Curiosity and greed finally got the better of me. That, and the offer to use a friend’s new kitchen with, as one observer put it, “an island the size of a car!”.
I decided to make the most of the vast kitchen, an army of helpers and the two Kitchenaids(!) by attempting the Momofuku pork bun recipe. Also, it never seemed right to go to so much effort for my tummy alone, and you know, sharing is caring.
On Pork Bun Day, I finally read the recipe *properly*. I discovered that I needed non-fat milk powder for the buns, that the pork belly needed 6 hours of marinading, and the buns needed some of the lovely rendered pork fat from the roasting. Oops, hadn’t factored any of that in.
Never mind, the reduced marinade time didn’t seem to matter as the pork was flavoursome and soft post-roasting, and my corner shop, amazingly, came out trumps on the milk powder.
The buns weren’t difficult to make, they just required a lot of patience for the rises and the shaping, for which you are rewarded with a very large batch of buns. The recipe yields 50, but I only got 43 buns. I tried making a few smaller ones but there’s not enough space in the bun so the fillings have a tendency to slide out!
And finally, assembly of the buns, the easy part. I didn’t have any pickled cucumber, so stuffed the freshly steamed buns with: smear of hoisin, chopped spring onions, slice of fresh cucumber, some pickled daikon, warmed pork belly and a squirt of sriracha.
Test verdict? Pass! They were pretty damn good and very more-ish. Pillowy soft sweetish buns with melting pork belly and crunchy pickles. Great little wolf-in-two-greedy-mouthfuls size.
The worst bit? It’s a time investment to get to the stage where you can easily and breezily assemble the buns (pork belly takes 8 hours if you marinade per the recipe, and buns take over two hours).
But the best bit? My double batch of pork belly didn’t take any longer to cook and meant there were lots of leftovers for noodle soup the next day. I also tried freezing the buns and can report that they do indeed steam perfectly in 3 minutes from frozen. Now, that’s my sort of fast food.
Roast Pork Belly
– from the Momofuku cookbook
This is double the original recipe, which is enough to fill 12 buns. Since you’re going to spend the time marinading and roasting, it makes sense to make more! I was short on marinading time, and used light muscovado sugar as that’s all that was left in the cupboard but don’t feel like the end result suffered.
2.7kg slab skinless pork belly
70g coarse sea salt
- Place belly in an ovenproof dish. Mix salt and sugar in a bowl and rub over pork belly; discard excess mix.
- Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.
- Preheat oven 230 degrees C / Gas mark 8.
- Discard any liquid around the pork. Ensure belly is fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting with the rendered fat half way through, until golden brown.
- Reduce oven temperatue to 130 degrees C / Gas mark 1/2. Roast pork for a further 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours until belly is tender. Mine starting burning on the top towards the end, so I covered it with some foil. Your belly should be soft, but not falling apart.
- Remove belly from pan and transfer to a plate. Decant fat and meat juices (Save fat for making the steamed buns).
- When belly has cooled, wrap in cling film and refrigerate. This will cool the belly so you can slice it neatly. Skip if you don’t have time.
- Slice belly into 1cm thick slices. Heat in a pan over a medium heat until warmed through when you want to serve them.
* Deskinning the pork belly – my gruff chinese butcher wasn’t in the mood for deskinning the pork, but thankfully DIY isn’t so difficult: make sure your pork is cold, skin side down, grab one end of the belly and slide your sharp knife underneath the skin to slice it off.
* No fridge space? – Marinade your pork in a ziploc bag to save space. Transfer to roasting dish later.
Makes 50. It’s a lot. It takes time. They freeze really well. It’s worth it.
1 tbsp + 1 tsp dried yeast
350ml room temperature water
600g strong white flour
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp non-fat dried milk powder
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
rounded 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp baking soda
2.5 tbsp pork fat (or other white fat) at room temp, plus spare for shaping buns.
- Combine yeast and water in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, bicarb and fat and mix on low speed for 8-10 minutes until dough gathers into a neat ball. I had a add a smidgen more water to get it to this stage.
- Oil a medium mixing bowl, place dough in it and cover with a dry tea towel Place in a warm place and leave to rise until size doubles, for 1 hour
- Punch down dough, turn out onto clean surface, divide into half with a dough scraper or knife, and then divide each half into 5 pieces. Roll these 10 pieces into logs, and cut each into 5 pieces. This should give you 50 ping-pong sized pieces weighing 25g. My recipe yielded slightly less than this; maybe I didn’t leave it to rise for long enough.
- Roll each piece into a ball, place onto a baking tray, cover with cling film and allow to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut out 50 10cm squares of greaseproof paper, and get a chopstick and the spare pork fat.
- Roll out one dough ball into a 10cm long oval. Grease the chopstick and lay it across the middle of the oval widthwise, and fold the oval in half over itself. Slide out the chopstick, and transfer the bun to a piece of greaseproof paper, keeping it folded. Cover with clingfilm or a dry team towel. Repeat for the other 49 buns. Allow to rest for 30-45 minutes.
- FINALLY! Set up a steamer – I used a bamboo steamer – to cook the buns in batches. Place buns and their paper into the steamer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove paper and serve immediately.
- To freeze for later: cool, seal in a freezer bag, and reheat by steaming from frozen for 2-3 minutes.