For the dough:
1 cup warm water, separated in two ½ cup portions
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour, divided
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 block extra firm tofu (drained, pat dry and cut into ½-inch cubes)
2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon dark soy sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
white pepper, to taste
1 ¼ cups water or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons flour
Sugar water to coat the buns:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
Start by making the dough. Add ½ cup warm water, 1 teaspoon active dry yeast and ⅓ cup flour to a large bowl, and mix well. Set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes until the mixture foams up.
Mix the coconut oil into the foamy yeast mixture until you can’t see any solids and then mix in the remaining ½ cup of warm water. Add the last 2⅔ cups flour, vital wheat gluten, sugar, and salt. Mix in until a dough forms. Knead for 10 minutes. You can add some flour to make it easier to work with, but don’t worry if it’s a bit sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1 hour.
While that’s happening, make the filling. Heat your wok or cast iron pan over medium-high heat and add the oil, onions and tofu. Cook for 3-5 minutes until one side of the tofu is just browned. Turn the mixture over with a rubber spatula and brown the other side. Feel free to add more oil if the mixture looks a bit dry.
Add the soy sauces, sugar, salt, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, and white pepper. Stir everything together and then add the water/vegetable stock and flour. Stir gently so as not to break up the tofu chunks.
Let the mixture simmer until the liquid thickens into a sauce. It should thicken further as it cools. Set the mixture aside to cool completely before making the buns. If the mixture looks a little wet, you can put it in the fridge to solidify it for easier assembly.
Once the dough has proofed for an hour, turn it out onto a well-floured surface and knead for another 2-3 minutes to ensure most of the air bubbles are gone. Add just enough flour so you can knead it, but be careful not to dry out the dough. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and cover with a damp towel.
Roll out each dough ball into a disc, where the middle of the disc is a bit thicker than the sides. Put about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center and fold up the edges to close the bun. The dough is fairly elastic, so you can stretch it to cover the filling if needed. Be sure to pinch it closed, and place it seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Keep all the dough balls and the finished buns covered with damp towels until they’re all assembled. Let the buns sit for another 10 minutes while you preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together the sugar and warm water and brush the mixture onto the buns. Place the buns in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Brush the buns with the remaining sugar water when they come out of the oven. Serve warm!
Tip: Store these buns in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat one, heat it up in the microwave for 15-30 seconds.