One thing I miss about living in the midwest, or probably any place in the United States for that matter, is not being able to stop by the convenience store to grab food. The first several weeks upon arriving in this country, I sometimes went to the gas station to grab hot dogs after long nights at the bar. The strange aftertaste that PBR leaves on your tongue becomes a wonderful accompaniment to gas station hot dogs. However, after knowing the stigma that those hot dogs bear, I stopped publicly vocalizing my appreciation for them. I still feel bitter about it.
Anyway, convenience store food in Japan has a similar reputation in terms of health, but are not insulted to the extent of US gas station food in terms of taste. Especially oden (stewed stuff in broth) and onigiri rice balls have become a staple of the Japanese diet. Another product that is widely appreciated are the steamed Chinese buns, which have comforted me on many occasions, especially the abusive practices of Japanese high school sports teams, which are not seasonal (if you join a certain sport team, you have to play that sport all year long til you graduate) hence forces you to practice in the bitter cold during wintertime.
With Japanese convenience stores being similar to Japanese fast food joints and pizza delivery stores, they often combine disparate cuisines, and produce these products that can only be explained as abominations of multiple food cultures. The pizza-man is one of those products, combining pizza filling (sickly sweet tomato sauce with some kind of ground meat) with a steamed bun exterior. Its wonderfully warm and pillowy, and actually tastes much better than you would expect. Well, maybe if you grew up eating it.
Anyway, out of some kind of misplaced nostalgia, I tried to recreate these things.
I tried out a new wrapping method, which ended up with this bun that looks like something from Videodrome.
You should stick to the traditional wrapping method.
I made the steamed buns by mixing 4 cups of all-purpose flour, 300cc of lukewarm water, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. The filling I made by mixing some reduced Marcella Hazan tomato sauce and this sausage, which I broke up into small bits and cooked on a pan. To make the wrapping process easier, I refrigerated the mix for a night, and stuck a sliver of mozzarella before finishing them up. I got the steamer going, turned off the switch and put in the buns for a quick second rise (about 10 min), and then I steamed them on high for about 20 min.
This process made about 12 of these.
These things tasted better than their convenience store counterpart. The sauce tasted like real tomatoes, the sausage tasted great as always, and the bun was nice and chewy.
But one problem was that they tasted too much like real food. Probably adding a bit of sugar to the sauce will mute the tartness, making them closer to the pizza-man in my memory. Also, I’m going to mix in some paprika into the dough, to create that weirdly erotic pink color of convenience store pizza-man.