This used to be one of my favourite dishes when I was a kid. It was usually a treat, a special occasion when the family would head out to a restaurant specialising in Hokkien cuisine and we’d order ‘Kong Bak Bao’ (literally translated as braised pork buns). The dish is served with a platter of succulent, melt-in-the-mouth braised pork belly sitting in the most delicious, dark soy sauce and a side of steamed, fluffy buns. We’d then tear into the buns and start making our own pork belly ‘sandwiches’ – yeah, they don’t come pre-constructed.
Fast forward to recent years, David Chang of NYC’s Momofuku fame put these delicious pork belly buns on the gastronomic map and now every trendy modern asian eatery has them on their menus. These trendy versions lean more towards the Taiwanese style Gua Bao – which are topped with pickled mustard greens, coriander (cilantro) and crushed peanuts.
Whichever version…these pork belly buns are simply yummo! And here’s a recipe which is a little closer to the Hokkien version I grew up with. It’s not quite David Chang’s but it’s a humbler, easier recipe for anyone who wants to give it a shot. Enjoy!
Braised Pork Belly
Fills about 8-10 buns
Cut pork belly into slices (about 1/2 an inch thick).
Bring some water to a boil. Blanch the pork for a couple minutes. This gets rid of impurities and starts the cooking process. Remove pork and set aside.
Over low heat, add oil and sugar to your wok. Melt the sugar slightly and add the pork. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the pork is lightly browned.
Turn the heat back down to low and add cooking wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and water. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until pork is fork tender. Every 5-10 minutes, stir to prevent burning and add more water if it gets too dry. Once the pork is fork tender, if there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok, turn up the heat, and stir continuously until the sauce has reduced.
Don’t you just love my super-seasoned wok? :)
This braised pork belly is amazing with steamed rice too! Oh that sauce…
Makes about 10 -12 flat/split buns
- 1½ tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 250 ml (1 cup/8 fl oz) lukewarm water
- 1½ tsp dried yeast
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 400 g(13 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
Place the sugar and water in a mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the yeast and leave to rest for 10 minutes or until frothy.
Add the oil and baking powder and sift in the flour. Stir the mixture with your hands until it comes together as a smooth, slightly wet dough. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow the dough to rise.
When the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and scrape it out of the bowl. Use immediately or cover with cling film and refrigerate (use within 12 hours).
Dust your work surface with flour, roll out the dough and divide into 10 to 12 portions of equal size. Using a rolling pin, roll each portion into an oval shape. Cover the other portions with a damp cloth while working to prevent them from drying out.
The reason you roll the dough into an oval shape is so you can fold it like so.
Place each rolled and folded portion on a square of parchment paper. Place on a steamer and steam for about 15 minutes. I can only fit 4 buns in my medium bamboo steamer :(
Once buns are done, fill with braised pork, top with coriander/cilantro, crushed peanuts (or fried shallots in my case) and tuck in! I like mine with a little bit of kick, so out comes my trusty Sriracha bottle. Yum!