Addictive Steamed Cilantro Buns (Uighur Recipe)
Utangza is without a doubt one of the most delicious breads I have ever encountered. Composed of a rich buttery bread, Utangza is then filled with cilantro which provides an edge of sharpness, and a sense of freshness, and steamed to produce a soft, warm, fresh, and perfectly balanced combination of moistness and gloriously done bread. This does come at the cost of being a lengthy recipe to make: it takes a long time to have the dough rise, it is hard to pick the large amount of cilantro leaves required, and rolling out the dough and filling it is a work of skill, and then finally at the end it has to be cooked—probably in multiple batches given the numbers it has. But the proof is in the results: whenever I've made these, they have been swooped upon and consumed eagerly. A small family of 3, and yet 16 buns were eaten in just one sitting! If you have the time, patience, and energy for them, there are few better treats.
This recipe is adapted from Please to the Table, The Russian Cookbook, by Anya von Bremzen, a book which I always heavily recommend.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 1/2 cup room temperature milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups compacted cilantro
- Firstly, combine the lukewarm water, the sugar, and the yeast in a large bowl, and leave to sit for 5 minutes until it turns foamy.
- Add 4 tablespoons of melted butter, the milk, and salt, and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Then add 3 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, again mixing together thoroughly.
- Knead the dough vigorously on a floured surface, using additional flour as required, for 8 minutes, until it is a thoroughly elastic and non-sticky dough.
- Shape the dough into a ball, and place into a buttered bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a linen or cotton kitchen towel and leave in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in size for 1 1/2 hours, such as in sunlight or in the oven with the light on.
- Punch the dough down and knead, and then separate out into 16 smaller balls.
- On a floured surface roll out each ball to be 1/16 inch thick with a floured rolling pin. Brush each with melted butter and sprinkle with cilantro, then fold in the edges so that they meet in the center and shape into a smooth bun with the rolling of your hands.
- Butter them with melted butter once more, allow the buns to rise on a baking sheet for 20 minutes.
- Bring water to a simmer in a metal or bamboo steamer, then fit in as many buns as will fit without crowding, and cook for 15 minutes until they are cooked through. Do multiple batches if need be.