Smoky Caramel Mushroom Tempura Bao (vegan)


This is one of those recipes that’s more focused on flavor profiles, textural synergy, and all-out creativity than specific techniques or must-know science. Part of that is because we already have posts dedicated to bao and tempura, each with their own blurbs of geeky knowledge. “Well I didn’t read those!” you say? You don’t want to give us additional page views by clicking those links and reading “outdated” content? WELL FINE. We’ll bring all necessary information from previous posts into this new one so that you may be in-the-know while you cook up a storm.

On bao:

If you’re familiar with bao, then you’re probably under the impression that they’re not the easiest things to make, and you would be right. I mean, any yeast dough requires patience, instincts, and an eye for what’s right, but if you’ve made a handful of bread, donuts, or cinnamon rolls in your time then this won’t be anything out of the ordinary for you. The only asterisk in this project is that you will need some special equipment – particularly a steamer. Not just any steamer will do the trick though because we need to steam more than a handful of bao at a time, which would easily fill up the floor of one steamer. The solution? A multi-layered steamer. Such steamers aren’t all that expensive, plus there’s a cheaper, more traditional option to metal steamers: bamboo steamers.

At the end of the day though, if you live near a Chinese market, you may be lucky enough to find pre-made gua bao in their refrigerated bread/dough section. Meaning you don’t even have to make these from scratch if you don’t want to commit three hours of life to making dough (the resulting bao is 100% worth it though)!

On tempura:

  • Good tempura batters contain little gluten because gluten makes batter heavy and chewy, not light and crispy. To get around this, we use a mix of cake flour (low protein wheat flour) and rice flour, which obviously contains no gluten.
  • Good tempura batters are light, which makes the final product crispy while keeping the focus on the ingredient. To achieve an impeccably light batter we use sparkling water, which imparts tiny little bubbles all throughout the batter.
  • Good tempura is cooked quick, that way, the food doesn’t get overcooked or become greasy. To make sure these things don’t happen, we want to use at least 2 quarts of oil, fry in small batches, and carefully keep our oil temperature between 375-400° F. A large amount of oil allows for quick temperature recovery, frying in small batches prevents the oil from dipping in temperature, and 375-400° F will cook the mushrooms in under 1 minute.
  • Good batter is always cold because low temperatures allow gluten to set at a slow pace, which will make our tempura crispy instead of gummy and chewy.
  • One last thing: every tempura recipe I’ve read contains an egg, which is why we replaced it with a vegan egg by Follow Your Heart, which binds the batter and helps it brown.

We hope you guys enjoy this dish, it’s:

  • Perfect for parties or appetizers
  • Chinese-inspired
  • Savory, salty, subtly spicy, and complex
  • Airy, tender, crispy, meaty, and crunchy
  • Vegan

If you like what your eyes are tasting, then share this recipe with your friends on InstagramFacebook, or Pinterest at @noeggsorham! For more flame-emoji photos, geeky food talk, and mouth-watering dishes, subscribe to our email list. Tag us in a photo when you create one of our recipes at home so we can share it! Stunning pita-colored salad plate by Carthage.Co!

Bao’t That Life

Steamed Gua Bao with Tempura Oyster Mushrooms, Smoky Miso Caramel Sauce, and Chili Fish Sauce Toasted Peanuts (vegan)

  • Servings: 6 bao
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Tender and airy Taiwanese bao are filled with crispy mushrooms, salty and spicy peanuts, a spread of sweet and complex caramel sauce, and zingy green onions.

Ingredients

Tempura Oyster Mushrooms

  • 5 oz oyster mushrooms, pulled into bite-sized pieces
  • 30 grams (1/4 c) rice flour
  • 30 grams (1/4 c) cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp VeganEgg powder by Follow Your Heart
  • 6 oz (3/4 c) sparkling water or light beer
  • 1/2 gal refined oil, for frying

Chili Fish Sauce Toasted Peanuts

  • 1/4 c peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce

Caramel Miso Sauce

Assembling

  • 6 freshly steamed gua bao (hand-made or store-bought)
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Peanuts: Heat a wok over medium heat. Once hot, toss in chili oil, peanuts, and cook until they begin to brown in a few spots stirring frequently. Turn off heat, add in fish sauce, and stir for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl—leaving leftover oil in pan—allow to cool, then crush lightly. 
  2. Sauce: Reduce wok heat to low, add in caramel sauce, red miso, liquid smoke, and whisk until smooth. Turn off heat.
  3. Mushrooms: Add oil to a large dutch oven over high heat or an electric deep fryer and bring temperature to 375° F.
  4. While oil heats up, whisk together rice flour, cake flour, and VeganEgg powder in a large mixing bowl. Add in about 1/3 of the liquid and whisk to form a thick paste. Then, quickly whisk in the rest of the liquid. Place near deep-fryer.
  5. Dip a handful of mushrooms into tempura batter, move around to ensure even coverage, place on a spider tool, and transfer to 375° F oil. Fry until crispy and lightly golden; about 45 seconds. Transfer to draining rig and repeat for remaining mushrooms, allowing oil to return to 375° F before adding next batch.
  6. Assembling: Spread a spoonful of caramel sauce onto one side of a gua bao, sprinkle with crushed peanuts, fill with tempura mushrooms, and top with scallions. Repeat for remaining bao and enjoy while fresh!