Pork Belly Buns Recipe

pork-belly-buns-recipe-8378.jpg

Pork Belly Buns Recipe

Pork Belly Buns is probably one of the biggest Asian food fads to hit American palates, right next to Korean Tacos and Bo-Ba Tea. It’s no surprise, since since pork belly is essentially where the much-loved bacon comes from. Slow-cooked pork belly is sliced and simmered in a sweet-savory Vietnamese caramel sauce and sandwiched between soft, pillowy steamed buns. But it doesn’t stop there – a hit of spice comes from kimchi and flash-fry of fresh chilies and green onions.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe chilies-and-onions

My version of Pork Belly Buns is sort of a mashup between three cultures: Vietnamese caramel braising sauce, Chinese steamed buns and pork belly and Korean kimchi. You won’t find a better combination of flavors or textures.

I’ve adapted the pork belly recipe from my buddy, John, of Food Wishes. Do you know John? If not, you must see his videos! He’s amazing. Plus, we have matching mustaches.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe kimchi

Those who live near a good Chinese market can find pre-made buns (usually frozen), but for the rest of us, I have 2 solutions for you. A flour mixture, specifically for steamed buns, is available in many Asian markets (there’s photos below). And if you can’t find that, a cheater recipe that I learned from my mom is also written for you using….get this…canned Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit dough. YES! Really!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe detail

Unfortunately, there’s no cheater recipe for the pork belly. But I swear, it’s all worth the effort.

Full disclosure here – THIS IS NOT A FAST RECIPE. Plan on an afternoon. Or you can slow-roast the pork belly one day and make the buns/finish the pork belly the next day, which is what I did.

How can you resist?!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe closeup

Pork Belly Buns Recipe

Caramel Braised Pork Belly

Ladies, gents, meet pork belly. It looks like bacon. Asian markets with a fresh meat counter will have pork belly. Otherwise you might have to request it from your meat man/woman.

Buy a nice slab of it – this recipe calls for 2 pounds – which will give you enough pork belly left over to enjoy with some ramen.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly raw

Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Not too much – just a nice sprinkle.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly seasoned

Wrap it up in 2 layers of tin foil. Wrap it nice and tight. You don’t want any of the juices or fat escaping.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe foil wrapped pork belly

Roast slow ‘n low: 275F for 2 hours. Do not open the package. You’ll lose all that precious liquid.

Then let it rest on the counter until cool enough to refrigerate (but remember, don’t open it yet! no peeking!) Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Only after it’s fully chilled, then you can open it. This method will ensure that 1) the pork belly keeps its shape 2) no juices escape, which is important because that’s good flavor!

This is what it looks like after refrigeration:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly cooked

When you slice it, you’ll see what I mean about keeping its shape.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly slice

Slice into 1/2″ thick.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly fully sliced

Heat up a saute pan or wok swirl in a bit of oil and fry each slice on both sides until browned and the edges start to crisp up. Remove from pan.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly browned

Keep all that fat in the pan and you’ll use the fat to saute garlic, ginger, green onion (and fresh chilies if you want). Take care not to burn these aromatics!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe chili and onion flash fry

Now it’s time to make the caramel braising sauce. Whisk together fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, green onion, garlic, ginger and fresh chilies.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe caramel braising sauce

 Pour it sauce in.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe sauce in wok

Add the pork belly pieces back into the pan.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly in sauce

Let it simmer on low for about 20 minutes, covered.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe simmering

Resist the urge to just devour the entire thing.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pork belly done

After that, you can just turn off the heat and let the pork belly hang out in the sauce until you’re ready to serve.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe set pork belly aside

 

How to make the steamed buns

I always start with a package of pre-mixed flour*. All you need to do is add sugar, milk and a bit of cooking oil. Easy. If you’re looking to make these buns from scratch, head over to my friend, Jen’s site Use Real Butter.

Cheater bun recipe is at the bottom of the post – which are just as amazing as these buns.

*Here’s another photo of different brand of mixed flour.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe bun ingredients

In a big bowl (you’ll need a big bowl!) Pour in the ingredients except for the flour. While mixing with a wooden spoon, pour in the flour mixture.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe pouring flour

Stir! Stir! Stir!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe stir stir stir

Keep stirring until it comes together like dough.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough coming together

Now use your hands to knead the dough for a few minutes in the bowl. Push with the palm of your hand towards the side of the bowl, lift dough, rotate and push again.

pssst…..yes, I give you permission to use a mixer + dough hook.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe knead dough

Once the dough becomes smooth, cover and let rise for 20 minutes.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough resting

It will rise and look like this:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe risen dough

Dust work surface with flour. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe sprinkle flour

Cut into 8 pieces.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough in 8 pieces

And then cut those pieces in half, so you have 16 total.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough in 16 pieces

Roll into balls.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough balls

Keep balls covered! <– really important

Pork Belly Buns Recipe keep dough balls covered

Use a rolling pin or (ahem) a muddler. I prefer a smaller 1″ diameter rolling pin, but since I couldn’t find the one my mom gave me, I’m using a muddler. It will do. The giant rolling pin seems overkill on this itty bitty ball of dough.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe muddle the dough

Roll it out into an oval-ish shape.

It’s not completely round. There’s a reason for that. Just slightly oval.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough rolled into oval

The reason is because you’re gonna fold it in half into a half circle bun.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe folded into half circle

Place it on a parchment square. This makes sure that the bun doesn’t stick to the steamer.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe dough on parchment

Keep ‘em covered until ready to steam! <– important too

Pork Belly Buns Recipe keep dough covered

To steam the buns, get a wok.

you: HEY. That’s a nice wok!

me: Really!? oh thanks! It’s the brand spankin’ new STEAMY KITCHEN WOK!!!

you: OMG. that’s awesome.

me: I know, right?! It’s the perfect wok. It even comes with the steamer rack.

Ok ok ok….back to the program. Fill the wok or large, wide pot with a inch-ish of water. Place a rack on top – or something to prop up a plate in the pot. I’ve been known to use 3 shot glasses or a can of tuna (without the tuna, of course).

Pork Belly Buns Recipe Awesome Wok

Place a plate on top of the rack.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe steaming plate

Put buns on plate (don’t over crowd – they puff up when they cook).

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns on plate

Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns steaming

They’ll puff up like this!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe hot steamy buns

Let ‘em cool.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns cooled

Like clouds….

Pork Belly Buns Recipe buns done

 

How to make the chili/green onion topping

Chopped green onions + fresh chilies of your choice + vinegar + salt in a heat-proof bowl.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe green onions and chilies

In a small saucepan, heat 2 tbl of cooking oil until smoking. Yes – make sure you wait until you start seeing wisps of smoke.

But don’t set off your fire alarm, or start a fire. Keep yer eye on the oil!

Once it starts smoking, immediately pour the oil into the bowl. Carefully.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe adding hot oil

Magic happens! The hot oil sizzles, crackles and POWS! the green onion and chili, releasing its flavors without burning them.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe see it sizzle

You might also want some sweet hoisin sauce so spread on the buns.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe hoisin sauce

Take a bun, open it up and spread just a bit of hoisin sauce. Add a piece of pork belly, top it with the chili/green onion. Sneak in a bite of kimchi.

Enjoy.

Pork Belly Buns Recipe enjoy it

Print

Pork Belly Buns Recipe

Servings: Makes 16 buns, serves 8 as appetizer/side dish Prep Time: 1 hour + overnight chill in refrigerator Cook Time: 2 hours
pork-belly-buns-recipe-8378.jpg

For cheater buns using Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits - see note below the recipe.

Ingredients:

FOR THE PORK BELLY
1 slab pork belly (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 fresh chili pepper, minced (optional)
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup water


FOR THE BUNS
14 ounce package of steamed bun flour (banh bao)
+ ingredients as per package instructions (I used milk, sugar, oil)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour for dusting work surface
16 squares of parchment paper (about 4"x4")FOR THE CHILI SAUCE
1 stalk green onion, minced
1 fresh chili, minced or sliced very thinly
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Kimchi (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 275F. Wrap the pork belly in heavy tin foil (or use 2 layers). Place on baking sheet and roast for 2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool before refrigerating at least 2 hour or up to 2 days.

2. Unwrap the pork belly, and slice into 1/2" pieces

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce and water.

4. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in cooking oil and add several slices to the wok, but do not overlap. Fry each side until browned. Remove to plate. Repeat with remaining.

5. Turn the heat to medium-low. Add in the garlic, ginger, chiles (if using) and green onion. Saute for 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the remaining caramel sauce into the pan.Return the pork belly slices back into the wok and let simmer for 10 minutes.

FOR THE BUNS
1. Follow the directions on the package to make the dough, cover and let rise for 20 minutes.

2. Sprinkle clean work surface with the all-purpose flour. Place the dough on work surface and cut into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and keep all balls loosely covered with plastic wrap or towel. You'll work with 1 ball at a time, keeping the rest covered.

3. Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball into an oval, about 4"x3". Fold the oval in half to create bun shaped. Place on parchment square. Keep covered loosely with plastic wrap or towel to prevent drying out. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Prepare steamer (see photos above). Steam the buns for 15 minutes. You'll have to steam in 2 or 3 batches (avoid overcrowding the buns).

FOR THE CHILI SAUCE
Place the green onion, chili, vinegar and salt in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cooking oil until smoking, remove from heat and immediately pour on top of the green onion mixture. Please be careful, the oil will bubble and crackle.

To serve, carefully open each bun, spread a bit of hoisin sauce in the bun. Add a slice of pork belly and top with the chili sauce. Add a bit of kimchi if desired.

How to make steamed buns with Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit Dough

My friend, Isabelle, came over for dinner and she arrived the same time I was popping open this can of Pillsbury Biscuit dough. Even though my mom told me to use this dough 9 years ago, I had never experimented with this.

So Isabelle’s sitting at the counter, enjoying her wine and watching me roll these balls and I’m like, “This is SO NOT GOING TO WORK” — “I bet you $10 that this canned dough will fail miserably.”

Lesson learned: never doubt my Mom. They were just as tasty as the dough mixture – and they looked better with smooth, pillowy texture.

This will make 20 buns, however, they will be just a bit smaller than the buns I’ve made above – just make sure you cut the pork belly into thinner slices.

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour for dusting work surface
2 cans Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit dough (7.5 ounces each)
20 parchment squares (about 4″x4″)

1. Dust work surface with the flour. Open the can of dough. Separate out the biscuits – there should be 10 in each can.  Keep the dough covered loosely with plastic wrap or towel. Roll each biscuit into an oval and fold in half. Place on parchment square. Keep covered until ready to steam.

2. Prepare steamer as shown above in photos. Steam the buns for 12 minutes. You’ll steam the buns in batches, avoid overcrowding the plate while steaming otherwise the buns will stick to each other.

Use Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe quick buns

Roll each biscuit out to oval-ish shape

Pork Belly Buns Recipe oval biscuit

Fold in half and place on parchment square:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe folded biscuits on parchment

Steam:

Pork Belly Buns Recipe steamy biscuit buns

Fluffy!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe puffy quick buns

Gorgeous. Brilliant trick, Mom!

Pork Belly Buns Recipe quick buns done

Comments 68

  1. Trisha

    My local butcher, in Saint Louis, Missouri, claims Pork Belly is the same as Hog Maws…what do you think?

    1. Joel Roush

      You need a new butcher. Hog maws are linings of the stomach of the hog. A pork belly is a giant slab of meat, rectangular in shape, and about 1.5″ to 2″ in thickness. It’s the same cut that bacon is made from.

  2. Laura @ Inwideningcircles

    This was delicious!! I went the Pilsbury route and while I had a little trouble following your directions, I think we made it out okay! The pork is amaaaaazing. I went ahead and made Momofuku’s ginger scallion sauce and some quick cucumber pickles to go with the buns (also: kimchi). SUPER tasty and so fun. Thanks!

  3. Anne

    Thanks for the pillsbury dough tip. It was perfect!

    To Trisha – Hog Maws is not at all the same as pork belly. Pork belly is fatty meat cut from the belly of the pig (usually it’s what we use to make bacon in the US). Hog maws is the stomach lining and has no fat if properly cleaned. Completely different – you may want to consider finding a new butcher. ;)

  4. Dan

    @Trisha, definitely get a new butcher…

    This recipe is great, anyone thinking of trying it should definitely give it a go, I’ve started buying extra pork belly when for my sunday roast so that I can cut a lump off for this as a mid week meal.

    Thanks Jaden :)

  5. Ashley

    I had some trouble with steaming the buns. They took way longer and were still very soggy on top. Has anyone else had this problem? I ended up putting them in the oven for a minute to dry out. Otherwise very tasty!! We will be making them again!

    Thank you for sharing!

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  7. Giselle Ko

    Hi Jaden, my husband and I are undergoing a kitchen renovation and we are a few days away from using our new Thermador Grand Pro Steam oven for the first time. Our daughter has requested steamed pork buns to celebrate the occasion. We love your Steamy Kitchen cookbook, and we know that we will eventually learn how to convert those recipes for use in our new oven, but in the meantime, I would like to follow detailed directions. Have you developed a recipe like this specifically for use with the Thermador oven? Thank you!

  8. Helen

    Grr.. I hate and love you at the same time. Hate because I won’t be able to make this until Sunday (two days from right now) and love because I know it’s going to be freaking amazing.

    gah.

    thank you!!!!!!!

  9. IJE

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was a hit, thanks for sharing the recipe :-)

  10. Pingback: Momofuku Steamed Pork Buns | Just Putzing Around the Kitchen

  11. Phanny

    Just made these pork buns and they were delish!! thanks for sharing the recipe

  12. Karen

    I can buy frozen buns at my local Korean market. They are a hybrid of making your own and going the bisquit route, I guess. Because this is a time consuming, but totally worth it recipe, I sometimes cook the pork belly, slice it, freeze it in small batches, then can fry it up and indulge a pork belly bun craving easily.

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