Pork Belly Buns

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My pork belly buns are better than Momofuku’s! Here i said it. You may want to unleash the dogs now and let them eat me alive but first give me a chance to explain.

I had the pork buns at Momofuku and while i thought they were very delicious, i left thinking they could be improved upon. Since i’m not one to throw a bold statement without backing it up with some tangible arguments, i will now try to convert you to my pork buns. So hold on tight to those leashes. Grrr..

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I start by sending my pork belly to a spa-treatment, also known as a spice-cure. It takes 48 hours. David Chang doesn’t do the 48-hours spa treatment and uses a 10-hours basic cure instead. He’s busy. I have all freakin’ week! That step doesn’t require much prep on your side beside toasting and grinding some spices with salt and rubbing it onto the meat. I demonstrated this method a few month ago when we did Forage & Feast. After slow-braising it for 3 hours you end up with a piece of spiced fresh bacon that is moist, perfectly seasoned with hints of Chinese five-spice and with enough complexity to make you gaga. Make sure to choose pieces of pork belly thick enough to stand-up to the cure (2-inches thick), otherwise cure it for only one day.

While the pork belly is braising you have plenty of time to make the steamed buns and if you don’t want to go through this hassle you can purchase them from Chinatown, just steam them and they’re ready to go. I heard Momofuku outsource the buns from Chinatown as well because they sell so many pork buns they have a hard time keeping up with the production. And why not, they’re just as good. If you want to make your own for fun just follow the recipe for steamed buns below.

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After braising the pork belly is cooled and refrigerated until cold. When you’re ready to eat all you have to do is slice fairly thick chunks of belly and then grill the suckers. That’s where they turn into melting caramelized porky goodness which plays really well against the cool hoisin sauce. Take a moment to imagine what that does to your tastebuds. Pork buns are traditionally served with cucumbers and scallions but i like some cilantro in there as well. Oh, and a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel because i just can’t help being French.

So which are better? Let the battle begin!

You may unleash the dogs now.

  • Pork Belly Buns

    • Serves 8
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    • For the spice-cured pork belly:
    • 3 whole star anise
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 4 teaspoons black peppercorns
    • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
    • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
    • 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 3 pounds boneless pork belly (2-inches thick chunks)
      • For the aromatic broth:
      • 2 celery stalks, chopped
      • 1 large carrot, chopped
      • 1 large onion, chopped
      • 1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, parsley stems)
      • For the buns:
      • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
      • 1 1/3 cup warm water (about 110′F)
      • 3 tablespoons lard, melted
      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 3 cups bread flour
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • To assemble:
      • 1 cup hoisin sauce
      • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
      • 3 scallions, sliced
      • Cilantro
      • fleur de sel (optional)
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      • For the spice-cured pork belly:
    • Put the star anise, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, coriander, fennel seeds, and cloves in a skillet and toast until fragrant. Crush the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Stir the spices with the salt, sugar, and garlic.
    • Rub the spice mixture on both sides. Put in a baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 48 hours.
    • For the aromatic broth:
    • Scrap off the spice mixture from the pork belly and run it under cold water until clean.
    • Put the belly in a deep stockpot along with the celery, the carrot, the onion and the bouquet garni. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
    • Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 3 hours, skimming off the fat that rises to the surface. The belly is done when fork-tender. Keep in cooking liquid until cool. Refrigerate (preferably overnight).
    • For the steamed buns:
    • In a bowl, mix together yeast, water, and lard. Let it sit 5 minutes.
    • In the bowl of a mixer combine the flours, salt, and sugar. Add the yeast mixture and mix with the dough hook until the dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Put the dough in a large bowl (oil it first) and cover with a wet towel. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hour.
    • Turn the dough into about 20 to 25 golf ball size balls. Place on a tray, cover with the towel and let it rise for 30 minutes more.
    • Press the balls flat to make 4-inches wide rounds. Brush each rounds with oil and fold in half and place each one on individual piece of parchment paper. Let it rise again for 20 minutes (cover).
    • When ready to eat, set up a steamer over boiling water and place buns in the basket. Steam for 7 to 8 minutes (in batches), until puffed.
    • Finishing:
    • When ready to eat cut thick slices of cold pork belly and grill over high heat until it softens and begins to caramelize on the outside.
    • Open a steamed bun and spoon some hoisin sauce, add cucumbers, scallions and cilantro and a piece of grilled pork belly. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Repeat. Enjoy!
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  • http://rasamalaysia.com Bee

    I will include this in my cbook. ;)

  • http://www.mangotomato.blogspot.com Olga

    Those are SO fancy. Not what I think of pork buns, but not like I’d turn these down :)

  • http://www.bouchonfor2.com Mel @ bouchonfor2.com

    I believe you! I believe you! Now gimme gimme gimme >.<

  • http://www.lafujimama.com Fuji Mama

    Oh. My. Goodness. These look so good that I’m practically licking my computer screen. I have got to try making these STAT!

  • http://bowlofmush.blogspot.com/ ABowlOfMush

    They look really fantastic! Yum, I’m hungry.

  • http://heatherjeanli.blogspot.com hjli

    Oh, pork belly, how I love thee.

  • http://www.redcook.net Kian

    What can I say? Your pork belly looks just as good as mine. Taste? I don’t know. :-)

    Great interpretation!

    http://www.redcook.net/2009/03/01/red-cooked-pork-redux/

  • http://www.sassyradish.com radish

    i was underwhelmed by the momofuku pork buns and yours DO sound much better. cilantro ALWAYS sounds good in my book as does fleur de sel.

  • http://www.theyummymummy.blogspot.com The Yummy Mummy

    They look absolutely gorgeous.

    I have eaten Kian’s pork belly buns(from Red Cook) and I cook my own pork belly (which are from his recipe) but truth be told, I have never made my own buns. I get those from China Town. And no one I’ve ever served the pork has asked whether I made the buns.

    Do you think the time/work/taste ratio is worth making buns from scratch? Love to hear your thoughts on this…

    If you think so, maybe I’ll take a crack at the home-made buns.

    Kim

  • http://pithyandcleaver.com maggie

    These look luscious. Well done.

  • http://wineguyworld.blogspot.com wineguyworld

    and I just had Chang’s PB buns last week and was thinking “wtf?”, and yours look SO much better. I’m sure yours have actual flavor and complexity. I’ll copy these, not you-know-who’s!!

  • jen

    wow. looking at those photos elicited a pavlovian response from me.
    does paypal payments work on this website? i’d like 12, please!

  • http://chezannies.blogspot.com Nate

    Me wants! Gonna have some pork belly tonight and I need to have those buns!

  • http://menuinprogress.com mike

    Those buns look absolutely fantastic!

    We’ve cooked pork belly, and we’ve made buns (although so far only pre-filled, not the fold-over “taco-style”), but the combination of the belly and the bun has me completely mesmerized.

  • http://savorysweetlife.com alice

    I must have some pork belly buns now! Thanks for the recipe.. I find it very very doable.

  • http://userealbutter.com Jen Yu

    Thank you so much for the recipe. Have been collecting several but wasn’t sure which to trust. I trust YOU! :)

  • http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog matt

    Whilst I have had neither yours nor Chang’s, I have to see these look just beyond perfect. Great dedication, and a perfect honoring of the meat.

  • http://www.gratinee.wordpress.com Darina

    I love pork. It’s my favorite food group.

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com Manggy

    Ah, there’s your fingerprints! I thought they had been burned away, hehe :) Pork buns are my favorite dim sum item, and one of my favorite things ever. I haven’t made them but it’s on my bucket list. Thanks for bringing me a step closer! :)

  • http://cakeonthebrain.blogspot.com cakebrain

    I came-a-runnin’ as soon as I spotted “pork belly” on my side bar! it looks so delicious!

  • http://www.sense-serendipity.blogspot.com Divina

    They are absolutely gorgeous and I bet super delicious.

  • MrGnocchi

    Looks better and I’m sure they taste better. With the exception of Ko, so much of Changs Empire is Overrated.

  • http://www.tavolini.blogspot.com Tavolini

    Well, I’ve never had momofuku’s, but it would be hard to top these :)

    I like the seeming simplicity of these…and I’m a sucker for cilantro.

  • http://vanillakitchen.blogspot.com dawn

    you had me at steamed buns…do you have any idea how hard it is to find steamed buns (the right ones) around these parts? and now you added that spice-cure to a already perfect pork belly?
    I can’t come here anymore…. :-P

  • http://kitchenmusings.com veron

    I’ve made pork belly confit before and deep fried it. I love this recipe better because it has star anise which is one of my favorite spices. Is it skinless pork belly? I can’t really tell from the picture.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    Oh, those soft, delicious buns of yours. The food looks pretty good, too. ;)

  • http://yoursdeliciously.blogspot.com/ foodie

    Its making me drool..and thanks so much for the recipe

  • http://dolceinewyork.blogspot.com Dolce

    Well, to make the battle fair, now you have to get us your samples vs Momofuku’s, so we can judge… !

  • http://goldilocksfindsmanhattan.blogspot.com/ Ulla

    I believe it! That looks amazing!

  • http://fivestarfoodie.blogspot.com Natasha – 5 Star Foodie

    Pork belly buns look and sound absolutely scrumptious! I would so love a taste!

  • http://www.bitemekitchen.blogspot.com Rose

    Oh YEAH! Those look outstanding! I want to try my hand at making the buns as well. YUM!

  • http://confessionsoftart.blogspot.com Irene

    I think I’m going to die. Right now. Those look like pure heaven.

  • http://zested.wordpress.com liz {zested}

    I can testify to the deliciousness of the pork, but I have to say I also attempted the steamed buns and they were not nearly as easy as I expected – kneading them by hand was no joke. Though I think I’ll give it another try now that I have access to a mixer.

  • http://www.worldfoodieguide.com Helen Yuet Ling Pang

    Unfortunately I can’t compare the two versions, because I have yet to visit Momofuku, but yours look stunning and I’m sure they’re more delicious, given the time you’ve spent on them!

  • http://quisimangiabene.blogspot.com/ Peter

    I haven’t had his (even though he’s on my list of must-visits, I never seem to have the time) but I’ll say yours are better on the basis of the longer curing time. I cure bacon for over a week, and it takes a long time to get all of that flavor into the pork. Bien fait.

  • Vivian

    Where in Chinatown can you buy the already-made buns from?

  • http://colloquialcooking.com Colloquial Cook

    Ben alors, toi aussi tu boulanges? :-) tu nous fais des effets de flou de fou avec ta macro. Et ta coriandre a toujours l’air plus… er… ‘vibrante’ que la mienne :-P

  • JD

    Looks delicious! definitly gonna give this one a try.

  • http://ouichef.typepad.com Oui, Chef

    I’ve been looking for a good excuse to cook with lard, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • http://museinthekitchen.com Belle and Ward

    These look so good. It’s nice to be able to try making them at home, especially when one can’t exactly get out to Momofuku’s! ~ Belle

  • http://maisondechristina.wordpress.com christina

    This is a famous Taiwanese dish that you can find in many restaurnts. I make it from scratch at home including the steamed bun.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    this makes me want to curse out loud. REALLY loudly. %*#$(@&#$(@#.

    you don’t have to convince me of this recipe’s greatness. i believe you!!! I FUCKING BELIEVE YOU.

  • http://arimichan01.blogspot.com Thao Phan

    Oh this looks soooooooooo good!!!!! I want to eat this!!!!

  • http://kyotofoodie.com Michael [OpenKyoto]

    Wow, this looks completely sublime! I am regretting that we didn’t do Pork Belly Buns instead of Kyoto-style Chicken Sukiyaki at my house.

  • Cheryl

    I am making these again today and they are insane delicious. AWESOME!