Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bahn Bao: Hot Steamed Buns

Bahn Bao fresh from the steamer
I love knishes, empanadas, ravioli, and bahn bao (Vietnamese bao, A.K.A. steamed buns).  Essentially if you wrap something tasty in dough and cook it, I'm a happy camper.

Until spending Christmas with my in-laws, the only one of that list I didn't know how to make was bahn bao, Vietnamese steamed buns.

The recipe is surprisingly easy - it took us less than an hour to make 12 giant fluffy buns filled with tasty things.

I can't wait to experiment with the fillings!


1 bag of steamed bun flour
1 cup of water or milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 cup green peas
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 chinese sausages, each cut into 12 round slices (24 slices total)
3 boiled eggs, each cut into 4 pieces (12 pieces total)
12 small squares of clean paper
Rolling pin
Mix and knead dough and set aside for 15-30 minutes
While dough is resting, combine pork with green onions, salt, and pepper, then divide into 12 equal portions.
Knead dough for another 5 minutes and divide into 12 equal portions on a floured counter.
With a rolling pin, or by hand, press a dough portion into a 5"-6" diameter circle, place pork, an egg slice, two sausage slices, and several peas into the center.
Pinch the sides up to make a pouch, place on a piece of paper in a steamer tray.
Bahn bao with filling, ready for pinching
Repeat for all 12 dough balls, then steam the buns for 20 minutes or until pork is fully cooked.

Bahn Bao cooked (left) and raw (right)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

3D Printer Cage Match

Sometimes I have dreams. Crazy dreams of my friends and me throwing a huge 3D printing dance party at a club packed with partygoers.

And sometimes those dreams come true.

Thanks to:
  • Chris and Mary for helping me organize things
  • Jim and Patrick for being amazing announcers
  • Colin, Josh, and Brittany for judging
  • Adam for dropping beats all night long
  • Sara for the super cool sci-fi lighting
  • Beauty Bar for hosting this ridiculous party
  • SeeMeCNC, Inventables, Awesome Foundation, and SPEstes for sponsoring a hugely fun party
  • Pumping Station: One for letting me borrow a car load of tables and power strips without asking questions
  • Everyone who showed up - you are the people who actually made this a party, I certainly hope you had a good time

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Everything is Broken

Broken plate, ca. 1890
My favorite thing to do is to fix something that has broken.  I love saving something from the discard pile and breathing new life into it. Even better is watching it trundle off to make someone else's life better.

This has been on my mind because everything seems to be breaking lately.  The water main, my laptop, the fence, and now even the water heater needs attention.

When I was a kid, my little brother and sister would receive cheap electric toys that broke almost immediately. So I started collecting wire, batteries, and motors from older broken toys and using them to fix the latest batch of broken toys.

Over at FreeGeek Chicago, I take apart old computers, replace worn parts, and install new operating systems, and then I get to see those repaired old machines help out the neighborhood, close the digital divide, and reduce electronic waste.

When I lived in Madison, WI, I stumbled onto how easy it is to find and repair broken propane and charcoal grills and then sell them on Craigslist. I did that in my spare time one summer and those grills paid for my February Mexican vacation that year.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The View From a Trench

the author in his trench
I am completely underground
It's 21F and snowing. I have a runny nose, but aside from that, I'm not feeling the cold at all - I've stripped off my heavy jacket and am considering removing my fleece, I've only got a white tee shirt on underneath.

I'm standing in my trench. It's about 15 feet long and it's deep enough that I'm standing below ground level.

I say it's my trench because well, I've paid for it, in money, stress, and sweat. Earlier this fall, the city decided to replace the 1890s-era (lead) water main and sewage pipes in my neighbourhood. The problem is that the pipe that connects my house to the water main is also lead, and is also from the 1890s. Old lead pipes get brittle, and if not treated gently (by city workers laying new water mains, for example), they break, like mine has. And need to be replaced, just like mine.  This is going to be extremely expensive, but I don't want to pay my very expensive (but very good) plumbers to dig a hole in the ground.

Yesterday, I hired two day laborers to dig the trench where my plumber told me the pipe should be.

Hiring someone to dig for you is an interesting experience.  You're literally paying for someone's labor in a direct way.  I've never done that before.  And they did a decent job, but there were a few wrinkles. First: the pipe wasn't where we all thought it would be, wasting a lot of digging in the wrong spot. Second: the pipe wasn't straight - it wandered around, making it difficult to find and follow. Finally and worst of all: last night, the trench walls collapsed inward, expanding the hole by almost 50%.  That's a lot of dirt sitting inside my nice new trench this morning.

It's a cloudy, windy, cold Sunday morning and there's snow in the forecast, so I'm unable able to find anyone interested in digging for me, and this trench needs to be ready for the plumber on Monday.

So here I am.  Digging out a trench.