant.
Excerpted from EAST by Meera Sodha. Copyright © 2020 by Meera Sodha. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by David Loftus.
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