Hey friends! It’s been a while since my last post. Thing is, last week was my birthday week and I’m also busy preparing for a huge party this coming Saturday for hubby’s birthday. Yup, March is our birthday month and I’m struggling to find time to cook something for this blog.
Anyhow, one of the presents I got from hubby for my birthday is the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang! I’ve always wanted to have one and I was literally close to getting one from Amazon. Perfect timing 🙂
I got my Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table last December from my sister and thought a David Chang and Thomas Keller should be in my collection too. Now that I got my Momofuku book, anyone’s welcome to pamper me with a Thomas Keller 😀 hehe
I like Dorie’s book and have made her Gougeres but I can’t connect much because I haven’t been to France. I haven’t eaten in an authentically-French restaurant although there’s a lot of restaurants in Manila that serve French cuisine. However, I can’t even tell if they’re authentic or not because I have no basis of comparison.
On the reverse, I connect a lot with David Chang’s book. First off, he’s Korean and I’m hooked to Korean dramas and reading about his struggles as a budding chef towards forming the Momofuku empire led me to thinking that his stories should be made into a movie! Secondly, I’ve been to NYC and I can picture the food business scenarios he describes in the book. More importantly, I can connect with his food trip and style maybe because we’re of the same age (1977 babies, yeah!). The young man is a genius!
To me, when I hear Momofuku, the first thing that comes to mind is Steamed Pork Buns. I thought that with the book on hand, there’s no reason for me to dilly-dally.
Well, what I thought sounded easy (“steamed” = easy for me) turned out to be a painstaking labor. The pork buns are not as easy as 1-2-3. The three major components of the dish all require hard work and extreme patience! All in all, I started preparing at 11am just so that we can eat the buns by 7pm. That felt like day of waiting and prepping and cooking!
Now you may wonder, is it worth the effort? I’d say a million times that YES, the buns are sensational and insanely delicious that I won’t get tired of making them over and over!
The Roast Pork
The first component of the dish and a real important one is the Roast Pork.
The belly has to have the right amount of fat. If you get a leaner slab, you won’t be able to get as much rendered fat as you would if you got one that has a good amount of fat. The belly has to be skinless. I got mine with skin on but since the meat was cold and I had a good knife, I was able to take the skin off without much hassle.
Here’s a photo of the lean-fat layers I had in my belly. I used flash here because my point and shoot camera is so low-tech I can’t get a clear picture of the layers on auto. Anyhow, as you can see, I think this was a great slab because it’s not too lean nor too fatty.
- One 3-lb. slab of skinless pork belly
- 1/4 cup Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
*I used brown sugar by the way.
- Nestle the belly into a roasting pan or other oven-safe vessel that holds it snugly. Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub the mix all over the meat; discard any excess salt-and-sugar mixture. Cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours but no longer than 24.
- Heat the oven to 450F.
- Discard any liquid that accumulated in the container. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown.
- Turn the oven temperature down to 250F and cook for another 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the belly is tender – it shouldn’t be falling apart, but it should have a down pillow-like yield to a firm finger poke. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the belly to a plate. Decant the fat and the meat juices from the pan and reserve. This can be used for other recipes in the book but not for the pork buns. Allow the belly to cool slightly.
- When it’s cool enough to handle, wrap the belly 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.
- Cut the pork belly into 1/2 inch thick slices that are about 2 inches long. Warm them for serving in a pan over medium heat, just for a minute or two, until they are jiggly soft and heated through. Use at once.
Now, check out the meat!
The meat tastes sooooo good and I can’t believe you can get roasted pork as delicious as that with the use of only sugar and salt for the rub. It’s the best I’ve tasted! The meat is so tender and succulent. I couldn’t help but have a couple of slices right after they’re cooled down a bit. Unbelievably good!
The Steamed Buns
The next major component would be the Steamed Buns.
The recipe can make up to 50 buns but as David Chang said, “it’s a lot of buns but they keep in the freezer for months and months without losing any quality and if you cut the recipe down, there’s barely enough stuff in the bowl of the mixer for the dough hook to pick up. So clear out a couple of hours and some space in the freezer and get to work” 😛
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water at room temperature
- 4 1/4 cups bread flour
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- Rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening at room temperature plus more for shaping the buns as needed
- 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 to 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.
- Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or 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, or a smidge under an ounce. 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.
- Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.
- Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle 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 rise for 30 to 45 minutes: they will rise a little.
- 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 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.
Let me show you how small the little dough balls look like. True, they’re the size of a Ping-Pong ball.
And they’d look like this when rolled under the pin and folded with a chopstick.
When steamed, they’d look like these:
The buns are soft and tasty. I believe the milk made a great difference in that these buns taste way better than the other steamed buns I’ve tried. I cooked the buns ahead of the pork and while waiting, I didn’t realize I consumed three buns already. They’re really good!
The Pickled Cucumbers
This is the third component and the easiest to prepare.
As said in the Momofuku book, “a recipe almost seems excessive for these types of quickly made salt-and-sugar pickles, because the technique for making them is so simple: Sprinkle some thinly sliced vegetables with a 3:1 mix of sugar to Kosher salt and toss. Ten to 20 minutes later, they’re ready to eat. The resulting pickles have a fresh snap.”
- 2 meaty Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch-thick disks
- 1 tablespoon sugar or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt or more to taste
- Combine the vegetable wit the sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat with the sugar and salt. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Taste: if the pickles are too sweet or too salty, put them into a colander, rinse of the seasoning, and dry in a kitchen towel. Taste again and add more sugar or salt as needed. Server after 5 to 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
And this is the finished product. Indeed with a fresh snap! 🙂
Assembling the Steamed Pork Buns
You’ll also need the following to assemble the buns:
- Hoisin Sauce
- Sriracha, for serving
Now that we have everything, we’re ready to assemble.
Heat the bun in a steamer on the stovetop. It should be hot to the touch, which will take almost no time with just-made buns and 2 to 3 minutes with frozen buns.
Grab the bun from the steamer and flop it open on a plate.
Slather the inside with the hoisin sauce, using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon.
Arrange the pickles on one side of the fold in the bun and the slices of pork belly on the other.
If you like scallions, scatter the belly and pickles with sliced scallion, fold closed, and voila: pork bun. Serve with Sriracha sauce.
I’ve made some dishes and followed recipes by the letter but THIS is the best f@#%in’ dish I’ve ever made. Sorry for the curse but I have to tell you, a litany of curses went around the dinner table after our every bite into the pork buns. They’re the best, hands down!
I have to admit that while I enjoyed a lot of the dishes I prepared and I’m almost always happy with the reaction I get from my husband or my guests, there are times when I still feel that there’s something I could’ve done to make me feel more confident with those dishes.
Here is the dish that I am most confident with. I was already confident from the time I tasted the buns while the pork belly was still roasting. I grabbed one and thought it was unbelievably good. I thought I must be dreaming so I got another one and confirmed it. And I got a third just to say, hell yeah it’s freakin’ delicious!
I also did the same thing with the pork belly. I grabbed a slice and tasted it and the meat just melted in my mouth. I was like silent for a moment there not believing how delicious the pork was. I got another slice and headed to the fridge to grab 2 slices of pickled cucumber to go with the meat. I closed my eyes and got mesmerized by the marriage of flavors bursting inside my mouth. I reckoned it was time to try it with the bun. That was my third slice of pork and when I tried it with the bun and the Hoisin sauce, my confidence level just skyrocketed.
I called my husband and commanded him to hurry home. I wanted him to smell he kitchen. I wanted him to try the dish immediately. I knew it’s gonna make his day and I was right.
Momofuku Steamed Pork Buns are officially our most favorite dish and you now have a chance to try it at home. Please do because it is so worth every ounce of effort you put into it.