Siopao (baked buns with Schezwan Paneer & Capsicum filling)

Siopao (shoh-pow) is a yeasted filled bun popular in the Phillipines. These steamed, filled buns originated in China where they are known by several names including bao (bow), pau (pow), baozi, mantau (Man-too) and humbow.siopao cover

It did not take long for other East and South Asian countries to adopt these and come up with their own variation. Their wide-spread popularity has a lot to do with the fact that these are convenient finger food and often sold as street food.

Traditionally filled with meat and steamed, our hostess Julie, asked us to use any filling of our choice and bake these for this month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge.

The February Daring Bakers’ challenge is hosted by Julie of One-Wall Kitchen. She challenged us to an easy, simple filled bun using no-knead dough.

In keeping with the theme of its Chinese origin, I decided to make a schezwan cottage cheese and capsicum filling.

Chinese food, or should I say Indian Chinese food is something that most Indians love. It was introduced to us by the early Chinese immigrants who settled in Kolkotta, West Bengal, in the late 19th century.

Initially dismissed as being too bland for the Indian palate, these astute businessmen started adding chillis and Indian spices to their food to accommodate the native taste.

Today, the adapted version is reputed to be the most popular cuisine in India, second only to Indian, and can be found not only in restaurants, but also on the streets on handcart and mobile food stalls. In fact, no wedding feast is complete without a counter for Chinese food! In Mumbai, street vendors have come up with a Chinese version of the famous ‘bhel’ and we even have places serving ‘Schezwan dosa’!!

This food is far removed from the original and I can guarantee you that you will not find the same anywhere in China (except maybe in an Indian restaurant :-)). The only thing that has been retained is the method of cooking and some of the ingredients.

Coming back to the Siopao, the dough is a no-knead dough. What this means is that you just mix the dough till the flour is completely incorporated and then leave it alone for the yeast to work its magic. As simple or as difficult as that!!

While the dough is rising make the filling. Once the dough doubles in size, go ahead and make the rolls or keep the dough in the refrigerator overnight. I kept it in the fridge for a couple of hours because I wanted to serve them hot from the oven for my evening tea.

If you choose to refrigerate the dough, take it out about 30 minutes to an hour before shaping for it to come to room temperature.

I made half the recipe to get six rolls. I also used milk to brush on top instead of an egg wash.siopao cover 1

The variation in the quantity of flour given in the recipe is due to the fact that the amount you will need to use depends on two factors. One is the weather. Under hot and humid conditions the flour is moist and will need less water, whereas in cold weather, the flour will be dryer and hence will absorb more water.

Secondly, if you use cup measures, the way you measure will affect the quantity you will need. The best way to measure with a cup is to aerate the flour by fluffing it with a spoon and then use a spoon to fill the cup. Use the back of a knife to level the cup. Do not press the flour in.

The dough should be shaggy and tacky, not wet and slack.

The dough can be made ahead and you can time it so that you have warm rolls whenever you need them. You could leave out the filling completely and make them as plain rolls.

The rolls were very soft and my husband could not stop praising them. The cherry on the cake is that these require minimal effort to make.

But do you know what the best part is? You can have them straight out of the oven! Something you cannot do with bread because that has to cool down completely before you slice it since it continues cooking even as it cools. Not so with rolls.

I will definitely be making these again but with a different filling. Maybe some pesto chicken, doesn’t that sound yum?

Siopao (baked buns with Schezwan Paneer & Capsicum filling)

Siopao (baked buns with Schezwan Paneer & Capsicum filling)

For the dough:

1 tsp active dry yeast
180 ml (3/4th cup) lukewarm water

7 gms (1/2 Tbsp) sugar 

15 gms (1 Tbsp) melted butter

1 tsp salt

280 gms to 350 gms (2 to 2 1/2 cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 Tbsp milk for brushing on top
For the filling:
75 gms cottage cheese (paneer), diced
1/2 a green capsicum diced
2 heads spring onions, (scallions) diced
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
2 tsps schezwan sauce
1 tsp light soya sauce
1 tsp oil
Salt to taste
To make Siopao:
The dough:
In a large bowl mix the yeast with the lukewarm water.
Cover and keep aside for 5-10 minutes.
When the mixture is foamy, add the sugar, melted butter and salt.
Stir in the flour a little at a time till you get a shaggy, very tacky dough (not wet and slack). You may be left with some of the flour depending on how moist the flour is. (I used the lesser amount).
Cover the bowl loosely and leave in a warm place till it has doubled up. (Should take about an hour).
*At this stage you could refrigerate the dough in the fridge for a couple of hours or even overnight.
Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature before filling and shaping*
Prepare the filling:
Heat the oil in a saucepan and lightly fry the garlic.
Add the chopped capsicums and onions and stir fry on high heat for a couple of minutes.
Now add the chopped paneer, schezwan sauce, soya sauce and salt to taste.
Sauté till the vegetables are coated with the sauce.
Remove and leave to cool.
Gently punch down the dough and turn it out on a lightly floured surface.
Fold it a few times and shape into a cylinder.
Cut 6 equal pieces and shape each into a ball.
Flatten each ball into a 6" (15 cm) diameter disc.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling at the centre and bring together the edges to completely cover the filling.
Pinch seam firmly to prevent it from opening up.
Place each a few inches apart, seam side down, on a parchment lined or lightly greased baking tray.
Cover lightly with a towel or plastic wrap and leave to double (about an hour).
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F about 10 minutes before baking.
Brush the top with milk/egg wash.
Bake for 20 minutes till they are golden in color.
Remove and serve warm.