Best Pork Buns Recipe - How to Make Steamed Chinese Pork Belly Bao

Green Onion/Scallion

Momofuku's Pork Buns

November  5, 2020
12 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

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

Watch This Recipe
Momofuku's Pork Buns
  • Prep time 25 hours
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Makes about 25 buns
Ingredients
  • Pork Belly and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers
  • 6 pounds skinless pork belly
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 thick Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch-slices
  • Pork Buns
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, rounded
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup rendered pork fat, bacon fat or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green and white parts)
  • Sriracha, for serving
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Pork Belly and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  1. Pork Buns
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Swoon
    Swoon
  • Jared Michael Watson
    Jared Michael Watson
  • Darren Greaves
    Darren Greaves
  • Sebastien Helary
    Sebastien Helary
  • Mike V
    Mike V

    84 Reviews

    Tinybites March 27, 2018
    Thought I'd share a few pointers after reading a ton of online methods for this recipe, and the successfully making these last weekend. (1) Buns -- I made these as instructed (25g balls), and they are on the small side; big enough to hold one piece of pork which was fine for me, but you may want to bump them to 30-35g balls to try and squish two pork slices inside; I steamed them, froze on cookie sheets, then kept in a freezer bag for a week; reheated by steaming 3 mins; (2) Pork -- I didn't follow this recipe as everyone seemed to complain about burning; in fact, Momofuku doesn't even follow this recipe!; there is an Eater article that dissects how the Momofuku buns are made, and the pork is cooked low and slow at 290F; another blog I found had the same instructions, which they discovered by asking at the restaurant; cook belly to an internal temp of 190F; I had two 3 lb slabs that were quite thick, and it took me 4.5 hours!; also, I rinsed the salt/sugar off the pork before cooking (Chang does this in a Martha Stewart video), and baked the pork on a rack in a sheet pan (again, see pictures in Eater article). Low and slow resulted in tender and juicy meat, I imagine cooking to a relatively high temp was to get the collagen to break down. Good luck!
     
    Daniel O. March 26, 2019
    Ugh I wish I had read this before cooking... luckily I set the timer to only 25 minutes on 450 because something just told me it would end up burning... lol there was literally no juice for me to use because it was all a black mess.

    If I make this another time I'll have to rinse off the salt/sugar rub and just cook at 290F. Thanks again!
     
    Diem K. October 25, 2020
    Like Daniel, I should have read this first. Mine turned out so salty. I was watching the pork, so I actually turned it down to 250 around 30 minutes since I notice it was starting to burn.
     
    Swoon September 1, 2016
    I made the buns and they are amazing!!!! The first thing I did was convert it to weights instead of volume measurements because cups and teaspoons are just not accurate or consistent. An example, while converting I weighed a cup of flour using two different one cup measures and one weighed 180g the other 130...

    So here it is:

    Yeast 16
    Bread Flour 552
    Sugar 84
    Milk Pwdr 36
    salt 20
    Baking Pwdr 1/2 tsp
    Baking Soda 1/2 tsp
    Fat 70
    Water 340
     
    Jared M. September 5, 2016
    Hey Swoon. Glad you did, there is nothing more annoying than great books like The French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park being in cup measurements and not weight. The chefs themselves complain but say that the publishers force them to do it for the American housewife. Ridiculous! there is no way any of these chefs do cup measurements at their restaurants. Anyway i tend to agree with your measurements. King Arthur say 1 cup = 120g but i tend to think this is still too wet (although i use it) and i reckon 130g flour per cup will probably be spot on.
     
    riki July 22, 2016
    Was exited to make this "kid friendly" recipe. We took it easy on ourselves and bought buns (I know, I know). Didn't look much like the picture of the kid eating, and ages 5 and under had some trouble with meat. BUT, it tasted really good! I like the cucumbers with the buns. Good flavor and texture combination in the sandwich. I think I'll do this again, but being the lazy-mom I am, I will buy bacon and pre-made buns to save some cooking and cleaning, too.
     
    Jared M. April 18, 2016
    My dough was too wet and after kneading fror ages i gave up with the idea of it pulling into a neat ball around the hook.
    Any advice?
    I did a few spoons more flour but didnt work either, and was scared to add too much
     
    Darren G. September 3, 2015
    Just made these at work, absolutely brilliant recipe!...one note: rub the belly with a dry cloth to remove excess salt and sugar (just like when doing confit duck legs) and roast on a rack.
     
    Mumbojumbo January 9, 2016
    Completely agree. The brine needs to be removed with either a very quick rinse and very good dry or a dry cloth.
     
    brothercadfael August 27, 2015
    shouldn't the meat come out of the marinade before roasting? that would help the over saltiness problem.
     
    Sebastien H. August 14, 2015
    I wrote a comment about the buns yesterday which didn't turn out great. Made the belly today and think I have some valuable feedback for anyone wishing to make this recipe. When the buns didn't turn out great, I made sure to read all the comments for this recipe and noticed that various people were mentioning the belly being too salty and overcooked. I was using a 2lb pork belly so this recipe would have called for 2.66 tbsp of salt and sugar. To make sure it wouldn't be too salty I did 2 tbsp of sugar and only 1 tbsp of salt. This turned out really great even though some of the bites from the outside of the belly sometimes bordered on being too salty. As for cooking time, I made sure to check on my belly every 10-15min and baste it each time. I wasn't sure if I should put the belly directly on the roasting pan or if I should use a rack. I opted for directly on the pan and after about 25min at 450 I noticed a strong sizzling sound. When I pulled the belly out of the oven, portions of the bottom had an overcooked black crust. I immediately turned down the oven to 250 and put the belly on a rack. Next time, I'll put it on a rack right away. So when this happened I scoured the net for more info and found that David Chang had published a new recipe on his Lucky Peach website (http://luckypeach.com/recipes/momofuku-pork-belly/) which differed from this one. That recipe called for 30min at 450 and 1-2h at 275. So I cooked my belly for an additional 2h at 250. I think next time for a 2lb belly I'll do 1h30 because it was slightly breaking apart when I cut it into pieces even though I had chilled it in the fridge. In any case, here's my suggestion 1 tbsp of sugar and 0.5 tbsp of salt per pound of belly. Then 15 to 30min at 450 (until belly is nicely browned and golden on the outside) followed by 1 to 2h at 250 depending on size, all the while basting the meat every 15-20min. Hope this helps!
     
    Sebastien H. August 14, 2015
    Just made the buns. Didn't turn out great. They were too small, yellow and not as big, pillowy and fluffy as the ones I've seen in restaurants. If any one has a better recipe for the buns would love to know. Gonna make the belly tomorrow. Hope it goes better. Cheers!
     
    Mihaela L. June 24, 2015
    Can I steam them in the microwave ? I don't have a steamer for the stove top but I have one for the microwave and I would like to try them.
     
    Mike V. June 18, 2015
    OMG. I had the opportunity to try some of Momofuku's boa's at the Noodle house. They are simply amazing!!!
     
    I U. June 2, 2015
    The oven times are all wrong. The skin came out way, way too hard as did the bottom. Next time I will cook at 450 for a 1/2 hour, then 1 1/2 hours at 250 to see how that works. The meat in the center was delicious but the skin and bottom were a waste.
     
    Mumbojumbo January 9, 2016
    What does "skinless pork belly" mean to you?
     
    Brenda R. April 4, 2015
    What are we supposed to do with the decanted rendered fat? The recipe doesn't address how to use it. Also, I found the the pork belly too fatty, I'm reducing the salt by half and adding a little brown sugar. Update to come on the results.
     
    Mumbojumbo January 9, 2016
    Pork belly is very fatty. That's what makes it great. The rendered fat is added to the buns.
     
    mrslarkin March 11, 2015
    Making this again for St. Patrick's day. Subbing corned beef for the pork belly, and reducing salt a little. It came out great last year!
     
    Lisa January 8, 2015
    Just made these amazing pockets of yum! I used my own charshiu recipe and left off the hoisin. Still very delicious!
     
    Jackie November 27, 2014
    Can I make the dough ahead of time and steam them the day I plan on eating them?
     
    RI November 25, 2014
    Did anyone else experience their bun turning a yellow tinge when steamed?
     
    Matty823 November 18, 2014
    I just made the buns today and they are soft and pillowy just like David Chang's restaurant! I didn't want to buy the huge box of dry milk so I added a little skim milk to the dry ingredients and stirred that before adding the yeast-shortening-water mixture. Still came out great!! Making the pork belly tonight and going to refrigerate it overnight and then assemble and eat these for tomorrow night's dinner!

    Thanks for the recipe...none of my local stores carry premade Baozi buns.
     
    Larry C. November 12, 2014
    This is next on my list, as I'm currently in work on another Pork Belly recipe here:
    www.foodnwhine.com/2014/10/21/mission-street-foods-pork-belly/
     
    Bruleau June 10, 2015
    Link does not open to recipe FYI.
     
    Larry C. June 10, 2015
    Good day.
    It looks like the website was updated somewhat to new layout. The URL now contains "blog" in the syntax...

    Try this link instead;
    http://www.foodnwhine.com/blog/2014/10/21/mission-street-foods-pork-belly
     
    swiml November 6, 2014
    Does anyone have an issue with the cooked pork belly being too tough? Will using a steam oven help it get more moist?
     
    MLF September 28, 2014
    I just made this tonight and it was amazing! I found the cure to be a little too salty though - I would suggest to lessen the salt vs. sugar. Also added a dash of vinegar to my cucumbers to make it pickled. Delish!
     
    Jen November 25, 2014
    FYI for those who found the pork cure too salty, David Chang washes off the rub before he puts the pork into the oven. This isn't mentioned in his cookbook but I noticed he did it in a video with Martha Stewart when making the pork buns. I make it this way every time, and it always comes out perfect. http://www.marthastewart.com/1002182/pork-bun-recipe-chef-david-chang#1002182