manapua (barbecue pork buns!) + maui!

Babymoon success!!! Our trip to Maui was perfect in every way, from the dolphins we met to the donuts we ate to the fact that we wore the same clothes almost the entire time. Each morning we walked outside, did an arm stretch, and said out loud ahh, another day in paradise! And then we either picked up a spam musubi at the Foodland and went on an adventure or went to the breakfast buffet, read the newspaper, and then rolled outside for our daily dip. We swam in such wonderful settings, first snorkeling on Lanai where we saw the most beautiful florescent blue fish, then sunset beach floating near our hotel, then snorkeling near our other hotel where we saw two sea turtles (and they saw us! they waved!), and finally actual lap swimming at the infinity pool to burn off all of our musubis. My swimming skills still hover around Guppy, but boy do I love it. We read parenting books on the beach, ate hurricane popcorn and pineapple by the pound, and just generally got lost in daydreams of Poppy Seed. Eggboy took an interest in learning everything there was to learn about the tiny macaroni-shaped island that we could see from the beach in Wailea. And though we searched long and hard for the one legged chicken that I saw on my Maui trip three years ago, we did not find him. 

Hawaii cured me of the cold that I denied having before I left and it made me feel readier than ever to tackle these next two months, even if none of my pants fit and walking up a flight of stairs feels like climbing Mount Everest. We’ve got baby classes to go to, a crib to set up, hospital bags to pack, and every single fluffy baby teddy bear suit to buy (omg). 

Leaving Hawaii was so bittersweet because it really was the best week ever and I didn’t want to leave but as we left, Eggboy reminded me that the next time we’d be back, we’d have a little nugget in tow, armed with floaties and sand castle tools and everything! Oh I can barely imagine that without crying. I’m going to be a very weepy mum. 

Here are a list of my Maui recs from this trip! There aren’t too many this time since most of the places we went were places we’d been to and loved before. For those recs, see this post and this post.

Trilogy’s Lanai trip! The best thing to do on the first day when you’re still on mainland time and can wake up super duper early is to do this sunrise boat tour to Lanai where you eat great cinnamon rolls and watch whales as the sun comes up and then spend the day snorkeling, touring, and eating. 

Lineage: There were so many surprising delights at Lineage, like the salad covered in meat juice and pasta salad mayo meant to represent the bottom of a plate lunch, the fresh veggies from Oprah’s garden, and this thing called a Flying Saucer which was basically a meat and cheese Uncrustable.

Maui Cones at the Upcountry Farmers Market: This is Alana’s friend Kammy’s sushi and mochiko chicken cone stand and it is soo tasty. And the whole Upcountry Farmers Market is great! I got a super cute ube whale oreo. 

Paia Fish Market: I just wanted more stomach space here so that I could squeeze in another fish taco. 

Four Seasons and Ritz: We split our time between these two hotels and they were both great!!

In celebration of all things Hawaii (and in advance of the upcoming Chinese New Year), I’m sharing the barbecue pork bun recipe from Alana’s forthcoming cookbook, Aloha Kitchen!!! This is a book that you need, and that the world needs, because too many people (including myself until I became friends with Alana) have this impression that Hawaiian food is pineapple and ham. On a pizza. I mean, I love pineapple and ham on a pizza, but if there is one single most important thing that Alana has taught me (other than how to use a straightener to curl my hair haha), it’s the real definition of food in Hawaii. It’s vibrant and dynamic and it wears its history on its shoulders, with displays of Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Western, and native Hawaiian influences. I was surprised to see how meat-centric the food of Hawaii is, but it makes sense when you consider the influences, and between the mochiko chicken and spam musubi recipes, I am so into it. I’m also extremely excited about the recipes for the kinds of fun snacks that make browsing in Hawaii grocery stores so fun, like li hing gummy bears and hurricane popcorn. 

But of course the first thing I had to make from Aloha Kitchen were these barbecue pork buns, or manapua, which is a Hawaiian word that literally means “delicious pork thing.” This is Hawaii’s version of the Chinese classic, and I love that in Hawaii, you can get gigantic versions. It’s like eating a burger. I tasted tested these when Alana was testing them for her book, and they brought me right back to eating dim sum with my family when I was little. I used to remove the filling and only eat the bready parts, but I loved the sweet meaty flavor that the filling left behind. I think I just didn’t like the texture. These days though I love all of the parts of the bun, the fluffy outters and the chewy innards. They are the best. Alana nailed it with this recipe and you really ought to make these. They freeze beautifully and reheat quickly in the microwave too, so these will no doubt be on my list of freezer foods to make before Poppy Seed’s arrival. 

Also pre-order Alana’s book right now please.  It’s beautiful and incredible!


manapua

makes 12

from alana’s aloha kitchen

ingredients

for the bun dough:

3/4 c (177g) water, warmed (100º to 110ºF)

1 1/4 c (295g) whole milk, warmed (100º to 110ºF)

two 0.25-ounce packages (14g) active dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp total)

1 tsp plus 3/4 c (150g) sugar

4 c (520g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

2 c (260g) cake flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 c (100g) neutral oil, plus more for the bowl

for the filling:

1/2 c (118g) water

2 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp all-purpose flour

1 tb sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 lb char siu pork (recipe follows), minced

clues

to make the dough for the buns, combine the water, milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a bowl and whisk together. let the mixture sit until the yeast is activated and foamy, about 10 minutes.

in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine both flours, the salt, and the remaining 3/4 cups sugar. mix the dry ingredients together on low speed. keep the mixer running and slowly pour in the yeast mixture followed by the oil. increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. if it does not start to pull away from the sides, add more flour, a tablespoon or two at a time. turn the dough out onto a clean work surface quickly so that you can oil your stand mixer bowl. transfer the dough back into the oiled bowl, flipping once to coat both sides, and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, cut twelve 4-inch squares of parchment paper for the bottom of the manapua.

To make the filling, in a small saucepan, whisk together the water, cornstarch, flour, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute, whisking continuously. Meanwhile, put the char siu in a bowl. Remove from the heat and pour over the char siu. Stir with a wooden spoon or toss with your hands to evenly coat the meat with the sauce.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide it into twelve equal pieces. Transfer all but one piece back to the bowl, covering it with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Roll the piece of dough into a ball before flattening into a pancake with the palm of your hand. Use a rolling pin to roll the edges of the pancake out to a 5-inch round; you want the center of the dough to be a bit thicker—it should look like a little bump. This will help give the manapua a uniform thickness on the top and bottom. Add about 1⁄4 cup filling to the center of the round, then bring the edges up and around the filling, pinching them together to seal in the filling. With the seam side down and your hand in a cupping motion, gently roll the manapua into a ball with a few circular motions. Place the round ball, seam side down, on one of the precut parchment squares. Cover the ball with a clean kitchen towel and repeat until all the dough has been used. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil with the lid on. Set a steamer basket over it and lower the heat to low, keeping the water at a simmer. Place the manapua with the parchment squares in the basket, spacing them about an inch apart. If you are using a metal steamer or a glass lid, place a clean kitchen towel between the basket and the lid to capture the condensation. Steam until the buns are light and fluffy, 15 to 20 minutes; they should be touching or almost touching. Transfer to a wire rack, cover with a clean towel, and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Store leftovers in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator or freezer. To reheat, simply wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds or resteam them in a steamer basket for 10 minutes until heated through.


char siu pork

serves 6 to 8; recipe can be halved

from alana’s aloha kitchen

ingredients

4 lbs pork butt, cut into 1 1/2” wide strips

1 tb hawaiian salt (‘alaea)

1 c (200g) packed brown sugar

1/2 c (170g) mild honey

1 1/2 tsp chinese five-spice powder

1/4 c (64g) hoisin sauce

3 tb whiskey

3/4 tsp red gel food coloring, or 1 1/2 tsp red liquid food coloring (optional)

clues

rub the pork butt strips with the salt and place in a wide rimmed pan or in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, five-spice powder, hoisin, whiskey, and red food coloring for the marinade. whisk together until well combined. reserve one third in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for basting the next day. pour the remaining marinade over the pork strips and gently rub the strips with your hands to evenly coat them. cover the pan with plastic wrap or zip up the bag. transfer both the reserved marinade and the pork strips to the refrigerator overnight.

the next day, preheat the oven to 350ºF. fit a roasting pan with a rack that is at least 2 inches tall. fill the pan with a 1/4 inch of water. lay the strips over and baste with some of the reserved marinade. roast for another 20 minutes. flip all of the strips over and baste with some of the reserved marinade. roast for another 20 minutes. flip all of the strips one more time and baste again before roasting for another 20 minutes. transfer the strips to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet to cool a bit. the pork can be served immediately or cooled completely before using for another recipe.


-yeh!

matcha, red bean, and almond rainbow cookies

I was a total blob this weekend as I came down off of this month of filming! I made snickerdoodles and then ate snickerdoodles, watched the UND hockey team score a million goals against Wisconsin, baked an extra buttery loaf of Alexandra’s bread, and discovered the brilliance that is Cynthia’s ginger chicken and dumplings. If you need proof that magic exists, just boil some chicken with tons of scallions and ginger, that’s it. Omg, it’s the best thing in my chicken life since Melissa Clark’s salt and pepper chicken. And then add a double batch of chewy dumplings and eat it while binging Three Wives, One Husband, and when those episodes run out (there were only four?!), embark on the holiday spirit.

I really can’t say that I’m glad that filming is over, because having the crew in my house and cooking all of my favorite winter foods rocked, but I can say that sitting on the couch and not thinking about anything except for snickerdoods and dumplings for a good few hours was deeply clutch.

Now that that’s out of my system though I’m beginning to think about Chrismukkah cookies and all of the cute boxes of them that I’m going to assemble over the coming season for various reasons (parties and gifts) and non-reasons (they look cute and are fun to make). Rainbow cookies are always a hit because they’re not only fiercely almondy and tasty but they also have a nice shelf life because of how moist they are. And I especially love them because, well, they’re actually cake.

I’m starting to exhaust variations on them (cake, gelato sandwiches), but wanted to drop these into the Chrismukkah lineup because they’re extra special! The green layer is actually matcha (an a+ pairing with the almond base), and the red layer has red bean paste (nutty and slightly fruity, also great with almond). I worked these up when I was developing a Chinese Jewish menu for an event next week in Baltimore. While matcha is typically thought of as a Japanese tea, it actually originated in China! And red bean paste is something that I grew up eating at dim sum in the center of Jian Dui, or fried sesame balls. I was afraid of it until Stoop told me that it tasted like peanut butter, so then I liked it. Classic rainbow cookies have Italian roots, but Jews love em. They end up on lots of our holiday dessert tables and I’m totally obsessed with their colorful, soft almondiness. This version doesn’t look too far off from the traditional but the added matcha and red bean paste add unexpected dimension and beautiful natural color. They are a perfect addition to any holiday cookie box!


Rainbow Cookies

Makes 16 cookies

ingredients

3 large eggs, separated

2 tb (13g) sugar + 1/2 c (100g) sugar

1 c (226g) unsalted butter, softened

6 oz (173g) almond paste, chopped

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 1/3 c (174g) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp matcha powder

1/4 c (68g) fine red bean paste

Red food coloring

3 tb (64g) apricot or raspberry jam

4 oz (114g) dark chocolate

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease three 8” by 4” loaf pans and line them with parchment paper that comes at least 2” up the sides of the pan (these little wings will help you lift the cookie out of the pan). If you don’t have 3 loaf pans, you can bake the layers in batches. 

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, and then with the mixer running on medium, gradually add the 2 tablespoons sugar. Increase the speed to medium high and beat to stiff peaks. Set them aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, almond paste, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the yolks, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the lemon juice and almond extract, and then reduce the speed to medium low and gradually add the flour. Mix to combine. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the whites. Transfer a third of the mixture to one of the loaf pans and use a small offset spatula to spread it out evenly. Transfer another third of the mixture to a separate bowl and fold in the matcha powder. Fold the red bean paste and a couple of drops of red food coloring into the remaining third. Transfer these into the remaining 2 loaf pans, spread them out evenly and then bake until the tops are just set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 12 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then lift them out and place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Stack them up with 1 1/2 tablespoons jam between the layers. Wrap the loaf firmly in plastic wrap, weight it down with a couple of heavy cookbooks, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. 

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or by microwaving it for 30 second increments, stirring after each, until it’s smooth. Remove it from heat and stir continuously until it is no longer hot. Spread it over the top and sides of the cookie cake loaf and stick it in the refrigerator to firm up for about 15 minutes. Cut width-wise into 1” slices and then cut each of those slices in half to make 16 cookies.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container. 


-yeh!

p.s. Watch the season premiere of Girl Meets Farm this Sunday at 11am/10 central!!! We’re making goulash, chocolate hazelnut donuts, hawaij apple pie, and brussels sprouts!!

Pastrami Egg Rolls

We are filming season 2 of Girl Meets Farm right now!! My house is filled with cameras and lighting things and we’re currently on our day off, so I’m catching up on laundry and showing Lily, Alana, and Michelle all around Grand Forks because they are in town to be guests on the show!! I’m introducing them to all of Grand Forks’ greatest hits: cheesy pickles, Darcy’s, and hotdish. Mmmmm. 

The shoot is almost halfway over and it has been so much fun. We’ve been filming so many hearty comforting wintery dishes that are the types of foods that I *live* for (spätzle! goulash! latkes! lefse!) and on the days that we shot the holiday episode, it snowed all of that snow!!! It was perfect. Every few days friends and family come over from near and far to participate in meal scenes, and that’s been the best thing ever, second only to the fact that during shoot weeks Eggboy allows us to have the TV that’s normally in our kitchen set up in our bedroom. Hehe. 

Mark your calendars, the season premieres on 11/11 @ 11!! (10am central :) 

Ok I’ve gotta go take my out of town fronds to meet the town chocolate shop now. But I’m leaving you with pastrami egg rolls because ever since I had pastrami egg rolls years ago at Red Farm in the West Village with my auntie and Eggboy (it was Eggboy’s first time meeting any of my family members!!!), I have been obsessed. Obviously. Because it’s salty smoky meat wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and fried to chewy delicious perfection. And dipped in a good strong mustard, because acid. These have caraway as a nod to the standard pastrami on rye, and they are kind of me as an appetizer?? Chinese, Jewish, and salty 😜. This recipe is loosely based on my friend Nile’s family egg roll recipe because Nile is the best egg roll maker in the North and she has leftover egg rolls cold for breakfast the next day, which is a very strong move. 


Pastrami Egg Rolls

makes 8

Ingredients

1 tb canola oil, plus more for frying

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

A pinch of kosher salt

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp caraway seeds

8 oz pastrami, finely sliced

10 oz coleslaw mix or shredded green cabbage

1 tb soy sauce

1 tb apple cider vinegar

Black pepper

1 tb flour

1 tb water

8 egg roll wrappers

Strong deli mustard or Chinese hot mustard, for serving

Clues

In a large skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and pinch of salt and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and caraway and cook for another minute. Add the pastrami and cook until heated. Turn off the heat and stir in the shredded cabbage. Season with soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and black pepper. Taste and adjust as desired. In a small bowl, mix together the water and flour to form a paste (it will act as your glue). Fill egg roll wrappers like the above gif, sealing well with the paste.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 360ºf-370ºf. You can either use a lot of oil to fully submerge and deep fry them or do what I do and only heat about 1/2” of oil and turn them while frying to ensure that all sides get crisp. Fry for a few minutes until the outsides are golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel or wire rack, let cool slightly, and serve with mustard.


carrot steamed buns

A long time ago, during my bangs and eyeliner phase, I had the steamed carrot buns at Dirt Candy, and I still think about them regularly because they were so good and clever! I don’t remember too many specifics other than loving that the texture of the carrots held their own against the squishy buns, and that the slight sweetness of both the buns and the carrots just went well together. And then a squirrel ran into the restaurant and everybody stayed very cool about it. These days, whenever I get the urge to throw bun parties, I like making sure to include a vegetarian option and always consider the carrot. There is a recipe for Dirt Candy’s buns online but every time I look at it I get a little stressed out because it has some ingredients that I just don’t keep on hand regularly, and whenever I make steamed buns I like to err on the side of keeping my fillings simple since making a dough and shaping buns, while extremely satisfying, is time consuming. (See: the shamelessness that is American Cheese Steamed Buns in Molly on the Range.

So when Soy Vay sent over some of their sauces I got really excited because, well, first of all, it’s basically *me* in sauce form. It was created by an Asian person and a Jewish person! And I remember seeing it in our fridge growing up. And also I saw that their Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce contained a lot of the same ingredients that I’d want to put into a carrot bun, like garlic, ginger, soy, and sesame, and immediately thought, yes, I am four steps closer now to carrot buns. So I got to work and came up with some of the most delicious pillow-y soft buns that explode with flavor! They are salty, sweet, and nutty and I love them. They’re not too difficult to make at all, and they are vegan! They’re great hot or at room temp (take them to a picnic!) or reheated from the freezer. 

I have nice buns and, look, now you can have nice buns too. 

Carrot Steamed Buns

Makes 16 buns

Steamed bun dough

1 c (236g) warm water

2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast

1 tsp + 6 tb (75g) sugar

2 c (260g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting 

1 c (128g) cake flour*

3/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tb canola oil

*highly recommended for a fluffier texture but if you don’t have it, subbing in the same amount of ap flour is ok.

 

Filling

1 1/4 lbs. (about 5-7 large carrots), chopped into 1/2” pieces

1 tb canola or olive oil

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

6 tb Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce, plus more for serving

1 tb rice vinegar

1/4 c (34g) crushed roasted salted peanuts, plus more for topping

6 scallions, minced, plus more for topping

Sriracha

Clues

First, make the dough: In a small bowl, swirl together the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar and let it sit until it becomes foamy on top, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture and oil and mix to form a dough. Turn onto a surface and knead for 5 minutes, dusting with flour as needed, until dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. 

While the dough is rising, make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425ºf. Place the carrots in a baking dish and toss with oil and salt. (I like baking them in a high sided dish like a casserole so that I have room to add the other filling ingredients and then there’s no need to transfer to a bowl.) Bake for 30-35 minutes, until tender, and then let cool for 5 minutes. Add the teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, peanuts, scallions, and a drizzle of sriracha and stir together. Set aside to continue to cool. It’s ok if it’s still a little warm when it’s time to fill the buns. This filling can be made a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge.

Once the dough has completed its rising time, turn it out onto a clean work surface and divide it into 16 balls. Keep the dough covered when you’re not working with it. Working with 1 ball at a time, roll them out to 4 1/2-5” circles, fill with about 2 heaping tablespoons of filling, and pinch the edges shut to seal well. Now is a good time to youtube steamed bun pleating videos! Place on individual squares of parchment paper, about 3” by 3”, and space them out in a steamer basket a 1 1/2-2” inches apart. (If your steamer doesn’t fit all of the buns at once, steam them in batches.) Cover and let rise 30 more minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Place the steamer over it and steam the buns for 20 minutes, until light and fluffy. To serve, top with another little drizzle of sriracha, and some sprinkles of peanuts and scallions. Dip in teriyaki sauce and enjoy!

Leftovers can be cooled and kept in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a few months. To reheat, wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave until heated through.

thank you, soy vay, for sponsoring this post! shop here with discount code SOYVAY10 for 10% off!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen