Although a relatively small part of the Trinidadian population, Chinese Trinidadians have made an indelible mark on the country’s cuisine. Steamed meat buns, called “pow” (an adaptation of the Chinese term bao) are a particular favorite and it is widely agreed that the ones made at Shay Shay Tien, Trinidad’s oldest Chinese restaurant, are still the best. Owner Johnson “Chin” Achong was kind enough to share their recipe.
Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and garlic and fry until dark brown and then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and discard. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the dark brown sugar to the seasoned oil and let it caramelize for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pork and stir well. Brown the pork on all sides.
Add ground anise, hoisin sauce, and black bean sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until nearly dry. Add the red food coloring and mix well, so all the pieces of pork are evenly colored. Cook until totally dry. Remove from the heat and cool completely. (The meat may be made up to one day ahead and stored in refrigerator.)
Place the yeast and
Flour a clean dry work surface. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. With your hands, roll the pieces of dough into long ropes about 3 inches in diameter. Cut each rope into 5 pieces. Knead each piece for 30 seconds, then form into a ball. Set the dough balls on a floured surface.
Flatten one ball of dough into a 3-inch disk. Place a heaping tablespoon of the pork mixture in the middle of the disk. Gently pull the edges of the disk around the filling and pinch together to form a sac. Then gently twist the edges together and push down into the dough ball. The pow should be a smooth, round ball. Place the filled pow, seam side down, on a square of waxed paper in a bamboo or metal steamer insert. Repeat until all the pow are filled. (Do not crowd the pow in the steamer tray; allow 2 inches of space around each pow. If you do not have a bamboo steamer with more than one tray, set some of the pow on waxed paper on a flat surface.) Allow the pow to rise until their diameter has doubled. If your kitchen is warm, this will occur by the time all the pow are stuffed. If not, cover the steamer trays with damp towels and set aside in a warm place.
Set the steamer trays in a wide pot with enough water to rise a quarter of the way up the bottom tray, being careful that the water doesn’t seep into the tray and touch the pow. Bring the water to a simmer and steam the pow for 15 minutes. Serve warm. (Note: Pow can be reheated in a microwave for 45 seconds on high or in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes.)
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