Jiu Cai Shui Jian Bao are Taiwanese pan-fried buns filled with leeks and dried shrimp. Pan-frying the buns the same was as potstickers creates the best of both worlds. The bottom forms a crisp base while the steamed top remains chewy. The filling is a unique combination of leeks seasoned with a little dried shrimp and bean thread noodles. For those unsure about the dried shrimp, you won’t taste an overly shrimpy flavor. It just adds an extra touch to the buns in the same way that fish sauce or oyster sauce is used without having to add additional liquid.
While yeast doughs are often used, this particular recipe uses a yeast-free dough. Each piece of dough is rolled into a thin circle, then filled with about 1 tablespoon of the leek mixture. As you roll the dough out, making the edges thinner than the center will help with assembly. The center will be thick enough to hold the filling, while the thinner edges won’t bunch as much when gathered in the center. I pleated the dough as I enclosed it for a uniform shape. Here is a video that shows the pleating process. I served the dumplings with Jiaozi Jiang, a simple dumpling dipping sauce with soy sauce and vinegar.
This recipe makes more filling than you will need. I refrigerated it and made more dough for additional buns the next day.
You can use large leeks or one large bunch of Chinese/garlic chives (Chinese leeks). I used leeks this time since the chives in my garden aren’t quite tall enough yet. Garlic Chives (Gau Choi, Buchu, Nira, Chinese Chives, Chinese Leek) are an Asian variety of chives with a light onion and garlic flavor. I often use it in recipes calling for chives or even occasionally in place of scallions. The leaves are larger and more flat than the Western Chives and have delicate white flowers. I grew a few plants from seeds, but they are also available in Asian food markets and some large grocery stores. They are usually sold in big bundles. Be careful when growing them. They easily spread.
Mung Bean Starch Noodles (also known as glass noodles, cellophane, bean thread) are made from starch (mung bean in this case, but yam or potato are also common) and water. They are a popular ingredient in East Asian cuisines for fillings, stir-fries, soups, salads, and even wraps. They do not have much favor on their own, but pick up the flavors of other ingredients in the dish. You can find them in the international section of larger grocery stores and most Asian food markets. Most brands are gluten-free (check the label to be sure). They are also available on Amazon: single and multi.
Dried shrimp are used in cuisines from around the world for their umami flavor enhancer. They come in a variety of sizes from papery and small to large and softer. Use the tiny ones for this recipe (these will generally still have the head and shell on- that is fine since they are so small). Only use shrimp that are a bright coral color. They should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and be sure to double bag them. The scent is like fish sauce, a lot stronger than the flavor. With time, they will lose their color and flavor. They can be found in the pantry or refrigerated section of Asian food markets.
Jiu Cai Shui Jian Bao (Taiwanese Pan-Fried Leek Buns with Dried Shrimp)
Adapted from The Food of Taiwan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon dried baby shrimp
1/4 cup water, just boiled
4-6 large leeks, white and light green parts only
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 pound dried mung bean starch noodles (bean thread)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon peeled and very thinly julienned fresh ginger
To make the dough: In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Stir in the oil and slowly add water until dough comes together. On a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic. Cover and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes.
To make the filling: In a small bowl, add the dried shrimp and cover with the hot water. Allow to soak until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Drain and finely chop. Clean the leeks well and finely chop.
In a large wok or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium high heat. Once heated, add the chopped shrimp and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the leeks and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and most of the released liquid has been cooked off.
Soak the bean thread noodles in hot water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop. Mix into the leeks and season with sesame oil and white pepper.
Divide the rested dough into 8 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll a piece of dough into a thin circle about 4 inches wide. Place a tablespoon of the prepared filling in the center. Gather the edges of the circle over the top of the filling to enclose, pinching to seal. Flip the bun over on a lightly floured surface so the smooth side is on top. Repeat with remaining buns and filling.
In a large flat skillet with an available lid, heat oil over medium heat, making sure the oil is thinly covering the entire bottom. Once heated, place as many buns as will fit, without touching, seam side down. This may need to be done in 2-3 batches. Cook until the bottoms of the buns are golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Carefully pour in the water and quickly cover with the lid. Cook until the buns are puffed, about 8 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the water has evaporated. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batches.
To make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. Top with ginger.
Serve hot with dipping sauce if desired.