Aubergine lends itself brilliantly here as it is such a meaty vegetable that works perfectly with Asian flavours. Sandwiched between fluffy homemade bao buns and topped with pickled smashed cucumber, salty peanuts, and lots of coriander – these are so good, and you really won’t miss the meat.
- Start by making your bao buns – in a large bowl, mix together the flour, caster sugar and Maldon Salt. In a small bowl or jug mix together 1 tbsp of warm water with the yeast and a pinch of sugar and then make a well in the flour and add the yeast mixture along with the milk, oil, rice vinegar and water. Mix to make a dough.
- In a kitchen aid, knead the dough with the dough hook for 5 minutes until smooth and springy. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm, leaving it to prove until doubled in size.
- Place the dough back into the kitchen aid and add the baking powder, kneading again for 5 minutes. Make into 18 balls of dough, rolling them in your hands and then placing onto a lightly oiled tray.
- Roll them out with a rolling pin into an oval shape (makes roughly 18) and then use some oil and a chopstick to fold them into little envelopes. Place each one onto some baking parchment and leave to prove again until they double in size.
- Once risen. Heat a steamer with some water at the bottom. Steam the buns on their sheets of parchment until puffed up and fluffy.
- Before you steam the buns, make the aubergine filling. Mix together the miso, rice vinegar, agave and mirin in a small bowl. Cut the aubergine into chunks and toss well in the miso glaze. Place into the preheated oven and roast until soft, charred and sticky.
- To make the pickled cucumber, cut the cucumber in half and then skin side up, bash the cucumber with the back of your knife so it breaks up on the board. Then roughly chop it into small pieces. Place in a bowl along with the garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, chilli oil, sugar, and sesame oil. Toss well so it is all coated and leave to infuse.
- Serve the bao buns filled with the sticky aubergine, some of the smashed cucumbers, sliced radishes, chopped salted and roasted peanuts, sesame seed shichimi and coriander.