December 29 2021 – Holly Ong
One of the fun things about being in Singapore is the ease in driving up one of the two causeway bridges and crossing into Malaysia. As a kid, I would go visit my grandma during CNY and school vacations. As an adult, it was the closest diving site we could get to without flying. In all the drives up the peninsula, I loved the pit stops at local mamak shops we took for snacks. One of our favorites was soft fluffy buns filled with fried anchovies and Boomz sambal-caramelized onions and shallots — these richly flavorful buns are totally addictive!
Enjoy with a crisp, cold beer or a cup of Teh Si.
Makes 9 buns
[Note: Use the best dried anchovies you can find — look for them at markets that cater to Southeast Asian or Korean clientele. For a vegan version, use OMG! Sambal® instead of Boomz Sambal and either sub soy curls for the anchovies or omit entirely.]
⅔ cup warm (100-110o) milk
4 tbsp sugar
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
2 large eggs, room-temperature
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
4 tbsp neutral cooking oil
75 g dried anchovies (see note), rinsed and patted dry
½ cup Sibeiho Boomz Sambal
1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- Whisk the warm milk, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, and then add the eggs, flour, and salt. Mix with the dough hook attachment on medium speed until combined, then add the butter one pat at a time until incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium-high and knead for 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft and sticky!
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot (like the oven with the light on) for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising, make your filling. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok on medium heat, and stir-fry the anchovies in half the oil until crisp (about 2 minutes), then remove from oil. Add the rest of the oil and stir-fry the sambal until fragrant, around 30 seconds. Add the sliced onions and shallots and stir-fry for a minute and then add ½ cup of water. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, checking and stirring frequently, chopping up the onions with your wok spatula until the onion mixture is soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and the fried anchovies and cook until the mixture is sticky and jammy. Turn off the burner and allow the filling to cool while the dough finishes rising.
- Make the topping by stirring the sambal and honey together (this is easier if you warm them up a bit).
- Prepare a baking dish (a 9-inch square pan or 10 ½-inch cast iron skillet) by spritzing with spray oil and lining with parchment. Spoon half the sambal-honey mix into the dish, spreading evenly.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, sprinkle flour on top, and roll into a rectangle roughly 12 inches wide by 16 inches long (it doesn’t have to be exact). Spread the bun filling evenly across the dough to cover it completely, then roll the dough toward you so you end up with a 16-inch log.
- Cut your fragrant dough baby into thirds, then cut each of those thirds into thirds for 9 buns. Nestle the buns into the baking dish leaving a little space between each (if you’re using the skillet, 7 buns will fit in a circle and 2 go in the center). Drape the buns loosely in plastic wrap and put them in a warm, draft-free spot for a second rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until they’re nice and puffy.
- While the buns finish rising, preheat your oven to 350o. Spritz a little more cooking oil over the top of the buns and bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through the baking time to ensure they brown evenly. If they start browning too fast, loosely drape a piece of foil on top! The buns are ready when they’re evenly browned and the interior temperature reaches 185o.
- Let the buns cool for 5 minutes and then brush the rest of the sambal-honey glaze over the top. Sprinkle the fried shallots and sea salt on top, and allow the buns to finish cooling in the baking dish. Store leftovers in an airtight container and they’ll keep for up to three days, or individually wrap the buns in plastic wrap, stash in a freezer bag, and store in the freezer for up to a month.
Recipe Credit: Heather Anderson + Sibeiho