Kitchen Confidential

Missoula's best-kept dining secret doubles as a training ground for aspiring gourmets



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Thomas Siegel

The 60-year-old upstate New York native ran the “Food Zoo,” aka University of Montana Dining Services, for 30 years. A former guest instructor at the Good Food Store, Siegel is also an accomplished ice carver. His continuing education has included a full year at the Culinary Institute of America, several trips to Mexico with Chicago chef Rick Bayless, and the Northwest Earth Institute’s “Menu for the Future” program on sustainability.

We Are the World

“Chef Siegel’s love and passion for ethnic cuisine took us to a complete new level,” says colleague Tom Campbell. “You’re not only learning the cooking techniques, but you’re learning about cultures, geographic areas, cuisines and ingredients.”


Chinese Barbecued Pork Buns (Char Siu Bau)

This four-part dish requires some commitment, but is typical of what goes on in Siegel’s classroom every day, with three different stations chipping in: soups, stocks and sauces make the pork (because it’s a smoking/preservation application), baking makes the dough and steams the buns, and finally, the meat and veg line gets it out for service.

To make the most authentic marinade, Siegel had to special-order the fermented red bean curd; home cooks can use a bottled sauce, while really lazy ones can skip roasting the pork entirely and hit Panda Express.

Part One: Cantonese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu) Ingredients: 1 pound pork tenderloin 1 tablespoon Sirachi sauce 1 cup ketchup 1/2 cup hoisin 4 tablespoons sweet Asian chili sauce 4 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine 2 tablespoons sesame oil 1/2 cup fermented red bean curd, mashed with some marinade 1/8 teaspoon white pepper 1 tablespoon honey 1. Combine all ingredients except the pork. This is the marinade for the pork and sauce for the filling. 2. Place pork loin and the marinade/sauce into a plastic food bag. 3. Refrigerate the pork for at least 8 hours 4. Remove pork from the marinade and roast on a meat screen in a 325-degree oven for 2 hours or until roast reaches 145 degrees internal temperature. Baste occasionally. 5. Allow to cool. Part Two: Pork Bun Filling Ingredients: 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 medium-sized onion, small diced 3 tablespoons peanut oil 12 ounces Chinese barbequed pork, diced pea size 2 char siu marinade/sauce 1. Heat the oil in wok at high heat. Using a steel spatula, coat the sides of the wok about halfway up with hot oil. 2. Add diced onion and garlic and stir-fry until transparent. 3. Add diced barbecued pork and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. 4. Add sauce to the mixture and bring to a simmer. Set aside to cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. (It is easier to handle when cold.)

Part Three: Basic Chinese Bun Dough 1 package dry yeast 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water 6 cups all-purpose flour 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons oil 1/2 cup milk, lukewarm 2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the water. Let stand 5 minutes. 2. In a mixer set up with a dough hook, mix flour, sugar, and salt together. 3. Add oil, the dissolved yeast, milk, and remaining water. Mix well and process until a moist, elastic ball is formed, about 1 minute. 4. Place the dough ball in a large oiled ceramic bowl and cover with a damp towel. 5. Place the covered dough in a warm place for 1 hour or until double in volume. 6. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board. Add baking powder and knead until it becomes smooth and loses most of its stickiness. 7. After resting, the dough is now ready to be shaped as required by the recipe.

Part Four: Putting it all together 1. Soak a bamboo steamer in water for about 10 minutes. Dry and lightly oil each compartment bottom. 2. Divide the basic bun dough recipe in half. 3. Reserve one of the halves under a damp towel. Roll the other half into a cylinder about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. 4. Cut the half into 12 equal portions and cover with damp towel. 5. Flatten one of the pieces between palms. 6. With a small rolling pin, roll the disk out to 4 inches in diameter. Roll the edge thinner than the center. 7. Place a tablespoon or two of filling in the center. 8. Begin pleating the edges of the dough, forming a pocket for the filling. 9. Continue pleating around to complete the pocket while guiding the filling into it with the thumb. 10. Close off the top by twisting the pleats together. 11. Place the buns seam side down, in oiled steamer basket. (If you don’t have enough baskets to hold 24 buns, then place the extras on an oiled cookie sheet until time to steam. Cover with a floured towel.) 12. Continue the rolling and filling procedure until you have made the first 12 buns. Repeat with remaining ingredients. 13. Allow at least 2 inches between buns. Set in a warm place, still covered with a floured towel, and let rise for 45 minutes. 14. Arrange pork buns on the steamer rack, leaving space between each. Cover, set steamer in wok over rapidly boiling hot water, and steam for 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid while steaming. It will stop dough from rising. Yeilds 24 buns

To add a hot and sweet Asian dipping sauce, combine 4 tablespoons Sirachi sauce, 2 cups Mae Ploy sweet Asian chili sauce and 4 teaspoons soy sauce.

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