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.
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
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.