□ Boiled Chinese cabbage leaf cores (cut into 5mm dice)
□ Rehydrated cellophane noodles cut into 1cm pieces
Combine the ● lukewarm water and sugar in a container. Add the yeast. Mix it up well with chopsticks, then leave for about 10 minutes to proof the yeast.
Sift the ○ ingredients into a large bowl Add the Step 1 mixture and the ★ milk and mix.
When the dough comes together, knead it 100 times by pressing on it with the base of your hands, stretching it, folding it, changing directions and so on.
Add the lard in 3 batches, kneading it into the dough patiently each time. When the dough is reasonably smooth on the surface, the kneading is done.
Put the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place.
Leave to rise (1st rising) until it has doubled in volume. It takes about 40 minutes at 35°C.
Take the dough out onto a work surface, and press down on it with your palms to deflate it. Divide into 6 portions.
Form each portion of dough into a ball, cover with a tightly wrung out moistened kitchen towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes so that the dough becomes easier to roll out.
Compared to steamed buns sold at a convenience stores,the dough and filling for these buns are quite big. If you make 12 buns out of this recipe they will be quite small. The smaller buns, the harder they are to form.
Make the meat filling: Put all the ■ ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the ○ ingredients, and divide the filling into 6 portions in the bowl.
Roll out each portion of the dough into a circle that's about 7mm thick. Roll it out a bit more to form a 10cm square. Place a portion of the filling in the middle.
Bring two opposing corners together gently above the filling, and press them together. Do the same with the other two corners.
Be careful not to get any filling on the dough where you pinch them together, or they will be hard to close up properly and the buns may open later.
Pinch the remaining corners of the bun together, twist the top to close it securely, and the bun is formed. Leave the buns to rise again (2nd rising) in a warm place for 10 minutes. Don't let the dough dry out in the meantime. You can skip the 2nd rising if you like.
Steaming time: The buns take 25 minutes to steam using an oven's "steam" function, or 15 minutes in a steamer. They will increase to about 1.5 their original size so line them up with plenty of space in between.
To pan fry the buns: I also recommend cooking the buns on a hot electric griddle or frying pan! You can cook them like gyoza dumplings for a crispy yet fluffy result.
To pan fry: Heat some oil in a frying pan. Cook the buns with a lid on over a very low heat for 3 minutes. Add some boiling water to the pan, and steam-cook for another 10 to 12 minutes. This cooking time is for making 12 buns (rather than 6 buns).
Story Behind this Recipe
These nikuman have fluffy and light yet still nicely chewy dough, and a ginger-scented filling. If you wrap them this way it's easy and the results are very neat.
This method makes dough that is light and fluffy even when the room temperature is below 25°C, so in the summertime the pre-proofing step is not necessary. You can just mix all the ingredients up at room temperature. It's probably not possible to steam the buns all at once, so you can steam half and pan fry half to enjoy the buns in two ways.