We Chinese are a very superstitious lot. And while I don’t necessarily know or practice a lot of these superstitions myself, I think it’s a fun exercise trying to follow the preparations the elders make for Chinese New Year. They tie a lot of the food they serve to the superstitions, you see.
I remember when my grandma was still alive, she’d prepare this big old feast for Chinese New Year. Each dish she laid on the table would symbolise something, and mostly it had to do with prosperity and good health.
These days we’re a little less extravagant. Honestly, I can’t remember many of the symbolisms apart from the really common ones– like eating noodles for long life, and also having some sort of red dish (and wearing red too) to draw in good luck and positive energy.
There’s also that bit about having many round fruits in the house and eating glutinous rice balls for Chinese New Year, since round is considered a good shape– like coins! That’s why today, I decided to share a round-shaped recipe in the form of Asian Pork Floss Rolls.
Circles have always been considered an auspicious shape, because not only does it symbolise coins, it also represents a year coming full circle. Having an abundance of round food is kind of like wishing every person in your household to start their year in a good way; and the hope is that no matter how rocky your year goes, the cycle will go back to a positive state. Full circle, you see?
So during Chinese special occasions like the New Year, we tend to have round fruits around the house. (My favourites are the small Mandarin oranges or kiat-kiat!) This time around, I’m plastering these rolls on your screen for good luck haha!
I feel like this recipe is very appropriate, because pork floss is such an Asian thing! I think a lot of Asian people can relate to this recipe, but for those new to the magical Pork Floss, let me introduce you. 😉
Pork floss, called rou song or 肉鬆 in Mandarin, is a flavoured dried meat product that’s flossy and fluffy in texture. It’s heavily used in many Chinese-speaking countries as toppings for congee or filling for breads, like for this recipe! It starts out as cuts of pork slow cooked in sweet soy sauce, until soft enough to shred with a fork. Then the meat gets dry-cooked in the oven, then the wok, until it turns into these rough cottony things.
My personal favourite type of pork floss is one that has the sesame seeds and nori strips in it, from Shin Ton Yon Foods in Ongpin Chinatown. It’s a little pricey because it’s branded, but I think for the quality it’s worth it. You also have to consider how you need about five kilos of pork to make just one kilo of floss! I sometimes eat this pork floss with just a bit of spicy mayo inside two pieces of bread. That’s how much I love it! 😀
I’m using this pork floss heavily for today’s recipe, both as a filling and to cover my bread all over. The base recipe for these Asian Pork Floss Rolls is a normal tangzhong bread base, so the process is just like making any tangzhong bread, which I demonstrated in this recipe tutorial. The tangzhong method is one of my favourite ways to make bread, even though it takes a bit more work than regular yeast bread. The results are worth it though, because your bread is pillowy soft for days!
This particular recipe for Asian Pork Floss Rolls is a little more labour intensive than your normal tangzhong bread, just because you have to roll the bread into shape too. It’s not too difficult though! As you make the dough, I would recommend that you don’t pour in all the water indicated in the recipe so the dough doesn’t end up too wet. It won’t be too difficult to handle the dough then.
Apart from that, I would say there’s nothing too difficult about this recipe. You do need a bit more patience, since aside from the first and second rising time, you also need to wait for the roll to set its shape. You leave it for about 30 minutes wrapped inside a parchment paper, which you bind with rubber bands on both sides. Then voila! You’re ready to slice up your Asian Pork Floss Rolls.
You might’ve noticed how my bread looks a little thicker than similar ones you can buy from Asian bakeries. My pan was shorter by an inch on all sides and it affected the height of the bread once risen. After baking, the bread came out a little denser than I would’ve liked, because it became a bit too thick. So if you can, find yourself a 10-x-14 or even a 10-x-15 pan for this recipe. I only had a 9-x-13 one unfortunately.
Despite the little hitch, it’s still delish! It wouldn’t have made it on the blog otherwise. I’d make this again once I get myself a pan in the right size. 🙂
Makes 6 to 8 rolls
- 20 grams bread flour
- 100 mL water
- 195 grams bread flour
- 90 grams cake flour
- 30 grams granulated sugar
- 12 grams milk powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 grams (about 2 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 60 grams egg, lightly beaten
- 45mL + 20mL water, divided use
- 75 grams tangzhong, from above
- 45 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
- Chopped spring onions
- Sesame seeds
- Pork floss*
- Hot sauce or Sriracha, optional
- 1. Mix the bread flour and water in a saucepan until smooth and no more lumps remain. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture starts to thicken. Keep mixing until you see it become thick enough to form solid lines and paths where you run your whisk. Take pan off the heat and immediately transfer mixture to a clean bowl.
- 2. Cover the bowl with cling wrap, pressing it directly on the surface of the mixture to prevent it from forming a skin. Let cool completely to room temperature before using, or pop in the fridge to cool down faster. (Bring back to room temperature before using.)
- 3. In the bowl of the stand mixer, whisk together both flours, sugar, milk powder, salt, and instant yeast. (Make sure not to pour the yeast directly on the salt!) Make a well in the center and add in the egg, then 75 grams of the prepared tangzhong. Add in the first 45mL of water into the mixing bowl. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients together until a rough and shaggy dough forms.
- 4. Attach the bowl to your stand mixer, and using the dough hook, knead the dough on low while adding in the remaining water a little at a time to prevent the dough from turning too wet.
- 5. Once the water is fully incorporated to the dough, add in the butter. Increase speed to medium and let the dough knead until it becomes smooth and elastic, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Do the windowpane test to see if the dough is ready: Pinch off a piece of dough and stretch it until it forms a thin membrane that doesn’t easily tear apart.
- 6. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with cling wrap or a towel and let proof in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled.
- 7. Once risen, punch down the dough to release some air and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a round and let rest for 15 minutes to relax the gluten, covering with a damp cloth or cling wrap to prevent it from drying out. (Otherwise your dough will not hold its shape when you roll it out.) Meanwhile, line a 10x14-inch baking tray with parchment paper.
- 8. Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape that is slightly smaller than your 10x14-inch tray. Place the dough on the tray and let proof for about 30 to 40 minutes, covered with a damp towel or cling wrap.
- 9. Use a fork to poke holes all over the surface of the dough so that it doesn’t puff up too much during baking. Brush with egg wash, then sprinkle with chopped onions and sesame seeds, if using. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 15 minutes, or until it looks just lightly browned. Do not overbake! (I brushed my dough with milk so my bread came out really light once baked. I also skipped the onions and sesame seeds because I wanted to use just my Pork Floss.)
- 10. Transfer the bread with the parchment paper to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, slice a few slits that are just halfway deep along the lower half of the bread. Be careful not to slice all the way through because these slits are just meant to help make the bread easier to roll. (It also helps the roll hold its shape.)
- 11. For a spicier version, mix a bit of hot sauce or Sriracha into your mayonnaise. Otherwise, just spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the surface and sprinkle with pork floss. Press the pork floss onto the surface just to make sure it adheres. Starting at the longer edge, roll the bread as you would a swiss roll or bread roll. Wrap the roll with parchment paper and secure with tape or rubber bands that aren’t too tight. Leave the roll for at least 30 minutes to adapt this rolled shape.
- 12. Now spread some more pork floss onto a baking tray. Take your rolled bread and spread with mayonnaise all over the surface. Press onto the pork floss until they adhere and cover the entire surface of the roll. If the roll comes loose for whatever reason, wrap in the parchment again and hold with rubber bands for another 15 minutes, or until it holds its shape.
- 13. Once ready to serve, trim away the edges and cut the bread into inch-thick portions. (Or maybe a bit thicker. If you slice too thin it might fall apart!) You can spread on more mayonnaise and pork floss on the cut sides if you want.
- *My favourite pork floss is one with nori strips in it, and I buy it from Shin Ton Yon in Ongpin Chinatown.