Lunch, a Delightful Balance Between Jewish and Chinese Flavors in Schnitzel Bao!

When looking for a lunch for this week I was drawn to another Molly Yeh recipe. It was for Schnitzel Bao with Sriracha Mayo and Sesame Pickles. In her recipe she shaped her bao into something that resembled more of a taco but being short on time and not having much luck with the shaping we opted for a a more traditional shaped bao. What really stands out about this recipe is the balance of flavor. It’s a perfect balance of sweet, salty, tangy, crispy, soft, and meaty.

Essentially it’s a chicken sandwich but so much better than that. Although I don’t know if I would make this recipe again what I do like is each component. After making this there’s a good chance I would make bao again. There’s also a good chance I will make schnitzel again. Most of all this recipe taught me a lot.

First of which is “what is schnitzel?” In short, it’s fried chicken strips! I think the only real signifier is that it’s tenderized and flattened. However, even that is not necessary as you see the various schnitzels around the world.

The next thing was bao. This sweet fluffy roll is made in a bamboo steaming basket. What I found interesting about the steaming basket is that it’s invention was do to the Chinese don’t typically have ovens so these were created to be a type of potable oven. What I didn’t know about the steaming baskets was the issue with trying to put them on a pot. Sure if you’re doing a quick steam you could put them in a wok or fry pan but this isn’t ideal. The best way for the steaming baskets to be used it for them to fit snuggly on a pot of boiling water. You don’t want the steaming basket too big or you will have areas not getting steam or that steam is escaping through and you don’t want them in anything too shallow as the cooking time could require a good deal of time steaming. So if you happen to be shopping for steaming baskets have the measurement of your pot you are trying to fit them on.

The final thing this recipe showed me was quick pickles are great for things like this. takes minutes to throw together and the longer they sit the more flavorful the become but even within minutes they are great!

What Molly Yeh does amazingly well with this recipe is showcasing fusing flavors and textures together to create something truly tasty!

FOR THE BAO:

  • 6 fl ounces Water, warmed 110ºF
  • 2 fl ounces Whole Milk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon Granulated Sugar
  • 408 grams All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 100 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 56 grams Unsalted Butter, room temperature

Directions:

In a liquid measure add the water and the milk. Microwave for about 30 seconds or until a instant read thermometer reads 105º-115ºF. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and the yeast. Whisk together. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. It should start to get foamy on top.

In the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the flour, salt and second portion of sugar. Give it a good stir. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on a low speed slowly pour in the yeast mixture. As the dough comes together add the butter in small pieces. (I like to use a small rubber spatula a lop off small amounts and flick them into the mixer bit by bit.)

Once the dough has come together raise the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes. Only add flour if the dough is sticking to the side of the bowl. Don’t add too much. This should be a sticky dough.

At the end of the 5 minutes, stop the mixer, scrape the dough off the dough hook and tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise for 2 hours. (Prepare your 20 squares of parchment.)

Once the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. (I like to do this on my marble slab.) Portion the dough out into 20 pieces, forming tight smooth balls with each piece, place each one on a square of parchment, and keep them under a damp towel. Let rise for 30 minutes. (If you are going to put filling in your bao you’d do this in the shaping phase making sure to put it seam side down. If you are wanting to make the Gua-bao, the taco shaped buns, you would stretch them out to a 6-inch by 3-inch oval brush them with a thin layer of melted butter, fold them in half and place on the parchment.)

Using a deep pot that your steaming baskets will fit on, fill about a ⅓ of the way with water, place the empty steaming baskets on the pot, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling open the steaming baskets and add the bao. Leave room for the boat to expand without touching. and steam for 15-20 minutes. Depending on the size of you steaming baskets you may need to do this in a few batches. (Whatever you do DON’T peak! Letting the steam out while cooking will cause your bao to fall.)

FOR THE SCHNITZEL:

  • 4 slices Challah, laid out over night to stale
  • Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 2 Pounds Chicken Breast, boneless skinless
  • Oil for frying
  • ½ cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 large Eggs, well beaten

Directions:

In a food processor pulse your challah until it’s a fine bread crumb. Season with slat and pepper and pulse again.

Lay your chicken breast out on a piece of wax paper or parchment and other sheet on top of it. With a mallet flatten the breast to about ½ – ¼ inch thickness. You are trying to get an even thickness throughout. Repeat for each breast. Slice each breast into 4-5 pieces or whatever your desired size is. Set aside.

Set up your frying station. You will want at least an inch and a half of oil to fry in and a deep-fry thermometer. I however used my deep-fryer which I could set the temperature and didn’t have to watch as closely as you would wit a pan on the stove. Bring your oil to 360ºF. Hold the temperature there as you fry.

Set up your dredging station: You’ll need three shallow bowls. Place the flour in one, then the egg in another and the breadcrumbs in the last. Working left to right dredge each piece of chicken in the flour (shaking off any excess), then through the egg, and finally through the breadcrumbs (make sure they are well adhered and tap off any excess.) Repeat for all the chicken.

Fry the chicken in batches. If you are able to fully submerge your chicken in the oil it should be about 2-3 minutes per batch. If not you’ll want an even dark golden brown coloring. Don’t worry about under cooking the chicken. With it being tenderized and thin it will cook by the time the outside is at the desired color.

Lay on wire cooling racks to dry as you work through the batches. (I found placing paper towels on the counter then putting the rack over it allows for the entire piece to dry crispy.)

FOR THE SESAME PICKLES:

  • 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 4 teaspoon Soy Sauce
  • 4 teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 English Cucumber, thinly sliced

Directions:

In a medium bowl combine the pepper flakes, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and oil. Whisk together well. Add the cucumber and toss to coat. Keep in an airtight container.

FOR THE SRIRACHA MAYO:

  • 120 grams Mayonnaise
  • 20 grams Sriracha

Directions:

In a small bowl mix the two ingredients together. Store in a squeeze bottle in the fridge.

Schnitzel Bao

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