Serious Eats: Recipes
Cook the Book: Chinese Roast Chicken Buns with Scallions and Spicy Hoisin Sauce
David Chang of New York's Momofuku has proved that pretty much anything is delicious when served inside a steamed bun with sliced cucumbers, hoisin, and Sriracha. At Momofuku, the buns are stuffed with pork belly (the classic), shrimp, or shiitake mushrooms. These Chinese Roast Chicken Buns with Scallions and Spicy Hoisin Sauce from Mindy Fox's A Bird in the Oven and Then Some are obviously inspired by the Momofuku buns, but are filled with slices of smokey Tea-Brined Roast Chicken.
This is really two recipes in one. The process begins with making a tea brine for the chicken: a mix of darkly smokey Lapsang Souchong, orange juice and zest, anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns (i.e. the long hand version of Chinese five spice) makes up the chicken brine. Allowed to sit for 24 hours, the flavors of the brine really have a chance to flavor the chicken, even going so far as to tint the skin a rich, dark brown.
Once the chicken has been brined, it's drained and left to drain and dry. This extra step makes for a super crisp, crackly chicken skin, but can be skipped if time does not permit.
Fox gives wonderfully thorough instructions for how to make your own fluffy steamed buns, but again, if you don't feel like messing with a big, yeasted baking project you can certainly buy buns at your local Asian market. I opted to make my own: a very enjoyable process with spot-on results.
After all of that brining, roasting, kneading, resting, and steaming, putting the buns together is a breeze—just as simple as making a sandwich. Slices of tea-brined chicken are layered in the pillowy buns with a spicy-savory blend of hoisin and Sriracha, and a few slices of crisp cucumbers.
How did they measure up to the Momofuku version? Well, homemade bias aside, I have to say the tea-brined chicken brought in another element to an already wow-delicious preparation. The crisp skin and spices reminded me of Peking duck, fatty in a poultry way instead of a porky way. And the homemade buns? They weren't quite as pristine and uniform as the ones at Momo, but they were still pretty damn good.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of A Bird in the Oven and Then Some to give away this week.