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Sprinter Menu: Carrot Buns

This is what it’s looked like outside Dirt Candy pretty much every day for the past three weeks:

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Why? Because of the new addition to our Sprinter (half-spring, half-winter) menu, Barbecued Rainbow Carrot Buns:

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With most dishes at Dirt Candy I can tell you exactly what the inspiration was, but with the Barbecued Rainbow Carrot Buns I have no idea. One day, buns and carrots were the furthest things from my mind. The next day, I was dead set on making Barbecued Rainbow Carrot Buns. Possessed by a hungry rabbit spirit? Mind controlled by an evil lagomorphic mastermind? It’s a mystery to me.

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These are Cantonese-style steamed buns, filled with barbecued carrots and served with a carrot and hoisin reduction (swished across the plate) and a cucumber, ginger, white carrot and sesame salad. The whole shebang is sprinkled with carrot halvah (basically tahini and carrot juice) and served warm.

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Salad

Cucumber, ginger and white carrot salad

sprinkled with sesame seeds and carrot halvah.

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This was the hardest dish I’ve ever had to get right. It wasn’t the flavor. The second we all tasted it for the first time, the flavor was there. It was the dough. I’m not a baker and while I make a few desserts at Dirt Candy they’re mostly cake and cake is as easy as…well, cake, compared to these carrot buns. This is the single weirdest dough recipe I’ve ever dealt with.

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BunDough

Even raw, you can tell this dough is weird.

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It’s a basic, Chinese steamed bread recipe but we juice red carrots, orange carrots and yellow carrots and replace the water in the dough recipe with carrot juice. But getting that recipe to work was almost impossible. For two weeks we were throwing out giant balls of dough as we tried to get it right. It always needed a pinch more of this, a pinch less of that, and then, once we finally – finally – got the dough recipe right, we had to figure out how to stuff the buns.

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BunRaw

“Stuff us! Stuff us!”

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The carrot filling is not barbecued in the traditional American sense (vinegar, grilled, smoky) because I wanted to give it the flavor of Cantonese barbecue. We cook carrots in a mixture of shoyu, hoisin, sesame oil, water chestnuts and a bunch of other ingredients for almost two hours until the pieces of carrot develop a firm, chewy skin with a soft, almost liquid interior. Then we take the hot filling, mix it with fresh cucumbers and scallions and stuff the buns.
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Learning how to stuff and fold these buns was hard. It took us a long time to master it and, even now, stuffing the buns is one of the most time consuming parts of daily prep. You have to stuff them so the stuffing fills them without spilling out the top as they steam. They need to be full, but not so full they soak through the dough. They need to be regular and nice looking. And you have to do this while they’re raw, predicting how the filling and the dough are going to react when they’re steamed.

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Plating was a challenge.

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Early attempt to plate the buns.

Not quite there, really.

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But finally I got the plating, the buns and the streak of hoisin and carrot reduction (augmented with a little bit of carrot pulp) just right. And the result? A dish fit for a bunny.

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Buns

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(Fun fact: we were taking these photos in front of Dirt Candy and were totally oblivious to a poor guy being busted for selling drugs about three feet away.)

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Arrest

The worst way to start your week.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Spinach $13
spinach & grapefruit mille-feuille,
with smoked pistachios and ricotta

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll $10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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