Bánh bao literally translates to "cakes that wrap something" in Vietnamese. The dough is made of flour, milk, sugar and a hint of oil. Once the dough rises, it's formed in the desired shape, usually dumplings similar to a pointy turban, then steamed until plump and perky. In general, they're stuffed with savory meat or sweet egg custard (called bánh bao cadé).
I've also seen them plain and shaped into a taco-style envelope at a few dim sum places. This is the version I used to finish the leftover braised duck leg from the night before. I shredded the tender duck meat and added pickled carrots and daikon and cilantro. I drizzled the bánh bao with a mole sauce using the reduced braising sauce adding 2 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate, which tied the dish together beautifully. I was tempted to post this bánh bao bun in my second cookbook, Bánh Mì: 75 Banh Mi Recipes for Authentic and Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches but decided to keep the recipes more traditional. Still, they’re a a lot of fun to make and quite versatile.
Since it's the weekend already and I usually post a dessert, I’ll also mention that the leftover bánh bao wraps can be turned into sweet treats with the right filling. Dried fig spread, lemon curd (I had jars of the lemon curd I made last winter) and chocolate mousse or the more traditional sweet egg custard are all great choices.
If you live in the Bay Area, don't forget to pencil in next Saturday (May 25th) for my cooking demo and cookbook signing for Haute Potato at Los Altos Library. Hope to see everyone there. Have a great weekend!