1 steamed bun
About 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 or 4 slices quick-pickled cucumbers
3 thick slices pork belly
1 scant tbsp thinly sliced scallion
(green and white)
Sriracha, for serving
1. Heat the bun in a steamer on the stovetop. It should be hot to the touch, which will take almost no time with just-made buns and 2 to 3 minutes with frozen buns.
2. 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. Serve with sriracha.
Steamed Pork Buns
Makes 50 buns
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1½ cups water, at room temperature
4¼ cups bread flour
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Rounded ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
⅓ cup rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening at room temperature, plus more for shaping the buns, as needed
1. Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and fat and mix on the lowest speed possible, just above a stir, for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should gather together into a neat, not-too-sticky ball on the hook. When it does, 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 rise until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
2. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or a knife, divide the dough in half, the 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 and weigh about 25 grams, or a smidge under an ounce. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the armada of little dough balls with a draping of plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.
4. 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 (or a dry kitchen towel) and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rest for 30 to 45 minutes: they will rise a little.
5. 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 (reheat them for a minute or so in the steamer if necessary) or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a stovetop steamer for 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.
Makes enough pork for about 12 pork buns
One 1.3kg slab skinless pork belly
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
1. 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 a least 6 hours, but no longer than 24.
2. Heat the oven to 230˚C.
3. 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.
4. Turn the oven temperature down to 120˚C and cook for another 1 hour to 75 minutes, until the belly is tender (it shouldn’t be falling apart, but it should have a 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.
5. When it’s cool enough to handle, wrap the belly in plastic wrap or aluminium 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.)
6. Cut the pork belly into 2cm-thick slices that are about 7cm 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.
Quick salt pickled cucumbers
Makes about 2 cups
2 meaty Kirby cucumbers, sliced thinly
1 tbsp sugar, or more to taste
1 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
1. Combine the vegetable with the sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl. Toss to coat. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Taste: if the pickles are too sweet or too salty, rinse off the seasoning in a colander, and dry in a kitchen towel. Taste again and add more sugar/salt as needed. Serve after 5 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.