tofu bao with apple, purple cabbage, fresh herbs and a spicy hoisin mayo
This post is in collaboration with Bean Supreme
Bao is one of my most favourite things to eat, though it can be time-consuming to prepare from scratch. But this is a simpler version that uses a few time-saving ingredients. The first is this ginger and honey marinated tofu from Bean Supreme. Bean Supreme has been making fresh tofu in New Zealand since the '80s, using ethically sourced GMO-free beans. I love that it's a plant-based product, high in protein and so tasty, as all the flavour has been created for you in a convenient pouch. All you need to do is slice and heat. Also, the bao can be store brought from the freezer section in Asian supermarkets, and takes only 7 minutes to steam to fluffy perfection! Often they are called 'lotus leaf buns', so be sure to keep an eye out for that when looking. However, if you had time to make your own bao, my homemade version from my second cookbook can be found online HERE.
I love to add something crunchy to this bao combo, like purple cabbage (shredded carrot, coleslaw mix or ice burg lettuce works too), and the thin red apple slices give a natural sweetness, fresh herbs are an absolute must, and the spicy hoisin mayo brings a beautiful flavour packed creaminess. Feel free to use a vegan mayo for a complete plant-based dish.
1/2 cup blanched peanuts (or ready roasted peanuts - see note in method)
1/4 purple cabbage
A little rice wine vinegar
2 crisp red apples
2 spring onions
Thai red chillies (optional)
2/3 cup mayo of your choice
Hoisin and sriracha sauce to taste
1 packet of frozen bao (like these ones HERE)
Steamer papers* (As pictured above and like these HERE) OR baking paper
1 packet of Bean Supreme ginger and honey marinated tofu
Oil for cooking
Fresh herbs - I used coriander and mint, washed and dried
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds**
Preheat oven to 180°C, and when hot, roast the peanuts for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and then crush in a pestle and mortar and set aside. I typically do this in large batches, and always have a jar of roasted crushed peanuts in my pantry. If you are short on time, you can buy roasted peanuts and crushed them, but I find that if you roast them yourself, they are more flavourful.
Next, prepare the vegetables. First, slice the cabbage into super-thin slices. I trimmed the base off the white core but left the centre bit to hold the slices in place. If sliced thinly enough, it is totally fine to eat. Once sliced, to prevent the cabbage from discolouring or bleeding, put it in a bowl and drizzle over a little vinegar - I like to use a mild flavour, like rice wine. Slice the apples thinly, cross-ways, so you have circular slices (I used a mandoline for this), then slice the spring onions and red chillis if using too.
Set the vegetables aside while you prepare the mayo.
Put the mayo into a bowl, and then add the hoisin - start with 1-2 teaspoons at first. It is a really strong flavour, so you can always add more. Same with the hot sauce - add to your liking. Usually, I would add some sort of citrus to the mayo, but if you have put vinegar in with the cabbage, this will be enough acidity for the dish. If you are skipping that step, feel free to add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to the mayo. Mix well, taste and adjust to suit if needed, then set aside.
To steam the bao, line the bottom of bamboo steamer baskets with steamer paper or you can line with baking paper and stab some holes in the paper to allow the steam to come in. Place the bao in the baskets, leaving space between them and cook as per packet instruction.
While the bao is steaming, prepare the tofu. Cut the tofu into 1 cm slices - I got 12 slices all together from the two blocks in the packet. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, and cook the tofu until it is golden on each side - around 6 minutes in total. Then pour the remaining marinade from the packet over the tofu and cook until it has reduced.
To assemble the bao - take a steamed bao and smear on some of the mayo, then the cabbage and a few red apple slices, the fresh herbs and spring onion, then two slices of the tofu. Top with a little more mayo (so the crunchy toppings can stick) and sprinkle generously with the roasted crushed peanuts, roasted sesame seeds and some extra chilli if using. Enjoy!
* If your household is dumpling and bao fanatics like us, and often steam using bamboo baskets, these steamer papers are worth buying. So convenient and makes lining the baskets easy so nothing sticks!
**For the sesame seeds, you can roast these yourself, but I actually buy mine already done from the Asian supermarket. I find them in the Japanese section.