Pork Belly Steamed Buns

Whenever I go back to Hong Kong/China, I always want a nice bowl, or two, of dongpo pork (东坡肉) after the jet lag wears off. It’s the best thing in the world, better than bacon! Dongpo pork is served in a little porcelain bowl with a lid.

I made these steamed buns with my family’s dongpo pork recipe and quick pickled cucumbers. I made this in class for part of the charcuterie buffet but it did not turn out good because I’ve never done mass quantity (buffet) servings before and I had to cook everything so far in advance, it was difficult to gauge. Also, the pork had to sit in the braising liquid for a week so it was really salty, even though I diluted it lots of water.

I wanted to make these because I wanted to prove to myself that I CAN make these taste heavenly. And I did. It just took one afternoon. I thought I could eat 6 or 7 (because that’s how many buns I steamed) but I could only stuff 5 into my face.

[100% organic]

For the Pork Belly

  • 2 lbs pork belly
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1½ cups Shaoxing/Chinese rice wine
  • 1 cup light soy sauce
  • ½ cup dark soy sauce
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 1 piece cinnamon bark
  • 6 scallions, chopped into thirds
  • 3 thick slices fresh ginger
  • 2 TBS whole Sichuan peppercorns

In a heavy-based pot, add the sugar, Shaoxing wine, soy sauces, star anise, cinnamon, scallions, ginger, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, while you sear the pork belly.

Cut the pork belly into cubes or small rectangles. Tie tightly with butcher’s twine – the pork will shrink so make sure to tie them very tightly.

In a pan, heat some oil for searing. Sear each side of the pork belly and remove from pan. Place them into the pot and add water to cover pork belly. Bring to a boil and then lower to a low simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Flip the pork every hour and add water if necessary (because you don’t want the soy sauces to over reduce and get really salty).

When ready, turn off heat. Remove pork pieces from braising solution and ladle some braising liquid over the pork belly pieces to prevent it from drying out.

Optional: skim off fat and reduce braising liquid, and add a slurry to thicken it, if you want to use it as a sauce.

For the Pickled Cucumbers

  • 1 English cucumber
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBS salt
  • Salt, as needed

Slice the cucumber very thinly or use a mandoline. Sprinkle salt over the sliced cucumbers and let them drain for 15-20 minutes.

In a saucepan, boil all the ingredients and then simmer for 5 minutes. Cool over an ice bath. The pickling solution has to be cold before you put the cucumbers in.

Rinse the salt off the cucumbers and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Put the cucumbers in the pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Drain before serving.

*Adapted from Aquavit.

For the Steamed Buns

  • 1 TBS + 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups water, at room temperature
  • 4¼ cups bread flour
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • 3 TBS nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 TBS salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Rendered pork fat (for shaping the buns)

Combine the yeast and water in a bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and mix on the lowest speed possible for 8-10 minutes.

When the dough turns into a ball, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Put it in a turned-off oven with a pilot light or other warmish place and let it rise until the dough doubles in size, for 1.5 hours.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total. They should be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the little dough balls with plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.

Cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Dip chopstick with the rendered fat.

Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Stick it back under the plastic wrap and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rest for 30 to 45 minutes: they will rise a little.

Set up a steamer on the stove. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment. You can use the buns immediately or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a steamer for 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.

*The steamed buns recipe makes around 50 and I know that’s a lot but you can always store them in the freezer and eat them with other things, like Peking Duck!!!

**Steamed Buns recipe from Momofuku’s Noodle Bar.

TO ASSEMBLE

Open each steamed bun and place 2-3 slices of pickled cucumbers on the bottom layer, place a slice of pork belly, and top with more slices of cucumbers, then close the bun. If using, serve with the braising sauce.

Steamed Bun (Baozi, 包子)

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Ratatouille with Pork Sausage & Bacon

Variations:

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped roughly, sweat them after the onions
  • 1 carrot, chopped into small squares, add them with the bell peppers
  • 4 button mushrooms, sliced, add them with the sautéed eggplant and zucchini
  • 4 pork sausages, chopped into small squares, add them with the sautéed eggplant and zucchini

I also had shrimp ratatouille yesterday, it was the original ingredients and also with mushrooms.

See recipe here: Niçoise-Style Ratatouille.

In the past several days…

In the past several days, I’ve been eating a whole bunch of stuff. Ever since my birthday last weekend, I’ve been pigging out and I can’t stop. I really need to go to the gym and work all of this out!

  • Singapore Chili Crab
  • Mashed Potatoes with Scallions
  • Cilantro & Garlic Chicken Wings
  • Pork Shoulder Soup with Carrots & Corn

Chilled Pork Tenderloin

First post back! Sorry if it looks a bit lame and simple but it’s really good! I love eating this. It doesn’t get any more Chinese than this…

[100% organic]

  • One medium sized pork tenderloin
  • 3 whole star anise
  • ¼ TBS Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 3 slices of ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Water

Cut the tenderloin into 3-4 pieces. Sauté the tenderloin in hot oil in a wok for a few seconds until the outside layer changes color. Then add the anise, peppercorns, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and enough water to cover the pork.

Cook on medium-low heat for an hour, turning over the meat ever 20 minutes. Make sure the water is boiling at a low heat; add water if it dries out.

After cooking, place pork and leftover juices in a plate, cover, and put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until chilled. Slice meat thinly and then pour juices over meat.

Prosciutto Wrapped Tenderloin

I don’t like pastry with meat products so I took away the entire pastry part of this recipe. I love eating piggies: bacon, prosciutto, 火腿, ham, pork, etc…

[100% organic]

  • ½ cup dried mangoes, finely chopped
  • 1 pork tenderloin, medium sized
  • 10 slices prosciutto
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 handful fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 450°F. Trim the pork tenderloin of any excess fat and skin.

Slice the tenderloin down the middle lengthwise, creating a pit in the middle. Place chopped mangoes in the middle. Lay out a large piece of parchment paper on the counter. Arrange the pieces of prosciutto in the center, overlapping them enough to create solid layer that is as long as the tenderloin. Sprinkle the prosciutto with the salt, pepper, and parsley.

Using the parchment paper to assist, wrap the prosciutto around the tenderloin to completely enclose in a package. Place the tenderloin on a parchment lined half sheet pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the tenderloin from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Adapted from Pig Pig’s Corner.

Peachy Pork Chops with Bacon

I love pork chops but I rarely find a good recipe to cook it with, besides the easiest way. Why don’t I just write, I love food and I love cooking and I love getting inspired by other recipes… blah.

[100% organic]

  • 8 thin-cut loin pork chops
  • 4 TBS AP flour
  • 4 tsp dried sage
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 small peaches, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4 TBS butter, divided
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped

Dust the pork chops with flour, while shaking off the excess. Season chops with salt, ground pepper, and sage.

Sizzle 2 TBS of butter in a pan, and brown both sides of the chops over high heat, approx. 1-2 minutes on each side. When cooked, remove chops from the pan and keep warm under foil. You might have to cook the chops in two batches.

Add chopped peaches to the pan at medium-high heat and cook, shaking and stirring, just until peaches are seared and begin to soften. Pour in the white wine, reduce the wine for 1-2 minutes, then lower heat and stir in the remaining 2 TBS butter. Taste for seasoning; adjust with salt, ground pepper and sage as desired. Return the pork chops to the pan and cook, uncovered with peaches, for 1 minute.

*Adapted from Crepes of Wrath.