In the many, many years I've been writing this column, I've never used Chinese folded steamed buns. Not, mind you, because I don't like them—that's far from the case. I just didn't think I could. Making them from scratch isn't the hardest project, but it takes time, which is something I don't often have during the week. But then I ran into a bag of frozen buns at the grocery store, and after consulting a few sources, including Kenji, I realized I was set.
I knew I'd be okay after reading this post by Kenji on frozen steam buns. Interestingly, he even advocates microwaving them, though you can also steam them over simmering water. Both work remarkably well. The only trick is to remove them from the freezer beforehand, and let them come to room temperature. Luckily, this doesn't take much time. Now, all I needed was something to fill them with.
Though delicious looking, I knew that chashu pork was out of the question, because it took too long to make. So I went back to two flavor-packed ingredients that I use often around here: bacon and kimchi. That would take care of the salty, meaty, and spicy side of things just fine.
To balance those aggressive ingredients, I whipped up a fresh and crunchy cucumber, carrot, and ginger salad. All the vegetables are cut into matchsticks and tossed in a sauce made with rice vinegar, brown sugar, and a touch of salt. Stashed in the fridge while you prepare everything else, the salad provides a crisp and acidic counterpoint to the kimchi and bacon. It's all housed in a steamy and super soft bun, which is "airy" in a way few foodstuffs can ever hope to be.