After enjoying this famous appetizer at a Dave Chang‘s restaurant (Momofuku Ssam Bar) in New York City, I decided to recreate it at home. The Pork Buns are basically slices of pork belly tucked inside a steamed bun along with seasoned cucumber and scallion slices. The first time I made these, I slow cooked pork belly with onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine and sugar and used the reduced liquid for sauce. I bought frozen buns at a local Chinese grocery store. It was delicious and relatively close to the ones we had at his restaurant. When his cookbook was published, I was a bit surprised to see how simple the recipe was for this incredibly flavorful pork belly. It calls for only two ingredients (salt and sugar) for the pork. I made these pork buns two more times following his recipe (tweaked slightly) for my holiday parties. They were a big hit both times! My only problem was to keep people from eating too much before the main course.
3 lbs pork belly
1/4 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 large onion*, sliced
2 tablespoons grated ginger*
3 scallions, thinly sliced
(*Chang does not use onion and ginger, but I think these add extra flavor to the meat while roasting.)
10 Buns (Chang, in his book, encourages to buy frozen ones from a Chinese grocery store.)
(*I added the vinegar to add some acidity to the dish.)
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine*
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic*
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger*
1 tablespoon honey or sugar*
(*The hoisin sauce tasted much better with these ingredients I added.)
Place the pork belly in a roasting pan. Rub it with the grated ginger. Mix together salt and sugar and rub the mixture all over pork belly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Preheat oven to 450.
Take out the meat from the pan and discard any excess liquid. Add the onion slices to the pan and then put the meat on top. Roast in the oven for an hour. Reduce the heat to 250 and roast for another hour until very tender. Cool and cut across the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices.
While the meat is roasting, prepare pickled cucumber by mixing the cucumber slices with sugar, salt and vinegar. Let it sit for 20 – 30 minutes.
In a small pan, mix the hoisin sauce with rice wine, garlic, ginger and honey and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.
Steam the buns for 3 to 4 minutes.
Spread the sauce on the inside of each bun. Top with 2 to 3 slices of pork, cucumbers and scallions.