Recipe Chinese pork belly buns

medtran49

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Equipment needed:
Baking rack
Bamboo steamer baskets and wok or pan big enough to hold them
Sheet pans
6 inch long, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inch diameter wood dowel to use as a rolling pin for the buns

Pork Belly

The piece of pork belly i used for porchetta was quite thick at 1 end, and would have made rolling difficult, so I decided to cut it off and use it for pork belly buns. It ended up being about 1.25 pounds. So, I made the following cure and then roasted.

1 whole star anise
1/4 piece of cinnamon stick
1-1/8 teaspoons black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 whole clove
Rounded 1/8 cup Kosher salt
Rounded 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 small garlic clove, microplaned
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated ginger or good pinch dried powdered

Toast the star anise, cinnamon, black peppercorns, coriander and fennel seeds, and clove in a small skillet over medium high heat until fragrant. Place in your spice grinder bowl or a mortar. Allow to cool slightly. Grind finely. Mix with the remaining cure ingredients, making sure to break up the microplaned garlic well.

Rub the cure into the pork belly, place into the refrigerator in a plastic bag or container for 24-48 hours, but no longer.

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After curing, remove the pork belly from the bag and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Allow to warm up a bit.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place belly in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and baste with accumulated juices. Return to oven and reduce temperature to 225 F. Roast for 30 minutes, baste and check internal temperature. Return to oven and continue roasting until internal temperature is 170-175 F. It took about 55 minutes in total at the lower temperature for my piece. Cool. Reserve drippings and refrigerate for later use.
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Wrap pork belly and refrigerate it overnight at least. You don't have to do this step, but you'll get cleaner cuts in the next step if you do.

Quick pickled cucumbers

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 rounded tsp sugar
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp of water
1/2 cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and middle cleaned out, cut into 1/8-inch-slices

In a small container, mix the salt, sugar, water and rice vinegar together. Add cucumbers and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to 4 hours.

Chinese Buns

1/2 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp reserved pork fat from above, bacon fat or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
2-1/8 cups bread flour
1-1/2 Tbsp dry milk powder
1/2 Tbsp kosher salt (I usually use just a bit less)
1/4 tsp baking powder, rounded
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Vegetable oil cooking spray (like Pam)

Place the warm water and yeast in a large bowl (I mix and knead in the standing mixer), and add sugar, stir. Wait long enough to make sure the yeast is activating. Add the fat, flour, dry milk powder, salt, baking powder and soda. Mix well and knead until smooth and barely sticky to touch. Place in a large bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm area for 1-1/2 hours.

Remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured board. Divide dough into quarters, then divide each quarter into 5 equal pieces. Form small balls. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with Pam, cover dough balls and allow to rise for 30 minutes. While they are rising, cut out 20 squares, 3-1/2 to 4 inch size, of parchment paper.

Once the dough balls have risen and rested, they need to be shaped into the buns. On a lightly floured board, press 1 of the balls out into an oval shape with your fingers. Use the wood dowl to roll it out into about a 4-1/2 long by 2-1/2 wide oval shape. Fold 1 end over lengthwise to the other end. Do NOT press down, just lay it down. Place the bun on 1 of the parchment paper squares and place on a sheet pan. Repeat until you are done. Spray the buns lately with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the buns to rise for 30-45 minutes until almost doubled in size.

Place enough water in the wok to come up to about 1 inch beneath the bottom of the steamer baskets. Bring water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, fill the steamer baskets with the buns on the squares of parchment paper. Do not crowd and allow the buns to touch each other. They will stick together. Steam for 10 minutes and remove from the steamer.

NOTE: Buns can be frozen. Allow to totally cool, place in a bag and freeze. Reheat frozen buns in a steamer for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and warmed through.

Chinese Pork Belly Buns

Roasted pork belly as above
Chinese buns as above
Quickled pickled cucumbers as above

For serving:
3-4 thinly sliced scallions (green and white parts)
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha, for serving

Slice the pork belly in about 1/2-inch thick slices. Heat a medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place the pork belly slices in the skillet and cook for 1 minute on 1 side, then flip and cook for a minute or 2 more until soft and heated through.

Open the Chinese buns, spread with a little bit of Hoisin, place a couple of slices of pork belly, a couple of cucumber slices and some green onions, then a a squeeze of Sriracha as/if desired. Serve and enjoy.

Serving tip: We often serve with a slaw made of 1 or 2 shredded carrots and either 1 or 2 salad radishes or part of a daikon radish to make equal parts carrot and radish, mixed with a little salt and sugar and enough rice vinegar to moisten and dissolve the salt and sugar. Mix and let sit for at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator before serving.
 
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