Laotongguan-Style Xi’an Pork Belly Burger

June 27, 2023
3 Ratings
Photo by Mandy Lee
  • Prep time 27 hours
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • makes 6 burgers
Author Notes

For all enthusiastic food hunters, the idea of a Xi’an burger called roujiamo—braised pork stuffed inside English-muffin-like buns—is no longer much of a novelty. Fortunately, there exists a version of it (an advanced version, if you will) that will knock the old one out of the park. Called Lao Tong Guan-style roujiamo, it’s set apart by its bun, which is laminated with thinly striped layers to create chip-like shredded wafers. You’ll find my recipe differs slightly from others that use only baking powder and an alkaline agent for the leavening effect; I find that the alkaline gives the dough an aftertaste and lacks the pleasant aroma that traditionally yeasted dough provides. So, I created a recipe that is somewhat of a hybrid. It is the perfect vehicle for the sticky, gelatinous, heavily spiced pork belly, accompanied by a bit of funk and textural playfulness from the pork intestine (yes, pork intestine). I love it, but if you don’t, no worries; you can rely heavily on the pork belly here if you so choose. An addition of good old French Brie also brings a mild, familiar grooviness to the party. Don't even think about adding any lettuce, tomatoes, or slaw, none of which have a place inside a Xi'an-style burger. —Mandy @ Lady and pups

What You'll Need
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Laotongguan-Style Xi’an Pork Belly Burger
  • For the burger:
  • 600 grams skin-on pork belly*
  • 160 grams cleaned pork intestines, (optional *if not using, then increase the pork belly to 750 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar (optional, if using pork intestines)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (optional, if using pork intestines)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional, if using pork intestines)
  • 3 scallions, cut into 2-inch segments
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 (2-inch-long) slices fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup shaoxing wine
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 2 teaspoons yellow miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 500 grams Brie or Camembert cheese
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, or other herbs of your choice

  • For the spice mix:
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorn
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • For the buns:
  • 400 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 215 grams (¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons) water
  • 70 grams (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter or lard, melted, plus more for brushing
  1. For the burger:
  2. Preferably 24 hours before, in spice grinder, grind all the spices until a fine powder; set aside.
  3. Prepare the burgers: If using pork intestine, cut the intestine open lengthwise with kitchen scissors, remove any excess fat inside (if any), then rinse and set inside a bowl. Add the vinegar, salt, and flour and rub them vigorously against the surface of the intestine for 2 minutes, then rinse until clean. Repeat again and the intestine should be clean and ready to go.
  4. In a braising pot, heat sesame oil over high heat. Brown the pork belly until caramelized on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add scallions, garlic, and ginger. Cook until browned on the edges. Add wine, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, and cleaned pork intestine (if using). Cook, turning the pork belly and intestines a few times to coat them in the liquid, until the liquid has reduced, thickened slightly, and begun to caramelize on the sides of the pot. Add chicken stock, miso paste, fish sauce, and 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture. Bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 2 hours, or until you can easily pierce through the pork skin with a fork and the sauce has reduced down by about ⅓. Turn off the heat. Once cooled, keep refrigerated in an airtight container until needed.
  5. Remove as much of the rind of the cheese as you can, then pulse in a food processor until creamy like a spread. Set aside at room temperature. In a Dutch oven set over medium heat, bring the braised pork belly back to a simmer. Using tongs, transfer the warmed pork belly and intestines onto a chopping board. Pass the simmering liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract any available sauce; discard the solids. Chop the pork belly into ½-inch pieces. Transfer back to the pot, adding the cilantro leaves, then ladle enough strained sauce on top so that mixture is thoroughly moistened but not soupy. Return to a simmer until the pork belly is reheated, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Slice each bun open, leaving a small part at the end still attached. Generously pile on the chopped pork belly, and top it with the creamed Brie or Camembert. Slide the burger into a parchment-made pouch to contain the mess if you want, but either way, enjoy immediately.
  1. For the buns:
  2. In a stand-mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix flour, sugar, instant yeast, salt, baking soda, and water on low until a cohesive dough forms. Turn the speed to medium and knead for another 10 minutes until the dough is relatively smooth on the surface. Cover the bowl and let rest for 30 minutes (the dough will have risen slightly).
  3. Switch to a pasta dough roller attachment on your stand mixer (or a countertop hand-operated machine). Divide the dough into 3 equal-sized portions. Covering the unused portions with plastic wrap, dust one portion with flour, and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a thick strip that will fit through the thickest setting of the machine. Pass it through the thickest setting of the pasta machine, then fold it in half, and pass it through again. Repeat this process 5 to 8 times until the dough becomes smooth and silky to the touch. Dust the dough with flour as needed, and continue to pass it through each setting once until you get to the thinnest setting.
  4. Lay the long strip of dough flat on the countertop, then brush the entire surface with melted butter or lard. Starting from one end of the dough and working your way towards the other end, gently hold the opposite sides of the dough with each hand and slowly stretch it outwards so the strip almost doubles in width and becomes even thinner. Trim off about ¼ inch off of both edges lengthwise (where it was held), then start loosely rolling the dough up like a cigar, intentionally leaving spaces in between each layer and stopping rolling at the halfway point. The scroll should feel limp and saggy (a tightly rolled dough results in overly dense buns).
  5. Run a lattice roller or small paring knife lengthwise down the unrolled rest of the dough sheet to cut it into thin strips. Make sure you press it down hard to make sure each strip is separated. Continue to roll the sheet up until you get to the end.
  6. Cut the roll in half lengthwise (which will give you two shorter scrolls). Turn them 90 degrees so they sit on the work surface, pointing up. Press each one down with your palm to flatten, then roll each into a disk about 3 ½ inches wide. Brush both sides with a bit of melted butter, and place them on a sheet pan with 2 inches of space in between. Cover with plastic wrap. Repeat rolling and folding with the remaining two portions of the dough, which will give you 6 disks in total. Let the dough rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until puffy.
  7. Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Heat a flat skillet over medium heat. Add the risen dough rounds in an even layer and cook until the first side is lightly browned, then flip and lightly brown the other side as well (this step gives the buns flat tops, like an English muffin). Transfer them to a sheet pan. Bake on the upper rack until the buns are slightly puffed up and golden browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

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