Grilled chilli chicken buns

A chicken burger with a distinctly Asian twist.

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There's something about a mantou, the pillowy Chinese steamed buns, that I find irresistible. I always have a six-pack stashed in the freezer; they only need 15 minutes in the steamer to bring them back to perfect, fluffy life from frozen. I've also made them fresh, from scratch, following Claire's mantou recipe at Sprinkles and Sprouts – a somewhat magical experience given that it's bread produced without going near an oven.

Here I employ them for what has become a favourite Saturday lunch, a kind of chicken burger with a distinctly Asian edge. I get the tenderloins into their marinade on Friday night – a two-minute job – pick up the greenery during my Saturday-morning market visit, and it all comes together easily at lunchtime.

The marinade itself, with its base of the sweet, mild Korean chilli paste gochujang, is a version of my own firecracker chicken marinade, tweaked for the faster, hotter cooking required here.

While I've given the instructions for one way I make them, it's easy to see that possibilities are endless. Cook the chicken however you want: frying pan, skillet, chargrill, barbecue, overhead grill or even the oven. Go for the greenery you like, add more condiments (a lemony garlic aioli often makes an appearance on our table) — customise to suit your tastes and make it your own.

There is, however, a compulsory accompaniment for all possible versions: an icy cold beer or a glass of chilled wine to confirm that your weekend has, indeed, landed.


Grilled chilli chicken buns

 

For 2 (makes four).

for the marinade:
2 tablespoons gochujang paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons chilli oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
1 tablespoon grated ginger

8 chicken breast tenderloins
4 unfilled Chinese buns (mantou)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 small cucumber fresh coriander, to serve
chilli oil, to serve

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag – a ziplock sandwich bag is big enough. Pour over the marinade, seal the bag and squish around until the chicken is well coated. Let it marinate in the fridge for at least six hours or overnight.

Place the buns in a steamer lined with a piece of baking paper and steam over boiling water for 15 minutes (if using frozen buns; fresh buns only need a couple of minutes).

While the buns are steaming, cook the chicken. I use a chargrill pan, which I heat for 5 full minutes over medium-high heat before cooking the chicken. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess as you do, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes a side or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Cut the cucumber into long, thin slices.

When the buns are ready, cut them across almost all the way through – leave a little hinge to make them easier to hold and eat. Line with a few slices of cucumber, top with two pieces of chicken in each and some coriander leaves. Serve with a small dish of chilli oil for dipping or dripping as desired.