1steamed bunAbout 1 tbsphoisin sauce3-4 slicespickled cucumber (see note)3thick slices barbecued pork belly (see note)1 scant tbspthinly sliced spring onions (green and white)For serving:sriracha (see note)
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 2-3 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. Scatter the belly and pickles with sliced spring onions, fold closed, and voilà: pork bun. Serve with sriracha.
"It's weird to be 'famous' for something. Can you imagine
being Neil Diamond and having to sing Cracklin' Rosie every time
you get onstage for the rest of your life? Neither can I. But if
Momofuku is 'famous' for something, it's these steamed pork buns.
Are they good? They are. Are they something that sprang from our
collective imagination like Athena out of Zeus's forehead? Hell no.
They're just our take on a pretty common Asian food formula:
steamed bread + tasty meat = good eating. And they were an
eleventh-hour addition to the menu. Almost a mistake. No one
thought they were a good idea or that anyone would want to eat pork
I got into the whole steamed bread thing when I stayed in Beijing.
I ate char siu bao - steamed buns stuffed with dark, sweet roast
pork - morning, noon and night from vendors on the street who did
nothing but satisfy that city's voracious appetite for steamed
buns. When I lived in Tokyo, I'd pick up a niku-man - the Japanese
version, with a milder-flavoured filling - every time I passed the
local convenience store. They're like the 7-Eleven hot dogs of
Tokyo, with an appeal not unlike that of the soft meatiness of
White Castle hamburgers.
And in the early days of my relationship with Oriental Garden -
the restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown where I've eaten more meals
than anywhere else on the planet - I'd always order the Peking
duck, which the restaurant serves with folded-over steamed buns
with fluted edges, an inauthentic improvement on the more common
accompaniment of spring onion pancakes.
After I'd eaten his Peking duck about a million times, I asked Mr
Choi, the owner (whom I now call Uncle Choi, because he's the
Chinese uncle I never had), to show me how to make the steamed
buns. For as many times as I had eaten steamed buns, I had never
thought about making them, but with Noodle Bar about to open, I had
the menu on my mind. He laughed and put me off for weeks before
finally relenting. (He likes to remind me that I am the kung-fu -
the student, the seeker, the workman - and he is the si-fu - the
master.) But instead of taking me back into the kitchen, he handed
me a scrap of paper with an address, the name John on it, and a
note scribbled in Chinese that I couldn't read.
Have you ever seen the blaxploitation martial arts movie The Last
Dragon from the '80s, where the dude is in constant search for some
type of master who can provide some wisdom, and in the end it turns
out to be a hoax - the master's place is a fortune cookie factory?
Probably not. But that's how I felt when the place I was sent to
learn the secret of steamed bread turned out to be May May Foods, a
local company that supplied dozens of New York restaurants with
premade dim sum items, including buns, for decades before it closed
in 2007. The guy there, John, showed me the dead-simple process: a
little mixing, a little steaming, and presto! buns. It turns out
they are made from a simple white bread dough, mantou (not so
different from, say, Wonder Bread), that is steamed instead of
But when I saw the flour everywhere and tried to imagine that mess
in our tiny, already overcrowded kitchen, I immediately placed an
order. We didn't have the space to attempt them then, and we
continued to buy them from Chinatown bakeries even after May May
If you have that option - a Chinese bakery or restaurant where you
can easily buy them, or even a well-stocked freezer section at a
local Chinese grocery store - I encourage you to exercise it
without any pangs of guilt. How many sandwich shops bake their own
bread? Right. Don't kill yourself. But don't be put off by the idea
of making them either. They're easy and they freeze perfectly.
Here's the recipe for our pork buns, which you can increase ad
infinitum to make more to share."
At A Glance
Serves 1 people
At A Glance
Serves 1 people
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