Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pork Belly Buns


I was shopping this past Sunday when I came across fresh pork belly. This is something I have always wanted to cook but never got around to it. Without having a recipe in mind I bought the pork belly and figured I would decide what to do with it when I got home. I had all day to cook on Memorial day and decided to make a version of David Chang's steamed pork buns. Having been to Momofuku Ssam bar and eating the pork buns I knew the greatness of the flavors involved. A quick internet search turned up a couple different versions from David Chang. I went with this one found on Epicurious.com.

I was lazy and decided that I would be able to find the steamed buns at the store but unfortunately I came up empty and ended up steaming potato rolls as the buns. This turned out to work perfectly.

Here's what you need for the pork belly:

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups water, divided
2 1/2 lb skinless boneless pork belly, cut into quarters
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

The first thing to do is to brine the pork. Brining helps force extra moisture and seasoning deep into the meat further ensuring a moist end product. The recipe called for 12 hours but I only had 6, which turned out to be enough. To make the brine combine the salt, sugar and water in a a bowl and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Put the pork belly in a large resealable bag and cover with the brine and refrigerate. Pre-heat an oven to 300 degrees. Put the pork belly, fat side up, in an baking pan. Pour 1/2 cup of broth and remaining 1/2 cup water into the pan. Cover tightly with foil and roast until the pork belly is very tender. It took me about 2 1/2 hours.

After the two and half hours crank the heat up to 450 degrees to brown the fat. Put the pork belly back in the oven uncovered and cook for about 20 minutes until the fat is nice and golden. Here is what it looked like after 20 minutes.At this point to make it easier to cut, you let the pork rest and cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate uncovered for an hour before cutting. After the pork belly was chilled I sliced it across the grain into 1/4-inch slices. To reheat I put the slices in the pan juices and heated them at 350 degrees for until hot, which took 15 minutes.

To serve a steamed the rolls for a few minutes until soft and heated through. Then I brushed the bottom half of the roll with hoisin sauce, topped it with a few strips of pork belly, and topped it with a few thin slices of cucumber and chopped scallions.

This was amazing. The fattiness of the pork belly is not overwhelming and the meat is moist and tender. One friend who tried it said the flavor reminded him of a chinese sparerib (due to the hoisin), just a whole lot tastier. While probably not as great as Chang's, it was pretty awesome. And there is always something that makes it taste better when you are the one that makes it. It is something I would definitely make again because the recipe is not the difficult.
Here is one final shot of the completed dish

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