Here’s the recipe for our pork buns, which you can increase ad infinitum to make more for sharing. Get the full story here.
- 1 steamed bun
- about 1 T hoisin sauce
- 3 or 4 slices quick-pickled cucumbers
- 3 thick slices pork belly
- 1 scant T thinly sliced scallion (green and white)
- + Sriracha, for serving
- 1 T, plus 1 t active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 C water, at room temperature
- 4 1/4 C bread flour
- 6 T sugar
- 3 T nonfat dry milk powder
- 3 T kosher salt
- 1/2 t, rounded baking powder
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1/3 C rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening, at room temperature, plus more for shaping the buns, as needed
- 2 meaty Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch-thick disks
- 1 T sugar, or more to taste
- 1 t kosher salt, or more to taste
- 1 3-pound slab skinless pork belly
- 1/4 C kosher salt
- 1/4 C sugar
Makes 50 buns.
Okay, fifty buns is a lot of buns. But the buns keep in the freezer for months and months without losing any quality, and if you cut the recipe down any more than this, there’s barely enough stuff in the bowl of the mixer for the dough hook to pick up. So clear out a couple of hours and some space in the freezer and get to work.
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 8–10 minutes. The dough should gather together into a neat, not-too-tacky 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.
Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or knife, 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 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.
Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.
Flatted 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 40–45 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 (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 2–3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.
Makes about 2 cups
Combine the cucumbers with sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat with the sugar and salt. Let sit for 5–10 minutes.
Taste: if 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 5–10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Makes 12 pork buns
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 450°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 250°F 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 (see the headnote). Allow the belly to cook 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.
Heat the bun in a steamer on the stovetop. It should be hot to the touch, which will take almost not time with just-made buns, and 2–3 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 in the bun on one side of the fold 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.