This is becoming a tradition. Every year I seem inclined to mess with the perfection that is the East Coast lobster roll. What would possess me to do such a thing? Well, for one thing, I’ve been eating the classic version my whole life and have the attention span of a gnat, so I have to keep things interesting. And I figure if anyone has permission futz around with a lobster roll, it’s an East Coaster such as myself. But to tell the truth, as far as I’m concerned anyone can play with the concept – I don’t believe in culinary stagnation or dish ownership. Last year, I turned the beloved rolls into fresh rolls. The year before that I deconstructed the poor thing and created a salad. And this year I’m serving up these Lobster Roll Bao with Tamarind Mayo.
Now, these Lobster Roll Bao are fairly straightforward. Yes, they do require a yeasted dough and a little patience. But once you get the dough out of the way, the filling is an absolute breeze. In fact, if you’re gluten-intolerant or not interested in kneading of any kind, you could simply make the filling and serve it over a bed of greens. Add a glass of white wine and a patio and you’ve got yourself a spot of decadence there.
But if you’re keen to try your hand at bao, I do recommend it. Not only are they a fun little kitchen project, bao are incredibly versatile. So once you master bao, a whole world of delicious possibilities are open to you. As I mention in the video below, these bao are lotus leaf bao, which the restaurant chain Momofuku popularized in North America. But before they graced the menu at Momofuku, lotus leaf bao were already enjoying widespread popularity in Taiwan. In Taiwan, lotus leaf bao are filled with braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, cucumber, cilantro, and shaved peanuts. I, myself, have made bao before and filled them with fried chicken. I’ve even seen Big Mac versions here in Toronto, so yeah, the sky really is the limit.
But back to these Lobster Roll Bao. The filling is a simple affair of shallots and ginger sauteed with chunks of tender lobster meat. I used tail meat but knuckle and claw meat would work as well. The ginger-kissed lobster meat is tossed in mayo spiked with tamarind paste and fish sauce and finished with a dollop of honey. Once the lobster is dressed and packed into the bao, all that remains is to top them. You can get as creative as you like here. The toppings you see here are cucumber slices, radish, and sage blossoms. Oh! And the lobster is on a bed of curly endive for a little hit of bitterness.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Lobster Roll Bao. Peep the video below if you would like to watch them come together. And if you enjoy the video, give it a like and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. I post a new video every week.
Lobster Roll Bao with Tamarind Mayo
- large bamboo steamer
- large wok
- stand mixer with hook attachment
Lotus Leaf Bao
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup water luke warm
- 2 ½ tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
Tamarind Mayo Lobster Salad
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 shallots halved and sliced
- 1 (1-inch) knob ginger minced
- 3 scallions sliced, separate the whites from the greens
- 4 lobster tails cut into 1-inch chunks
- ⅓ cup mayo
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ head curly endive torn into bite-sized pieces
- 2-3 radishes sliced thin on a mandolin
- ¼ cucumber sliced thin on a mandolin
- fresh sage blossoms optional
- Lemon wedges for serving
- sambal oelek for serving
For the Bao
- Pour the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the baking powder, instant yeast, and granulated sugar. Click the bowl into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk of medium until all the ingredients are thoroughly integrated.
- Remove the whisk and replace it with a dough hook. Slowly stream in 1 cup of Luke warm water and 2 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Leave the mixer to work the dough for 7-9 minutes. The dough should look uniform and silky to the touch.Things will look dire. It will look like there is not enough liquid to form a cohesive dough, but there is. Bao dough is considerably dense, so don’t expect to be pillowy and soft like bread dough.
- Finish the dough off by kneading it by hand for 5 minutes. Once the dough is where you want it, grease a bowl with neutral oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set aside to rise for about an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it for 5 minutes. We want to work all the air bubbles out of the dough. This step is crucial. If you skimp on the kneading your bao will not have the smooth unblemished surface we’re looking for.
- When the dough is thoroughly kneaded, roll it out to a 1/4 of an inch thickness. Using a cup of a 3” biscuit cutter, cut 12-13 circles out of the dough. Place each circle on a 4×4” piece of parchment paper and brush one half of each circle with sesame oil, before folding the naked half over top. Really press on the bun to flatten it out. Transfer the finished bao to a baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.
- Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large wok. Place 3-4 buns in a bamboo steamer and place in the center of the boiling water. Reduce the heat to medium and steam the buns over rapidly simmering water for 7 minutes. Repeat until all the bao are steamed.
For the Tamarind Mayo Lobster
- In a large skillet pour the olive oil and add the butter. Place over medium heat. Once the butter is frothy, add the shallots and a pinch of salt. Sauté until translucent. Add the ginger and the white portion of the scallions. Sauté until softened.
- Add the lobster and briefly sautè until the flesh is firm. Be brief with this, it’s easy to overcook lobster. Once the lobster is cooked, take the skillet off of the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl combine the mayo, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and honey. Tip the contents of the skillet into the bowl and add the green portion of the scallions. Stir to combine.
- Fill your buns with the curly endive, followed by the lobster, and top with radish and cucumber. I added sage blossoms for a little extra flare but they are optional. Transfer the buns to a platter and serve with sambaal oelek and lemon wedges.