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Curl Up to the TV, Watch the Lunar New Year Parade, And Make Your Own Chinese-Style Buns

You don't have to be Chinese to be able to make a quick version of the Asian steamed buns called bao. Learn how here.

To usher in the “Year of the Rabbit’’ many Chinese-American families gathered around big round tables on Feb. 3 with a Lazy Susan for a festive restaurant banquet dinner. Others had big family dinners.

Two weeks of celebration come to a finale this weekend with the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco Saturday night and The Vietnamese Spring Festival and Parade in San Jose on Saturday morning.

With the blustery rain and chilly Arctic air of late, the option of watching the San Francisco parade on KTVU or KTSF from the warmth of your sofa— in your PJs—might be looking better and better. But skip the popcorn or pizza.

Here’s a surefire way to amaze your family and guests: Make your own warm, pillowy, steamed Asian buns – from a tube of Pillsbury biscuit dough.

I kid you not.

And they're a perfect parent-child project that is both easy and tasty.

 When my good friend and Bay Area cookbook author, Andrea Nguyen, wrote her first cookbook, “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen’’ (Ten Speed Press) in 2006, there were many recipes that caught my eye. But none more so than her “Shortcut Plain Steamed Buns,’’ which she learned from her Chinese-American friend, Victor Fong, who, of course, learned it from his mother.

 All you do is crack open a tube of biscuit dough, and then separate the rounds. Pat each one into a flattened circle. Then, fold each circle in half to create half-moon shapes.

Place in a steamer and in no time, they will puff up and resemble the irresistible Chinese baos found at Asian restaurants and Asian bakeries. Sure, you can buy already-made buns in the refrigerator or freezer case at Asian markets. But why, when it’s so much more fun to make your own with this shortcut method?

 With whole poultry a must-have on Chinese New Year’s as a symbol of prosperity, togetherness and fertility, steamed buns are a natural accompaniment. Split the bun, add some sliced poultry, a smear of hoisin sauce, and some chopped green onions or sliced cucumbers for a treat no one is ever going to turn down.

If you have a small child, you can transform this into an easy cooking project by stuffing the half moons with a little bit of chicken or other cooked items and pinching closed the seams. Steam them up and it will seem like magic. You can make several that are perfect finger food to nibble while you watch the lion dancers perform agile feats from the comfort of your couch.

Local markets in Half Moon Bay -- on Main St., at the Strawflower Shopping Center, and -- sell refrigerated biscuit dough tubes and some tasty fillings from the deli. 

 Start a new tradition this Lunar New Year with a little biscuit magic.

 For the recipe for “Shortcut Plain Steamed Buns,’’ go to my FoodGal website.

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