I know what you’re going to say. What parent in her right mind would consider David Chang’s iconic pork buns 1: kid food; and 2: something to be undertaken at home when you live in the same city as Momofuku?
I have solid arguments for both.
These buns have all of the characteristics that kids love: they’re salty and sweet and texturally interesting, they’re fun to look at and eat, and they involve pork belly, a close cousin of bacon. (In Clara’s world, there is never not a good time for bacon.)
If your children are old enough, they can make the steamed buns with you. What’s more fun than little balls of dough you can smash and roll into funny shapes? And because the recipe makes so many of them, there’s lots of room for error.
As for the second point, when it comes down to it, these are just not that difficult. The pork belly is a set-it-and-forget-it situation, requiring more patience than effort. The quick-pickled cucumbers are ready in a flash, and then all that’s left are the buns–both the most active and the most fun part of the recipe: once you get the hang of shaping the buns, it’s kind of cathartic to crank out the smooth little envelopes of dough.
Maybe the best thing about the buns is that after you steam them, they freeze like a dream. Which is why the recipe makes twice as many as you’ll need–make 50 (ish), freeze half, and the next time the bulk of your work will be behind you before you begin.
Here’s a step-by-step on how to shape the buns:
After the first rise, divide the dough into 50 pieces, roll them into little balls, and let them rise again.
Roll each ball into an oval and brush with oil.
Lay a chopstick across the center and fold the bun in half over it.
Gently remove the chopstick and transfer the bun to a square of parchment for its last rise before steaming.
Adapted from Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan —Merrill Stubbs
- Prep time 25 hours
- Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
- Makes about 25 buns
- Pork Belly and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers
skinless pork belly
plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
plus 1 tablespoon sugar
thick Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch-slices
- Pork Buns
plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 1/4 cups
nonfat dry milk powder
baking powder, rounded
rendered pork fat, bacon fat or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
thinly sliced scallions (green and white parts)
Sriracha, for serving
- Pork Belly and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers
- Put the pork belly in a roasting pan that holds it snugly, fat side up. Combine 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl and rub all over the pork. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, and no longer than 24.
- Heat the oven to 450ºF. Discard any liquid that has accumulated in the roasting pan and put the pork belly in the oven. Cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat halfway through, until it's golden brown.
- Turn the oven temperature down to 250ºF and cook until the pork is tender, another 1 hour and 15 minutes or so. Transfer the pork to a plate, decant the fat and the meat juices from the pan and reserve it for the buns. Allow the pork to cool slightly.
- When it’s cool enough to handle, wrap the pork in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in the fridge until it’s thoroughly chilled and firm. (You can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but the only way to get neat, nice-looking slices is to chill the belly thoroughly before slicing it.)
- Combine the cucumbers with the remaining sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Use right away or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
- When you're ready to make the buns, cut the pork belly into 1/2-inch-slices about 2 inches long. Warm them in a pan over medium heat for a minute or two, until soft and heated through. Use the pork right away.
- Pork Buns
- Stir together the yeast and 1 1/2 cups room temperature water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda and fat and mix on the lowest speed setting for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should gather together into a ball on the hook. Lightly oil a large bowl and put the dough in it, turning it over to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel and put it in a warm place and let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a sharp 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 25 grams each. Roll each piece into a ball and set them on baking sheets. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise for 30 minutes. While they're rising, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper.
- After 30 minutes, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4-inch-long oval. Brush lightly with vegetable oil, lay a chopstick horizontally across the center of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form a bun. Gently pull out the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and transfer it to a square of parchment paper. Put it back under the plastic wrap and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rest for 30 to 45 minutes: they will rise a little.
- Set up a steamer on top of 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 or allow them to cool completely, then put them in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 2 months. Reheat frozen buns in a stove top steamer for 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through. Freeze half the buns in airtight bags for another time.
- Open a warm bun and spread about 2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce on the inside. Add 2 pieces of pork belly, then a couple slices of pickle. Add a scattering of scallion and a squirt of sriracha if you like. Repeat with the remaining buns, and eat!