Fried Chicken Bao Sliders

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Hello hello hello! I'm back from a long weekend in the desert! It was full of best friends, a fur cladded pool, lots of sun, and a prickly cactus that got stuck in my shoe. I just downloaded my photos and will work on a little Joshua Tree post to share with you guys soon! I'm back home in chilly San Francisco burrito-ed up in my blanket trying to fend off icky germs from flying. I have 5 more flights to take over the next 2 weeks, so I'll be chugging emergen-c and ginger shots for the near future.

Let me see... what is there to update you on??

1. Reuben and I watched The Office in it's entirety in just 5 weeks. Is that insane or impressive? Both? The Office was something I just never got into before, but now it is my favorite show of all time. It's the most perfect show. It's hilarious, it's offensive, it's real, and it's so incredibly sweet. Gosh. I just tear up thinking about how much Jim and Pam love each other. After we watched the last episode it was weird... like, what is there even to watch now?

2. Reuben got me hooked on the latest season of American Idol. So we quickly found something new to obsesses over. The production value of this season is so impressive! Lionel Richie is such a pleasant person! Plus there are countless touching contestant stories, so I still have something to keep me crying every other day. Not that that is hard.

3. Our apartment is going to be the home to a banjo soon. Our neighbors are going to love us.

4. I'm a confident bao maker now. The first time I ever steamed bao dough it was not good. It was bad. They had a weird flavor and didn't really fluff up. Who knows what happened. But after some practice, I got it down!

These fried chicken sliders were inspired by a recent trip to Chick-Fil-A (lol) and a fancy dinner at Liholiho Yacht Club. Just like The Office, I never really got into the hype of Chick-Fil-A. But there is one right by one of my projects, so after some really stressful days it was the perfect eat my feelings pit stop. The bao sliders at Liholiho Yacht Club are filled with grilled beef tongue, peanuts, pickled cucumbers, and some spicy sauce. Their buns are also crusted with poppy seeds, which adds a nice texture but also an awful mess to clean up later. You have been warned that if you go the poppy seed route, you're going to be finding poppy seeds everywhere for the next 3 days. So I guess you could say these sliders are a Chick-Fil-A and Liholiho Yacht Club lovechild!

To make these sliders, you can purchase your own buns at your local asian market or bakery. But I really do love a freshly steamed bun! The buns are super light and fluffy, but have the integrity and structure to support a crispy slice of fried chicken. I highly recommend that you add some kimchi, slice cucumbers, hoisin, and Sriracha for that crunchy, sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy thang. SO GOOD. How do I get in contact with Chick-Fil-A product development reps?!

Have a happy rest of the week! I'll be reporting back after a quick trip to Cleveland and Chicago this weekend : )


Fried Chicken Bao Sliders

makes 12 bao sliders

steamed bao buns:

1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup warm water
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
oil for brushing
Poppy Seeds (optional)

fried chicken:

2 large chicken breast cut into 12 large strips
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
dash of paprika
dash of garlic powder
1/8 tsp baking powder
canola oil for frying

kimchi
sliced cucumbers
hoisin sauce
Sriracha
 

to prepare steamed bao dough:

1. Mix yeast, warm water, and pinch of sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to activate the yeast. You should see a few small bubbles. Whisk in oil and set aside.

2. Combine baking powder, sugar, and flour in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle of the flour and slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon or with you hands. Keep stirring until you have a ragged dough. Add a few teaspoons of water if the dough still feels a little dry. Gather your dough into a rough ball on a clean work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic.

3. Grease a large bowl with a bit of oil. Place dough ball in the bowl and over with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Place in a warm place (in the oven with the door left ajar) to proof for one hour. Dough should double.

4. Punch down the dough. Place on a clean work surface and shape into 4"x12" log. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Take one piece of dough and roll into a 4"x6" oval. Place oval on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover the tray with a wet kitchen towel and allow to proof again for another 30 minutes. While these proof again, cut out 12 4"x3" sheets of parchment paper

5. Bring a lot pot (that perfectly fits your bamboo steamer) of water to a boil. 

6. Lightly brush each piece of dough with oil. Fold in half. Brush the top with oil and press into a plate of poppy seeds. Place the bun on a sheet of parchment and then place into a bamboo steamer. Repeat with remaining buns.

7. Place the bamboo steamer on top of the pot of boiling water and steam for 10 minutes. Once steamed, remove from the steamer and allow to cool on a wire rack.

to prepare the fried chicken:

1. Marinade the chicken in buttermilk for 30 minutes.

2. Beat eggs in a small bowl and combine flour, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and baking powder in a shallow dish.

3. Dip slice of chicken in flour, then in the egg, and then back into the flour. Place on a dish and repeat with remaining chicken.

4. Add canola oil into a heavy bottom skillet until hot (350 degrees). Add in chicken and fry for 5 to 7 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel. Repeat with remaining chicken.

to assemble the bao sliders:

1. Place a piece of fried chicken in a bun, smear on hoisin and Sriracha, add a bit of kimchi and sliced cucumbers, and enjoy!

Lemongrass Eggplant Bánh Mì

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Have we ever discussed sandwiches??? I don't think so. Sandwiches are sort of a point of contention in the Cho-Alt household. You see, Reuben could probably eat a sandwich every single day of his life and be the happiest Reub in all the land. Seriously. I think he dreams of hoagie bread and deli slices. Me on the other hand, I dream of dumplings and could probably not eat a sandwich for the rest of my life and be pretty okay. I don't know why, but I've never really loved sandwiches. However, when I do have a sandwich it will mostly likely be a roast beef sandwich on a sourdough roll, NOT toasted, with provolone, tomatoes (maybe), a little bit of mayo, and avocado if I'm feeling fancy or willing to spend an extra dollar. Part of being in a relationship though is making sacrifices. So I eat sandwiches a little more often than I like to. Things could be worse. He could be obsessed with video games or be into racing or something... The hardest thing is when he wants a sandwich for dinner and I just can't do it. Sandwiches just don't feel like a real dinner for me. I believe in breakfast sandwiches and lunch sandwiches. But dinner sandwiches are a little weird. Paninis and bánh mìs sort of fall in that dinner sandwich grey area though. 

Something real weird happened to me last week. I had a craving for a sandwich. GASP. I! Kristina! Me! Sandwich! Reuben was shocked and delighted. I picked up a deli sandwich for lunch and then it just snowballed into this really weird week where I just kept eating sandwiches everyday. I feel weird about it. I don't know what came over me. One day it was a deli sandwich, the next day I made pesto chicken sandos for dinner, Reuben made me an East Coast hoagie, then we got burgers (which is a sandwich I think... hot dogs are not sandwiches though), then I made these bánh mìs, I got a Chick-Fil-A sandwich yesterday, and then more bánh mìs! Holy, Carb. Do you think I've had enough slices of bread yet? The answer is yes.

Let's talk about these Bánh Mì before I can't even stomach the idea of another sandwich. I love a classic bánh mì đặc biệt, which has Vietnamese cold cuts, head cheese, and some a pate. It's the best! But I also love me a tasty vegetarian bánh mì. Crispy eggplant is so incredibly good piled in between crusty bread, sweet and tart pickles, and addictive lemongrass sauce. Eggplant always makes a great meaty/non-meat alternative.

Some important things to note about a great bánh mì. BREAD. Like any great building, you need a great foundation. Bread is the foundation of a great sandwich. The bread needs to be light, soft, and toasty. I recommend going to your closest asian market and picking up some soft french rolls. Or hoagie rolls if those are hard to find. You could use a french baguette, but I really think the texture is too dense and chewy. Next thing is pickled daikon and carrots! I use this Serious Eats recipe and it is so freaking easy to make and super delicious. They add the perfect crunchy, sweet, and sour punch. Lastly, the sauce! I'm not normally a saucey person. I'm actually a pretty dry food person. But this sandwich needs sauce. This lemongrass sauce is super addicting. It's quick to throw together and also works as an awesome marinade for meats! If you check the boxes on all these, you'll guarantee yourself pretty tasty sandwich that even the non-sandwich-loving person in your life will love!


Lemongrass Eggplant Bánh Mì

makes 2 bánh mì

Materials:

1 large Chinese eggplants
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 soft french rolls
1 sliced jalapeno pepper
Cilantro
Pickled Daikon and Carrots

Lemongrass Sauce:

2 lemongrass stalks
1 1/2" chunk of grated ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup hoisin
1 tbsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

To Prepare the Lemongrass Sauce:

1. Begin by preparing the lemongrass sauce. Peel the hard outer layers of the lemongrass stalk until you reach the pale yellow inner layers. Cut off the bottom 2" inches of the stalk, which is the bulb. Finely slice the 2/3 up the stalk. Save the top 1/3 of the stalk for future soups or broth!

2. Place sliced lemongrass and chunk of ginger in food processor. Pulse in the food processor for 1 minute until finely chopped and almost pasty. Add in olive oil, hoisin, Sriracha, salt, and white pepper. Pulse a few more times until well mixed.

3. Place the sauce in a glass container and refridgerator until ready to use.

To Prepare the Bánh Mì:

1. Slice the eggplant at a steep angle into 1/4" slices. Place the slices in a large bowl. Add cornstarch and salt to the bowl and toss eggplant until it is evenly coated.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet until hot.  It should be hot enough so that once the eggplant hits the oil it should instantly start to sizzle. Add in a few slices of eggplant to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan, you want one single layer. Fry for 3 minutes on each side until crispy. Remove eggplant from the oil and allow to drain a paper towel. Repeat until all the eggplant has been fried.

3. Toast up the soft french rolls in the oven for about 4-5 minutes. Smear a little bit of the lemongrass sauce on the roll. Layer on a few slices of fried eggplant, add a little more sauce, then the pickled daikon and carrots, a few slices of jalapeno, and then a few bits of cilantro. Add more Sriracha or hoisin based on taste and enjoy!