Part 9: Osaka’s Auntie Builds a Hot Spring
Chapter 40: Let’s Make Pork Buns
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Onionpi
Naturally, it was not something Natalia had ever heard of before.
“That’s right, ya. Not meat buns but Pork Buns. The word in front is actually important, you know?”
“Wait, no, that is not the important point here…”
In Kansai, meat buns are called Pork Buns.
One theory is that, ‘meat’ in general always means ‘beef’. By calling it pork bun, you’re telling your customer that this product only contains pork.
“Kansai is really the home of Pork Buns, ya na. There are several chains in Osaka that specializes in Pork Buns. In fact, some long-established pork bun shops from Kobe is said to have their beginnings in Osaka, you know?”
“Ko-beh? I think you’ve mentioned that place quite a few times.”
Kobe is a trading port with a lot of Chinese expats from the Fujian province living there. There is also a thriving Chinatown called Nankinmachi which saw a lot of tourists from Japan.
As with most tourist towns, there are souvenir shops. One of the most famous type of souvenirs one could get from Kobe is their signature Pork Buns. You can buy Pork Buns from souvenir shops ranging from the miniature types that could fit in the palm of a girl’s hand to the types bigger than the standard convenience store meat buns.
“Are these made from flour as well?”
“Only the skin, ya na. It’s best to use the good flour to achieve a fluffy texture, I managed to get some of that flour the last time we were at the Royal Capital. The next to do is to roll out the dough and stuff the minced pork and onion mixture in.”
“Isn’t that kind of similar to making Gyoza?”
“Ah, but the taste and texture are completely different, nen. Gyozas are more like snacks or side-dishes, but while Pork Buns could be eaten as snacks, it’s also basically a meal on its own, ya na. Ah, but if you make them smaller and put red bean paste in it, it becomes a dessert bun. Maa, it’s just too bad I haven’t found anything that’s similar to red beans here…”
Pork Buns come in a wide variety of flavours. The filling could be influenced by the ratio of meat to onions and leeks. The use of seasonings as well as accompanying fillings like boiled eggs, dried mushroom and turnips gives the Pork Buns individuality and regional flavour. As a rule, however, the savoury ones were eaten as meals, while buns with sweeter fillings would be eaten as snacks.
“Speaking of which, maybe I should make some sweet types too?”
With that, Haruna started to make test batches for her steamed buns.
It was a spur of the moment decision, but Haruna tended to get committed to whatever flight of fancy that struck her.
However, the catch was that Haruna had never made Pork Buns in large batches before. Oh, she knew the theory behind it and had made some for fun. Still, she must have eaten more store-bought buns than her own creations.
The sticking point was the actual bread buns. The buns should be fluffy and chewy, strong enough to contain the meat juice, yet not tough or dry. The other important point was consistency. Whether the Pork Buns could be reproduced faithfully and turn out the same every single time.
“Maa, even if I mess up, I won’t die, so it’s all fine, right?”
First, let’s focus on the bun.
Add some water mixed with sugar water to some flour and knead it until smooth.
“I’d like some baking powder, but I don’t think I can find any in this world, na.”
Once the dough was smooth, it was left to rise . Since there’s no artificial leavening in this world aside from natural yeast, let’s try the standard bread-making method to make the dough.
While the dough was rising, it’s time to make the filling.
Naturally, the main character here would be minced pork. Seasoning would be the standard salt and pepper, and a little soy sauce, Haruna also add finely chopped onions and rehydrated chopped mushrooms for better taste and volume. Oh, and let’s stir in some syrup water to make it a little sweeter.
“Humm, as expected. This is kind of similar to the gyoza.” observed Natalia as she assisted Haruna as sous chef.
“The end product will be very different, just wait.”
The dough was punched down and rolled out. Cut into rounds and further flattened with a rolling pin into a disk. Compared to the Gyoza skin, the Pork Bun skin was thicker. It was thick in the middle and thinner on the outer disc . The logic behind the thinner outer skin and the thicker centre is this: The thick centre forms the base of the pork bun, therefore to prevent meat juice from leaking out during the steaming process, it made sense to have a thicker bottom. As for the thinner outer disk, well, forming the typical pleats on a pork bun would increase the thickness of the bun by at least 1.5 to 2 times. By making the outer skin thinner, the structural integrity could be maintained without compromising the filling to bun ratio. Furthermore, having thinner skin meant more pleats, more pleats make a prettier bun.  The buns were placed on a steamer to be steamed on high heat. These steamers were quite different from the ones she had used back in Japan.
“We actually have something… like this…?
“I found it for sale at one of the foreign markets. Since we’re doing restaurant-related business also, I figured we should stock up on all kinds of cooking gadgets and stuff, right?”
“I see, so this is meant for steaming?”
However, they soon encountered a problem.
“Alright, let’s see if they’re done~ Hot! Ugh, they’re stuck! Hot! Hot! Hot”
“What happened? What the- why do you look like you’re fighting with the Pork Buns?!”
“Natalia, here, catch! I think the flavour is alright, but you’ll have to taste it, yaa!”
Haruna, who had been bouncing a Pork Bun hand to hand suddenly yeeted the steaming hot bun towards Natalia.
Natalia automatically jumped forward to catch the hot bun, “Hot! Hooot! Ouch! Why is it so hot?”
While Natalia was bouncing the bun on her hand, she noticed something wrong with it. It was leaking. “Hey, it’s leaking from the wrong side, that’s the bottom isn’t it- ouch! The gravy is ho~ot!”
“I know, ya… it was sticking to the bottom of the steamer, ya wa. I ripped its skin off, I guess I made the bottom too thin, ya na…”
Meanwhile, Natalia decided to bite the bullet- I mean, the Pork Bun . Natalia bit into the dripping pork bun, trying to avoid sucking too much of the piping hot gravy from the bun.
“Un, the flavour is very good! I’d say it’s one of your best creations yet!”
The worried frown on Haruna’s face brightened. “Isn’t it? It could be eaten as a snack. Eating three or more makes it a proper meal. More importantly, it’s delicious, wa!”
“Pork Buns are the type of food that could be eaten on the go, and travels well. In fact, I’d say that Pork Buns increases the feeling that you’re on a trip , ya. Ah, but they can’t be commercially produced yet, na…”
Is there no other way? Thought Haruna as she pondered upon the slowly leaking bun in Natalia’s hand. The bun was rapidly disappearing even as she considered the problem.
“If the bun tears the moment we get them out, the gravy will leak no matter what…”
To prevent this from happening, people from the modern world would place a piece of baking paper underneath each bun. However, in this world, paper was a luxury commodity. She really did not want to increase the cost price of Pork Buns over something as mundane as paper to prevent soggy bottoms.
“If you want something to place under the buns for cheap… well, the grass you pick from the sidewalks are free…”
“Considering that we have to steam it over high heat, I’d rather not use some random, unknown grass to make it. Furthermore, it’s a hassle to pick grass…”
It probably won’t be a problem if you make it for yourself, but grass picking in a forest or grassland where one might encounter a monster meant hiring a party of Adventurers. Hiring Adventurers meant increasing the overall cost price.
While she was thinking, Haruna picked up a hot Pork Bun and began bouncing it on her fingertips. The bottom of this Pork Bun was also moist with meat juice, and as she pondered over the problem, Haruna picked at the gravy soaked bun and stuffed it into her mouth.
“Un, it’s just as delicious as I imagined, wa.”
“Somehow, it looks kind of nasty when you do that…” Though she was an Adventurer, Natalia has some very strict ideas about propriety and manners.
“But it’s really fun to peel off bits of discounted Pork Buns and eat them starting from the bottom. In fact, I’d say that the fact that they had been soaked with meat juice makes them easier to peel off… oh!”
Pang! Haruna’s hands came together in a powerful slap!
“Natalia! Thank you, thank you! I finally come up with a way to fix this!”
“Wait, what did I say? Did I say anything?”
“It’s all fine as long as you can eat it after you peel it, nen! Hurry, hurry, we must go to the market and shop!”
Please read this at kitchennovel dot com~
“Pork Buns! Hot and steamy Pork Buns for sale~”
A few days later, there was a line of customers in front of [Haru-chan] to buy their latest product.
“Steamed vegetables, delicious and healthy vegetables steamed with soy sauce for sale~”
That’s right, steamed vegetables.
Why steamed vegetables you ask?
Well, this was Haruna’s answer to the sticky bottoms.
By steaming the buns directly on top of leafy vegetables, the Pork Buns were able to keep their bottoms shiny and tear-free. The vegetable by-product would be then be sold as a different product, thereby increasing the sales for [Haru-chan]. In short, it was a solution that strikes two birds with one stone.
This was a very original and cost-saving way of rescuing the bottoms of their buns. However…
“Hey, the vegetables aren’t as good as Pork Buns…”
Naturally, Adventurers would go for Pork Buns than vegetables. At the end of the day, they would have a lot of steamed vegetables left…
“Hmm, I’ll have to think on the problem a bit more… But, for the time being, please eat these as well Natalia. They are low in calories, very nutritious and are good for you. Eat as much as you like~”
Natalia’s face was almost as green as the vegetables.
As the steam from the bath and Pork Buns rises around them, [Haru-chan’s] staff members ended up munching on steamed vegetables for the nth time that week.
“These might be good for health, but I must say it doesn’t taste good…”
Natalia wondered if she might turn into a rabbit beastman if she ate anymore steamed lettuce…
[Gumihou: Did you get the Great British Bake Off reference?]
 I actually know how to make Pork Buns, and Haruna’s recipe is… never mind, I’m giving you guys the correct version. I’m not going to leave my readers with
‘Put the ingredients in a fairly thick dough and roll it up into a sphere’
Anyway, here’s a youtube on how to make Pork Buns from Cooking with Dog!
 Also, once the buns are made, they have to be left to rise, especially since they are made with natural yeast. Haruna just put them on the steamer. Get ready for tough, sticky buns, Haruna. Oh, and you forgot the papers for the bottoms
 I can’t resist the joke
 ‘on a trip’, lol, maybe for Japanese, but it’s kind of a staple food where I am from, rather than a ‘tabi gohan’ or a tourist food.