Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 107! Marshall Islands, Siu Pao (Pork Buns) - Up Next, Mauritania

Tonight's Marshallese cooking adventure is dedicated to Wendy McKenzie and her students at Oxbow High School in Vermont. Several months ago, Wendy contacted me via my favorite niece, Evie (okay, she's my only niece, but I love her more than chocolate or rum or sleeping late shoes - and that's a lot), to ask if she could use this blog in her Foods Around the World class. Not only was I flattered, but excited that a whole group of kids would be learning about the world around them through something as meaningful and universally important as food. I'm pretty sure they'll remember much more about each country they visit than I ever did in my snooze-fest geography classes back in the dark ages. So, a big shout to everyone in the beautiful Green Mountain State - hope you enjoy the warmth and flavors of the Marshall Islands!

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a Micronesian nation of 20 atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the international date line and just north of the equator. Once occupied by Germans, Spanish, British, Japanese and most recently Americans, the Marshall Islands gained independence from the U.S. in 1979.

Little is known about the Micronesians who first settled the islands traveling by canoe with only traditional stick charts to navigate the complex tides. Using the midribs of coconut fronds which were then tied together to represent prevailing ocean surface wave crests, as well as chart directions, early settlers criss crossed the islands and eventually found home.

Cuisine in the Marshall Islands is influenced by Chinese, Korean, Indian and Western traditions. Fish, lobster and squid are eaten most often, along with a wide range of tropical fruits such as passion fruit, paw paw, pineapples, mango and bananas. Coconut, white sugar and vanilla are also plentiful.  Interestingly, due to over population on the islands, much of the country's food is now imported, leading a high obesity rate as processed food has gained favor over more expensive fresh food. Numerous nutrition programs are currently being implemented to help combat this alarming trend.

Siu Pao -Pork Buns - (Recipe adapted from Mrs. Wencheslao of Yap and Toto, Guam)


5 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
6 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 packets dry yeast, dissolved in 1 cup warm water


1/2 -1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and cubed
2 lbs. pork, cubed small (you can use beef, chicken or shrimp if you prefer)
3 tsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. black pepper
salt or extra soy sauce to taste
3 hard-boiled eggs, cut into eighths
A little flour to thicken sauce if needed

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all the ingredients and knead for 10 minutes until smooth. Gather into a ball, coat with a little oil and let rise in a bowl covered with a clean towel for an hour.

Slice the eggs. Saute the garlic, onion and carrot. Add pork, stir, and simmer covered for 15 minutes. (Don't let the pork get dried out - add a little water if needed). Add soy sauce, sugar, and pepper. Thicken sauce with a little sprinkling of flour at the end.

After the dough has risen, break off  4 pieces at a time, about the size of a golf ball. Roll each piece into a ball, then pat it gently using the palm of your hand to form a circle. On a lightly floured board, roll each piece out with a rolling pin to about 3-4-inch pancakes. Put filling and a piece of egg in the center of the pancake. Stretch the edges around the filling and seal them together so they look like little purses. Place on a square of waxed paper, seam side down. Spray a steamer with a little cooking spray to avoid sticking. Steam in a steamer (a bamboo steamer works well) for 14-20 minutes.

* to save time, you can use frozen dough instead. You can also use frozen carrots or peas in place of fresh carrots.

Final Assessment: These were awesome. The dough was sweet, and the filling had a nice sweet/savory flavor to it that made these rolls tasty as could be. Dipped in a little light soy sauce, they were dinner and disappeared as fast as I could steam them. This is the type of thing that you get better at as you go along, since technique is important...but have fun, and don't worry if they don't look perfect the fist batch out!


Anonymous said...

I've just recently discovered steamed buns, and couldn't believe my luck when I saw a recipe here! It looks fantastic.

sadie said...

I hope you make them!! My family ate them as fast as I could steam them. Enjoy!!