Asian roasted pork-belly on steamed buns with quick pickles (and then, after that, soup)
|June 17, 2010||Posted by ameliaps under asian, meats|
This last Christmas I “hinted” to everyone around me that my favorite gift would be a cookbook. So I received quite a few of them…some really nice ones. Among the hard covers I loved the most was a minimal-looking bamboo looking one titled “Momofuku”, written by David Chang (owner and chef of the NYC’s homonymous restaurant) and New York Times writer Peter Meehan.
I love Asian food and to make it at home is so satisfying. As I was reading through the Momofuku book I found out that Chang is famous for his pork buns…so I HAD to try them. It’s not that hard to make these at home, especially if you don’t have to make the buns. I have to admit that I “cheated” (after doing some internet research on steamed buns) I discovered that it was perfectly acceptable to use store-bought regular refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough (1 7 1/2 ounce package will make about ten 3-inch buns). Just steam them as per the recipe below!!! Even Chang, in the book, sources the dough in bulk, so I don’t feel bad about taking this shortcut. It’s the filling that counts after all!!!
For this pork, you will want to use pork belly, which is essentially raw bacon…yes, it’s fatty! ok, but how many times will you make this in your lifetime. Not many, I suspect. So go ahead and skip lunch before you have these…it’s well worth it You can save the rendered fat for later, in the fridge.
In Asia they make ”baozi” (a.k.a. bao), which is a steamed bun filled with meats (or veggies). In China they call steamed buns ”mantou”. These were the inspiration for Chang when he made his now so popular version. You can present all the sides: quick pickles, chopped green onions, hoisin sauce and buns next to the sliced meat for everyone to serve themselves, buffet style. It’s more fun! That’s what I did.
The next day, I had some left-over pork belly so I decided to turn it into a soup. There is really not much of a recipe for that. I just made a simple stock out of some of the pork scraps, some green onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and a bouillon cube, then I quickly boiled and drained some udon noodles (separately), and soft poached an egg (shell-on) or two. When ready to serve, took the egg out of its shell and sliced it in half, poured soup on it (mmm, made it nice and creamy!), added the cooked udons, some fresh green onions, some of the left-over pork, chopped up, and some Sriracha sauce. Free inspiration from a similar recipe (Momofuku ramen) I saw in the book… I just went by imagination, rather than follow the recipe to the tee.
There’s only one correction I will make next time I cook these: I plan on slow cooking them from the start. Momofuku had me start on high heat to sear (and render the fat) and then turn down the heat. But what happened is that the outside charred a bit too much because of the sugar in the rub (don’t get me wrong, that made for tasty, crispy pork skins, basically pork confit cooked in its fat!,…but I think I’d rather have less fat dripping around the pan).
The quick pickles were fantastic. I will definitively make them again.
Asian roasted pork-belly on steamed buns with quick pickles
(from the “Momofuku” cookbook)
1 Steamed Bun (or more, plenty more!!!) per person
About 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, per bun
3 or 4 slices Quick-Pickled Cucumbers (below), per bun
3 thick slices Pork Belly (below), per bun
1 scant tablespoon thinly sliced scallion (green and white), per bun
Sriracha, for serving
Heat the buns in a steamer on the stovetop. They should be hot to the touch, which will take almost no time with just-made buns and 2 to 3 minutes with frozen buns.
Grab the bun from the steamer and flop it open on a plate. Slather the inside with the hoisin sauce, using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Arrange the pickles on one side of the fold in the bun and the slices of pork belly on the other. Scatter the belly and pickles with sliced scallion, fold closed, and voilà: pork bun. Serve with sriracha.
Pork Belly, for ramen, pork buns and just about anything else
One 3-pound slab skinless pork belly
1⁄4 cup kosher salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
Nestle the belly into a roasting pan or other oven-safe vessel that holds it snugly. Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub the mix all over the meat; discard any excess salt-and-sugar mixture. Cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 24.
Heat the oven to 450º F.
Discard any liquid that accumulated in the container. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown.
Turn the oven temperature down to 250ºF and cook for another 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the belly is tender—it shouldn’t be falling apart, but it should have a down pillow–like yield to a firm finger poke. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the belly to a plate. Decant the fat and the meat juices from the pan and reserve. Allow the belly to cool slightly.
When it’s cool enough to handle, wrap the belly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in the fridge until it’s thoroughly chilled and firm. (You can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but the only way to get neat, nice-looking slices is to chill the belly thoroughly before slicing it.)
Cut the pork belly into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices that are about 2 inches long. Warm them for serving in a pan over medium heat, just for a minute or two, until they are jiggly soft and heated through. Use at once.
(Check out an alternative way to cook the pork at epicurious. I will try this next time).
Quick Salt Pickles
Vegetable, prepared as indicated
1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Combine the vegetable with the sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat with the sugar and salt. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Taste: if the pickles are too sweet or too salty, put them into a colander, rinse off the seasoning, and dry in a kitchen towel. Taste again and add more sugar or salt as needed. Serve after 5 to 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
For quick-pickled cucumbers: 2 meaty Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1⁄8-inch-thick disks.
Quick-pickled radishes: 1 bunch radishes (breakfast radishes, icicle radishes, and the like), well scrubbed and cut into thin wedges through the root end.
Quick-pickled daikon: 1 large or 3 small daikon radishes, peeled and cut into very, very thin slices.
(Go ahead, make them if you are a kitchen warrior…but really, it’s ok to cheat…see note above)
1 cup warm water (105-115°F), divided
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar plus a pinch
2 tablespoons nonfat dried milk
3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Canola oil for greasing and brushing
Stir together 1/4 cup warm water with yeast and pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) Whisk in dried milk and remaining 3/4 cup warm water.
Stir together flour and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a bowl, then stir in yeast mixture (do not add baking powder yet) with a fork until a dough forms. Knead dough with your hands in bowl until all of flour is incorporated. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth but still soft, about 5 minutes. Form dough into a ball.
Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.
Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly floured surface and flatten slightly into a disk. Sprinkle baking powder over center of dough, then gather edges of dough and pinch to seal in baking powder. Knead dough with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking until baking powder is incorporated, about 5 minutes. Return dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then let dough stand 30 minutes.
Cut 16 (3- by 2-inch) pieces of wax paper.
Form dough into a 16-inch-long log. Cut into 16 equal pieces, then lightly dust with flour and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 6- by 3-inch oval, lightly dusting surface, your hands, and rolling pin. Pat oval between your palms to remove excess flour, then brush half of oval lightly with oil and fold in half crosswise (do not pinch). Place bun on a piece of wax paper on a large baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Make more buns with remaining dough, then let stand, loosely covered, until slightly risen, about 30 minutes.
Set a large steamer rack inside skillet (or wok) and add enough water to reach within 1/2 inch of bottom of rack, then bring to a boil. Carefully place 5 to 7 buns (still on wax paper) in steamer rack (do not let buns touch). Cover tightly and steam over high heat until buns are puffed and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer buns to a plate with tongs, then discard wax paper and wrap buns in kitchen towels (not terry cloth) to keep warm. Steam remaining buns in 2 batches, adding boiling-hot water to skillet as needed.
Return buns (still wrapped in towels) to steamer rack in skillet and keep warm (off heat), covered.
Here’s an extract from the book, as Chang talks about his famous pork buns:
“It’s weird to be “famous” for something. Can you imagine being Neil Diamond and having to sing “Cracklin’ Rosie” every time you get onstage for the rest of your life? Neither can I. But if Momofuku is “famous” for something, it’s these steamed pork buns. Are they good? They are. Are they something that sprang from our collective imagination like Athena out of Zeus’s forehead? Hell no. They’re just our take on a pretty common Asian food formula: steamed bread + tasty meat = good eating.
And they were an eleventh-hour addition to the menu. Almost a mistake. No one thought they were a good idea or that anyone would want to eat pork belly sandwiches.
I got into the whole steamed bread thing when I stayed in Beijing. I ate char siu bao—steamed buns stuffed with dark, sweet roast pork—morning, noon, and night from vendors on the street who did nothing but satisfy that city’s voracious appetite for steamed buns. When I lived in Tokyo, I’d pick up a niku-man—the Japanese version, with a milder-flavored filling—every time I passed the local convenience store. They’re like the 7-Eleven hot dogs of Tokyo, with an appeal not unlike that of the soft meatiness of White Castle hamburgers.”
And here’s an image of the soup that I made the next day from the left-overs pork and a delicious poached egg (deliciously “umame” and the egg was so creamy soft!):