Photo by Howard Shooter
- 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1-1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar, plus a pinch
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fast-action dried yeast
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, plus extra for brushing
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
Hirata are traditional Japanese steamed buns, otherwise known as "bao" in China. They are delicious pillows of soft dough and, while they do take some time to prepare, are worth the effort. Fill with savory fillings for an impressive side dish.
- Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- Dissolve the yeast with a pinch of sugar in 1 tablespoon of warm water, then add to the flour with the milk, sunflower oil, rice wine vinegar, and 7 fl oz tepid water. Using your hands, mix to form a dough, adding more tepid water if necessary.
- Dust a clean work surface with flour and knead the dough for up to 15 minutes, until smooth, then place in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside to rise until doubled in size — this can take up to 2 hours.
- Once risen, tip the dough out onto a clean floured work surface and punch the center. Using your hands, flatten out the dough and sprinkle with the baking powder, then knead for a final 5 minutes.
- Using your hands, roll the dough into a long 1 inch-thick sausage shape, then slice into 1 inch-thick rounds, to make 18 rounds in total. Then roll each piece of dough into a ball and leave to rest for 3 minutes.
- With a rolling pin, flatten each ball into an oval shape about 1/4 inch thick.
- Brush the surface of each oval of dough with a little oil, and also oil the length of a chopstick.
- Place the chopstick in the center of each oval of dough and fold the dough over the chopstick. Carefully slide away the oiled chopstick.
- Cut out 18 squares of parchment paper and arrange on a baking sheet. Place a bun on each piece of paper, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a clean tea towel, and set aside to prove in a warm place for around 1-1/2 hours, until doubled in size.
- Place a large steamer over medium-high heat and steam the buns in batches for about 8 minutes, until risen and fluffy.
- Prise open each bun and add a filling of your choice. Eat while they’re still warm.
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Excerpted from Wagamama Feed Your Soul by Steven Mangleshot, used with permission from Kyle Books.