As is: **
I loved stuffed steamed buns. I could live on them. I also love char siu, although it is a flavor that I associate with pork. Char siu pork buns are pretty much the most delicious things on earth. I had such high hopes for this version with shrimp.
The first problem is that I couldn’t really taste the shrimp, and the char siu sauce was a little one note and overpowering. The whole dish tasted the same, and I missed the richness of the pork. I was hoping for a more shrimpy taste, but that didn’t come through. The oyster mushrooms are absolutely beautiful, but they also disappear into the general taste. There is a lot of filling, and not enough buns, and the dish comes with Sriracha and with hoisin, but only about a tablespoon of each, not enough for all the buns. The whole thing is a disappointment.
As I said above, the mushrooms are exceptional. Those need chopping into bite sized pieces, then also water chestnuts and green onions. The shrimp are lightly cooked, then the veggies are all cooked together, then at the end the char siu sauce is added, and the whole dish become redolent of nothing but the sauce, which is this case has a lot of star anise in it. I could tell then and there that the whole thing, fine ingredients that they were, were more or less ruined. It would taste like the sauce, and not much more.
As for the buns, they need to be treated carefully, since they are very dry, and will rehydrate in the microwave, then quickly dry out again. I used a plate covered with a wet paper towel, and put the buns on that, then covered with another wet paper towel. Microwave for 45 seconds, then leave covered with the hot paper towel, and eat them one by one.
Instead of making this dish as a large quantity of one flavor, consider the following:
Make pickles out of the carrot and some of the cabbage. Set aside the shrimp, and use ground pork, the onions and the mushrooms for the char siu. Use half the ingredients, and use the other half with some cold cooked rice to make some fried rice (with shrimp). In order to do this, you need: some vinegar, some sugar, some precooked white rice, an egg, and some cooked roast pork or fresh ground pork, about 1/2 pound.
Start with the pork char siu. If using roast pork, slice into small pieces. If using fresh ground pork, heat a sauce pan with 1/2 tablespoon peanut or other oil. When hot, add the pork, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it up. Brown the meat, then add the sliced mushrooms and green onion, and cook until the mushroom is softened. Add the char siu sauce, and continue to cook until the mixture is thick, like a filling for a dumpling.
Meanwhile, make a mixture of 3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, a pinch of salt, and the juice of a lime. Add half of the mixture to the carrots in a bowl, and then the other half to half of the cabbage in another bowl. Let these stand to pickle.
Next, use a small pan to scramble the egg. In another skillet, cook the shrimp according to the directions that came with the box and set aside.
In the same pan you used to cook the shrimp, add a little more oil, then add the other half of the cabbage, and stir-fry until soft, then add the cold rice, and continue to cook to heat the rice. Then add in the shrimp and the scrambled egg.
At this stage, you can add other things that you may have on hand, including more chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, a tablespoon or two of soy sauce, the hoisin sauce that came with the kit, some chopped cilantro, and some salt and white pepper.
To serve, you have the warm buns, the filling, and the pickles. The shrimp fried rice is on the side.