"Zhajiang" Bao (Spicy Shrimp and Ground Beef Buns)

TOTAL TIME: 35 min
Prep: 15 min
Inactive Prep: 10 min
Cook: 10 min
 
YIELD: 4 to 6 servings
LEVEL: Easy

ingredients

SPICY SHRIMP AND GROUND BEEF BUNS:
  • 1 ounce dried shrimp
  • 5 or 6 small dried Chinese ( shiitake) mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 ounce smoked bacon or pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 shallot, smashed and finely diced
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 4 ounces shredded bamboo shoots, drained and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed and finely diced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoshing rice wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, whisked with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Pinch ground white pepper
  • 4 to 6 large bao buns, steamed, or soft sandwich buns
  • 6 pickled cornichons, finely sliced, for serving
  • Chili oil, optional, for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped peanuts mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar, optional, for serving
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Directions

For the spicy shrimp and ground beef buns: Combine the shrimp and dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over to cover. Let stand at least 10 minutes, and then drain, reserving the liquid, and finely chop.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add the peanut oil. Add the shrimp, mushrooms, bacon and shallots and fry, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the ground beef, breaking the meat up with a spatula and cooking until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the bamboo shoots, jalapenos and green peppers and toss 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle in about 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid along with the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and rice wine and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened and glossy, about 1 minute. Season with the white pepper.

To serve, spoon about 1/2 cup of the mixture (depending on the bun size) onto each bun and garnish with the cornichons, a drizzle of chili oil, if using, and the cilantro. Sprinkle the peanuts with sugar, if using, over the top of each bao and serve immediately.
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