You never forget your first time, right?!! Mine was 20+ years ago — in San Franciscos’s Chinatown. Ok, get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about the first time I ever had an Asian barbecue steamed bun.
Scott and I were on the tail end of a food tour through Chinatown that culminated with lunch at a popular restaurant. The waiter rolled a trolley cart filled with individual portions of dim sum, shumai and bao buns. The buns were fluffy pale white orbs that didn’t give any hint as to what was inside them. You just had to trust.
We ordered a little of everything, but I was most intrigued by the bao. They were soft and airy — filled with a savory sweet chinese pork filling. After one bite, I immediately asked for three more. And so my love affair with Asian steamed buns began.
In fact, I’m so zonkers for these fresh, flavorful bites, I figured I better learn how to make them myself. I’ve seen bao buns shaped in traditional balls that completely cloak their filling as well as the half moon taco-like shells – which to my mind are a bit more casual and unfussy. I opted for the taco shape for these.
I made the buns — and posted the recipe last Friday. Now comes the fun part! Filling them!
You could stuff these light puffs of steamed dough with peanut butter and jelly and I’m pretty sure they’d be spectacular, but how about stuffing them with pork belly? Pork belly that’s been marinated and cooked in a sweet, spicy and savory bulgogi dressing? #DoesntSuck!
I’ll warn you up front, this is a two day operation. Not two days of hard time. It’s mostly hands-off time. The pork belly needs to marinate. Then it needs to braise, sealed inside a foil packet.
After a few hours, open the foil and continue to cook until you get a golden crust. Let the pork cool to room temperature, then wrap it up again and stick it in the fridge to chill overnight.
When you’re ready to eat, remove the cooked pork belly from the refrigerator.
Slice it crosswise into 1/4″ thick pieces.
Reheat and brown it in a skillet with a little reserved marinade and get ready to build your buns!
Nirvana! Of course, it’s pork belly, so you know it’s going to be fabulous — but its the marinade that sends it off the charts! It’s a PUNCH of flavor that will make your eyes bug out with the first taste! Not an exaggeration!!!
These buns need something fresh to cut the unctuous pork-i-ness. Fresh sliced cucumber, carrots, green onion, cilantro and chiles are just the ticket. Make sure to drizzle with a little more marinade.
Bulgogi Pork Belly Bao are crazy good!!! So invite your friends and family, chill some Sapporo or Yuengling and let the party begin!
I think we all need more of this in our lives. Who’s with me???!!!
Bulgogi Pork Belly Bao
This recipe takes some time, but not a lot of skill - and the flavors are amazing!
- 2 lb pork belly, skin removed
- 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- cucumber, thinly sliced or julienned
- carrots, julienned
- green onion, thin sliced
- red chili, thinly sliced
- toasted sesame seeds
- Asian Steamed Buns (from this site - or store bought)
In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Whisk to combine. Place the pork belly in a plastic or glass container and pour half of the marinade over it. Turn the pork belly several times to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.
Pour the remaining marinade into a small pan and heat over medium high heat, whisking constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3-5 minutes until slightly reduced. Let the mixture come to room temperature. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
After pork has marinated, preheat oven to 300°. Lay two large pieces of tin foil on top of each other and transfer the pork belly (not the marinade) to the center of the tin foil. Seal it up very tightly, to keep the juices in. Place the foil packet on a baking sheet and cook for 2 1/2 hours. Open up the foil packet to expose the pork, but still holding the juices and turn the oven up to 450°. Cook the pork for 20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Reseal the foil package and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Transfer the pork belly to a cutting board and slice crosswise into 1/4" strips.
Working in batches, add 6-7 strips of pork to a large skillet, along with a little fat and drippings. Cook over medium high heat until fragrant and golden. Add 3-4 tablespoons of reserved marinade and cook for 2-3 more minutes to glaze the pork.
Serve pork belly in Asian Steamed Buns with carrots, cucumber, red chili, green onion, sesame seeds and a drizzle of reserved marinade.
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