For the second dish in my Korean Food Project I decided to make jjin bbang — steamed buns that can be sweet or savory, depending on their contents. My favorite type of jjin bbang has sweet red bean filling (paht). I consumed a lot of these sweet red bean buns in the winter when I lived in Seoul. (You know how you can go into an American 7-11 and buy a warm hot dog from a rotating roller machine? Well, in Korea you can go into a 7-11 and buy a warm jjin bbang from a countertop heater, at least during the colder months.)
The quick way to make jjin bbang is to buy the red bean filling ready-made, in a can. Then you just need to make the dough, stuff the buns and steam them. But I wanted a bit of a challenge, so I decided to make the red bean filling myself using this recipe from the Korean food blog Aeri’s Kitchen. For the rest of the dish I followed the below recipe, which came from a now out-of-print cookbook from the Korean Institute of Minnesota. The below recipe also includes directions for cooking pork-filled jjin bbang — perfect if you like savory steamed buns.
Jjin Bbang (Steamed Buns) — 찐빵
Makes 12 large buns
- 5 c. flour*
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. dry yeast
- 2 Tbsp. shortening (Crisco)
- 1¼ c. lukewarm water
- ¼ lb. ground pork
- 2 Chinese cabbage leaves, chopped finely
- 1 slice ginger root, minced
- ½ green onion, chopped
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
Bean paste filling:
- ¾ c. sweetened red bean paste**
- ½ tsp. salt
*I substituted gluten-free flour and, to be honest, my jjin bbang both looked and tasted rather strange. (The dough was so sticky that I had difficulty shaping and stuffing it. The finished buns were yellowish instead of white and were quite dense.) I’m sure there’s a way to make this recipe gluten-free but it requires more than just a quick 1:1 substitution.
**Red bean paste can be purchased (in cans) in Asian grocery stores or on Amazon.com for $8. If you want to make sweetened red bean paste from scratch, try this recipe. It worked well for me. (See photos above.)
- Prepare dough by dissolving yeast in warm water.
- Add sugar, shortening and salt. Mix well.
- Combine liquid and sifted flour, stirring to form workable dough. Knead dough until smooth and elastic.
- Place dough in bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double in size. Punch down.
- Roll dough into a log and cut into 12 2-inch pieces. Allow to rest 10 minutes.
- Roll each piece of dough into a 5-inch circle. Place a spoonful of meat filling in center and gather edges, closing bun with a twist. Make six meat-filled buns.
- Follow same directions for six remaining pieces of dough, filling them with bean filling.
- Arrange buns in steamer with gathered side down.*** (Use parchment or waxed paper as lining to prevent dumplings from sticking to the steamer. But don’t completely cover the bottom of the steamer as that will hinder the steaming process.)
- Steam meat-filled buns for 20 minutes, bean-filled buns for 15 minutes.****
***I used a circular, 10-inch, bamboo steamer, like this one.
****Though the recipe said 20 minutes would be sufficient to steam the meat-filled buns I’d advise giving it a bit more time since the filling is made of pork. Better to be safe than food-poisioned.