Explore Leiths Diploma Open House – 5th June 2024


Alice Hart’s Tofu Bao Buns

Track down frozen bao buns in the frozen section of an East Asian food store and fill them with this addictive mix of roast tofu, pickled cucumber, spring onions, sesame mayonnaise and crushed cashews. You’ll need to make the undiluted Tahini-Miso Sauce for this, but it takes less than 5 minutes so it shouldn’t be too much of a bind.



Makes 8 buns

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

300g (101/2oz) extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced into 8

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp finely grated ginger root 

½ tsp five-spice powder

½ tsp chilli (hot pepper) flakes

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

½ large cucumber, sliced

2 tbsp mirin

2 tsp unrefined caster (superfine) sugar

2 tbsp rice vinegar

3 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise or mayo
of your choice

2 tbsp Tahini-Miso Sauce

8 frozen bao buns

3 spring onions (scallions), finely shredded

a small handful of coriander (cilantro) sprigs

100g (31/2oz/2/3 cup) salted roasted cashews, crushed

Sriracha sauce 

Pickled carrots, drained, to serve



  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C fan (220°C/425°F/gas 7).
  2. Toss the tofu in a roasting tin with the soy, honey, ginger, five-spice, half the chilli flakes and the sesame oil. Roast for 20 minutes, turning halfway with a spatula, until glazed and browned.
  3. Meanwhile, put the cucumber in a bowl. Put the remaining chilli flakes in a small saucepan with the mirin, sugar, rice vinegar and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer briskly until the liquid is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Pour over the sliced cucumber and set aside for 10 minutes before eating, or cover and chill for up to 5 days.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the tahini-miso sauce.
  5. Set a large pan of water over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Set a lidded steamer, preferably bamboo and in two tiers, on top. Arrange the frozen buns in the steamer baskets, spaced at least 2cm (3/4in) apart, and steam – not too fiercely – for 10–12 minutes, or according to the pack instructions. Once done, they will be puffed, shiny and springy to the touch.
  6. Split the warm buns open, removing their inner papers, and fill
    with a little tahini-miso-mayo, the roast tofu slices, pickled cucumber, shredded spring onions, sprigs of coriander and lots of crushed cashews for texture. You can also offer sriracha chilli sauce and pickled carrots alongside, plus the extra tahini-miso-mayo.

A Splash of Soy: Everyday Food from Asia by Lara Lee published by Bloomsbury (£22 RRP, Hardback). Photography by Louise Hagger. Alexander Breeze prop stylist.