Not a weeknight meal, to be sure.  But if you have a rainy afternoon and a desire to impress the hell out of even yourself with your cooking, make these.

Molly says you can use “store bought bao” but you will likely not find them in a regular grocery store.  I’m sure I could have found them, and without going too far out of my way, here in Chicago but I thought “well, why not make them.”  And it wasn’t difficult, in fact, it’s one of the easier and more cooperative doughs I’ve worked with.  When it comes time to roll them out into adorable little 6″ x 3″ ovals (or taco buns) they are 100% compliant, unlike some pizza doughs you may have worked with that strenuously resist your efforts to shape them, causing embarrassing kitchen tantrums that you really cannot be blamed for.  Lacking a bamboo steamer, I improvised with a dutch oven and a metal steamer basket.  Worked well but I had to cook the 16 buns in three batches.

The pickles are easy and delightful.  Cucumber, soy, sesame oil, rice vinegar and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  And the chicken is a pretty straightforward fried chicken; dipped in flour, egg wash, and then panko.  The mayo is just good old Helmann’s with sriracha stirred in – a condiment I make regularly and you should too!

You may have picked up on the fact that this recipe is going to require you to 1. make dough, 2. make pickles, and 3. make fried chicken.  I know.  But I promise a payoff.

I can describe the finished product no better than Molly does herself: “…a dangerous combination of salty, squishy, sweet, sour, crunchy, spicy and mayo-y.”  It is a festival of flavors and textures; unexpected and yet very welcome.  I particularly love how the pillowy buns (like Wonder Bread in its best possible incarnation) play against the crisp panko coating on the chicken.

(Molly’s pusher, Rodale, has asked that I reproduce no more than three recipes from the book on my site, so I am going to pace myself and not post this one. Aw snap!)