vegetarian hum bow

my father has never been shy to ask for recipes. if you invite him to dinner, he will either ask for the recipe or try his best to replicate a dish from memory. if he is enjoying a meal out, he might ask the chef straight up for the recipe. or at the least, to identify some flavor he can't place his finger on. this, i learned, is the secret to becoming a great chef. ask questions, take mental notes, remember flavor combinations and fearlessly try to replicate dishes you've enjoyed in the past. eventually, your recipe repertoire will grow and you yourself will become an intuitive cook.

sometime when i was in elementary school, my dad signed up for a cooking lesson with a parent of one of my aikido classmates. (i never did ballet or gymnastics as a girl, i did softball and aikido and played african hand drums. tom boy much?). anyhow, this is how hum bow became one of my family's favorite go-to meals and a recipe in my dad's vast repertoire that he loved to show off to dinner guests. it's been years and years since i last made hum bow with my dad, but just the other day, david had a hankering for hum bow from his favorite shop in the pike place market, and i decided it was time to finally make some for myself. we made some with left over roasted chicken, but in the past i've made a fabulous vegetarian version as well.

a few notes:
*the best substitute i've found for bbq pork inside of hum bow is firm baked tofu. the store bought kind is actually ideal, because it has so little moisture. if using fresh tofu, you will first want to press and bake the tofu to remove the moisture.
*honestly, the only secret to delicious hum bow is hoisin sauce. (later this spring, david and i are signed up to take a pho cooking class, in which we will learn to make our own hoisin sauce. so until i have an updated recipe for you, store bought sauce is simple and perfect).
*the recipe my dad passed on to me called for 3 1/2 cups self-rising flour. i did not have self-rising flour in my pantry, but supposedly you can mix your own by adding a certain ratio of salt & baking powder. this seemed to work just fine.

hum bow dough ~ makes 12
3 1/2 cup self rising flour 
(or 3 1/2 cup all purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 tablespoon baking powder)
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg white

wax paper, cut into a dozen 3"x3" squares.

in a large bowl, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined and let rest for 15 minutes. after, kneed the dough on a large floured surface for no less than five minutes. continue to add a tiny bit of flour if the dough starts to stick to your surface. eventually, the dough should start to soften slightly and become smooth in texture. at that point, cut the dough into 12 evenly-sized dough balls. let them rest on floured surface while you prepare the filling. 

bbq tofu filling:
14 oz super firm tofu, or baked tofu
1/2 or more cup hoisin sauce 
1 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce

if using fresh firm tofu, you will need to do a bit more prep to remove the moisture: first, place tofu between two paper towels on a plate and weight down with the heaviest flat object in your kitchen (for example a cast iron skillet). let rest for 15 minutes. in this time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. afterwards, pat the tofu dry and cut into 1 inch cubes. place tofu on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, rotating the cubes every 5 minutes or so, until all edges are nicely browned. alternatively, you can purchase baked tofu in health food stores or even at trader joe's. they are often marinated, so just choose one with soy sauce or teriyaki if you cannot find plain baked tofu. and if you want to make meat filled hum bow, your could just swap the tofu out for 2 cups of cooked pork or chicken.

once you have your baked tofu, roughly chop into small bits and toss into a bowl with 1/2 cup hoisin sauce and a teaspoon of sriracha. you want the tofu to be thoroughly coated, so add more hoisin sauce if needed, and add more sriracha if you want some added heat.

to form your hum bow, work with one dough ball at a time. roll it out to about the size of a cd, making sure the rolled dough does not get too thin. spoon a couple tablespoons of bbq filling into the center of the dough. collect the sides together and pinch dough together to seal into a rounded bun. make sure the filling cannot escape, otherwise the steam will burst your hum bow open. place seam-side down on a square of wax paper. (it's a bit difficult to end up with the perfect ratio of dough to filling, depending on how thinly you rolled the dough and how much filling you add to each bun. if you have extra filling, just gobble it up with a spoon.)

in a large pot, bring about two inches of water to a simmer. set up a multi-layer bamboo steamer or just a single basket steamer - making sure the water level will not touch the buns. place the buns with their wax papers in the steamer leaving an inch of room between each bun. cover and steam for 20 minutes over medium-low heat. once done, remove hum bow from basket and let rest for a few minutes before serving. if working in small batches, steaming 3 or 4 buns at a time, watch the level of the water and add more, returning back to a simmer if you need.