Kyle Kolker is an Associate Art Director at Crown Publishing. He loves to cook for friends at his apartment.
I recently acquired the coveted stand mixer and aside from whipped cream, this was my first real use of it. Dough is difficult for me, but I had these buns at the restaurant a few months ago and I knew I was going to have to try them myself. The pickles and pork belly itself were really easy. The buns were a bit more of a challenge—definitely give yourself half a day.
The one trick I learned that wasn’t in Momofuku (Clarkson Potter, 2009) was told to me by the book’s editor, Rica Allannic. To set up the steam station do the following: Put one half-sheet across two burners and fit it with a wire rack. Pour in four cups of water, turn both burners to medium, put the buns and parchment squares on the rack and place a second, inverted half-sheet on top to keep the steam in. You’ll have to add more water for each batch.
Overall, it’s a fair amount of work, but the payoff is incredible.
And yes, I know I forgot a pickle on one of them. Still good.
Recipe for Momofuku Pork Buns
From Momofuku by David Chang
1 Steamed Bun (recipe below)
About 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 or 4 slices Quick-Pickled Cucumbers (recipe below)
3 thick slices Pork Belly (recipe below)
1 scant tablespoon thinly sliced scallion (green and white)
Sriracha, for serving
1. 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.
2. 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 scallion, fold closed, and voilà: pork bun. Serve with sriracha.
Recipe for Steamed Buns
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?2 teaspoon baking soda
1?3 cup rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening, at room temperature, plus more for shaping the buns, as needed
Makes 50 Buns
1. 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.
2. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or a 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.
3. Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.
4. 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 rest for 30 to 45 minutes: they will rise a little.
5. 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.
Makes enough pork for about 12 pork buns
One 3-pound slab skinless pork belly
1?4 cup kosher salt
1?4 cup sugar
1. 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.
2. Heat the oven to 450ºF.
3. 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.
4. Turn the oven temperature down to 250ºF and cook for another 1 hour to 1 hour 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 (see the headnote). Allow the belly to cool slightly.
5. 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.)
6. 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.
Makes about 2 cups
1. Combine the vegetable with 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.
2. Taste: if the pickles are too sweet or too salty, put them into a colander, rinse off the seasoning, and dry in a kitchen towel. Taste again and add more sugar or salt as needed. Serve after 5 to 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
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