There are two kinds of people in the world, those that love a warm bun stuffed with hot meat – yeah don’t think that I didn’t see you smirk at the sexual innuendo – and those who are lying. Non-meat eaters, I know you have your alternatives filled with tofu that I’m maybe 40% convinced are just as delicious, but this is not about you. It’s about me, steamed buns, and roast pork. A culinary threesome. Hawt.
As many of you already know, I am completely rubbish at drinking. I only have two settings – tipsy and comatose. There is a very fine line between them which is constantly changing and depends on – but not limited to – the alcoholic beverage at hand, what I’ve eaten that day and the alignment of Venus and Jupiter. Seriously, what kind of fuckery is that? Not having any idea what’s going to happen when a drop of alcohol passes my lips is as annoying as Anne Hathaway. I might be able to down four cocktails on one night and only reach the tipsy stage, but the next night take one sip and I’m passed out in the corner of the ladies room underneath a pile of used paper towels. There does seem to be one exception, and that is extremely expensive wine. For some reason my body miraculously manages to metabolise bottles of wine worth more than my weekly salary, what can I say? It’s some kind of gift. It’s similar to being allergic to jewellery that isn’t pure sterling silver or 18 carat gold. It’s a serious condition, people. I think it’s also entirely possible that I’m allergic to handbags that aren’t 100% leather and didn’t come from Chanel, YSL, or Balenciaga, but I’m too afraid to test that theory in case I go into anaphylactic shock or something.
If you like Peking Duck, you’ll love these steamed buns with char siu roasted pork. They’re exactly like Peking Duck pancakes except without the Peking Duck and the pancakes. The buns are pillowy, soft and a little bit sweet, kind of like a McDonald’s cheeseburger bun but infinitely better and with no chemicals added (did you see the cheeseburger that a guy found in his pocket after 14 years and it looked exactly the same with no mould? What kind of idiot puts a cheeseburger in his pocket? And how big was this guy’s pocket? Are we talking cargo pants pockets?) The pork belly is unctuously salty-sweet, with the cucumber and spring onion adding the perfect crunch and contrast. Add chilli sauce if you must. Maybe even lay out the bits and pieces and let everyone make their own buns, Mexican-taco-fiesta-style with all of your closest friends. Food magazines always have these staged shots of ecstatic bland toothy people pretending to be besties and reaching for the guacamole, but has anyone actually been invited to a taco party (not a euphemism) or do I need to find me some new friends?
I make my buns smallish so I can eat handfuls of them and trick myself into feeling all virtuous and superior, but you can make them any size you like. The recipe makes about 40 – 50 depending on how big you make your balls. It sounds like a lot of buns, but they do freeze really well and they defrost and steam just like brand new. So you could conceivably have a freezer full of buns to eat at your leisure. Unless you might have a freezer like mine, containing ice-crusted indistinguishable packages beyond the help of forensic analysis.
But the reason why I brought up drinking earlier is because these buns would be excellent hangover food. Probably. And they’d be a delicious snack with an icy cold beer or as an entrée with a glass of shiraz. Probably. I’m not sure because I haven’t tried it. But I can definitely say that they pair very well with a regular dirty Coke, preferably Zero. Full fat is ok. But not Diet. NEVER DIET.
MOMOFUKU STEAMED BUNS WITH SLOW ROASTED CHAR SIU PORK BELLY
Recipe for buns by David Chang of Momofuku
Char Siu Pork Belly
1kg pork belly, skin removed – I used boneless pork ribs in this recipe
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, or substitute regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tablespoon hoisin sauce
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons honey
1. Marinate the pork belly: In a large bowl, mix together the rice wine, dark soy sauce, sugar, garlic, hoisin sauce, honey and five-spice powder. Rub the pork belly with the marinade mixture and marinate for 2 to 3 hours or even better, overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 140°C.
3. Hold up the pork for a few seconds to allow excess marinade to drip off, then place the pork in a roasting pan. Roast the pork for about 3 – 4 hours, flipping over the pork belly half-way through. The pork is done when the outsides begin to crisp and blacken and the center of the pork belly strip feels firm.
4. Remove the pork from oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into thin slices. Arrange the slices on a plate and serve.
Momofuku Steamed Buns
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp active dry yeast
1½ cups water, at room temperature
4½ cups bread flour
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp non-fat dry milk powder
1 tbsp kosher salt
Rounded ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening at room temperature, plus more for shaping the buns, as needed
1. 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.
2. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or a 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 25gm. 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.
3. Meanwhile, cut out fifty 10cm squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.
4. Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 10cm-long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval spread a little of the fat onto half 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 30-45 minutes: they will rise a little.
5. 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.
Cucumber, sliced into rounds or batons
Spring onions, sliced into batons
Hoi sin sauce
Kim Chi (optional)
Place slice of pork belly, a baton of cucumber and piece of spring onion inside the steamed bun. Add a smear of hoi sin sauce and chilli sauce (if desired). Also feel free to fill buns with pork belly and kim chi if preferred.