meatless monday: dirt candy’s steamed barbecue carrot buns

Last Thursday, friends Ian and Caroline (who just made an awesome documentary about the Catskills resort that inspired Dirty Dancing) took us to Dirt Candy, the East Village vegetarian spot that I’ve been dying to try. Getting a rez is tough; it’s a crazy popular restaurant, and it’s teeny tiny. So this was a big hurrah, not to be missed.

Dirt Candy: intimate, modern, veg.

Luckily, Ian and Caroline are buddies with head chef  and owner Amanda Cohen, whose impressive veggie credentials include tenure at Angelica Kitchen, Pure Food & Wine, Other Foods, Teany, and Heirloom.

We started with the jalapeno hush puppies, served piping hot with warm maple butter (awesomeness). And then we sampled basically everything on the menu: smoky yellow pepper soup, portobello mousse over truffled toast with pear and fennel compote, chard gnocchi with drunken fig jam, buttermilk battered cauliflower with arugula over waffles, popcorn pudding and eggplant tiramisu with rosemary cotton candy for dessert. Everything here was top-notch. The rock star of the evening was the steamed barbecue carrot buns, served with a side of cucumber and sesame ginger salad. As a lover of the steamed buns from Momofuku (NOT vegetarian, my dirty little secret) and as a neighbor of Chinatown’s many steamed bun offerings, I was delighted by the bright orange buns, the smoky-sweet of the barbecue sauce, the spicy-crunchy pairing with the salad…like I said, ROCK STAR.

steamed carrot buns: like little fists of veggie power, with a swipe of hoisin sauce and crunchy cucumber salad. a rainbow of perfection. a thing of beauty.

I found Amanda’s recipe recreated at The Daily Meal. It’s quite an undertaking: making dough, dicing veggies, buying many ingredients that I don’t have, cutting little parchment squares for each bun, rolling each bun out lovingly (Amanda, I so respect you!). To be honest, I’m probably not going to attempt these. Sorry! But YOU should! And then tell me how they turn out! Dirt Candy is only 2 minutes away and I can enjoy with a tall, chilled glass of Re Manfredi Bianco 2009, a “sweet white with a smoky mineral kick in your mouth,” without the mess in my kitchen. Still. Here it is.

Chef Cohen’s Steamed Barbecue Carrot Buns
For the buns:
10 oz. cake flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. instant yeast
2 tbsp. and ½ tsp. white sugar
¾ c. (160 milliliters) carrot juice
3 ¼ tsp. olive oil

For baking the carrot filling:
4 c. carrots, medium diced
2 c. fresh carrot juice
¼ c. vegetarian oyster sauce
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce, preferably Shoyu
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar

For finishing the filling:
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp. garlic, chopped
1 c. hot-house cucumbers, deseeded and diced
¼ c. water chestnuts, chopped
½ c. scallions, sliced
¼ c. toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp. cornstarch

For the buns: Mix all the dry ingredients together in a Cuisinart using a dough blade. Slowly pour in the carrot juice. Let dough come together until it forms a ball and there are a few strands of gluten forming. Slowly add the olive oil. Dough will come together and then break down (this is okay). You want to end up with a hot sticky mess; the heat is what is activating the yeast. Oil a bowl, and form the dough into a ball. Place the dough ball into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest in a warm spot for at least 1 hr (the dough should double in size and you should be able to see little air holes after 1 hour).

For baking the filling: Heat oven to 400F. Mix everything together in a baking dish and cook for at least 1 hr., stirring every 15 min. Carrots should get a little crispy and slightly firm but still very moist. Remove from oven.

For finishing the filling: In a pan over medium heat, warm the oils with the ginger and garlic. Then add the carrot filling. Once the mixture is bubbling, add the rest of ingredients except for the cornstarch. Once the liquid starts to reduce, add the cornstarch. Remove from the heat once there is very little liquid left in the pan and allow to cool.While the carrots are cooling, punch the dough down and divide into smaller balls, about 7 oz. each. You should end up with around 22-24 balls. Working with one small ball at a time, roll each one out into a small disc, about 2 inches in diameter. Place a little less than 1 tbsp. of filling into the center of each circle. Pinch the circle into 4 pleats and fold over to seal. Repeat with the rest of the balls.Cut little squares of parchment paper to fit under each bun. Place buns on paper and then on a tray. Cover again with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 min.Working in batches, steam the buns for about 15 min. Can be served immediately or steamed again when ready to serve. Serve with Carrot Hoisin Sauce and White Carrot Salad.

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3 responses to “meatless monday: dirt candy’s steamed barbecue carrot buns

  1. These carrot buns are amazing! Thanks for the shout-out Sara. Best, Ian

  2. Pingback: meatlesss monday: peanut hummus | here | there | everywhere.

  3. Thank you. I am on the West Coast but having seen these buns featured on Easy Chinese I wanted very much to make them.

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