Taiwanese Gua Bao Bun (台湾褂包)
Taiwanese Gua Bao is also known as steamed pork bun hamburgers. I grew up eating steamed buns, and this is insanely delicious. An authentic Taiwanese Gua Bao consists of a few components: The tender braised pork belly and the fluffy steamed bun are the foundation. Based on that, we will serve it with pickles and peanut powder to elevate the flavor.
2 lbs of skin-on pork belly, sliced into 2/3 inch thick slaps
⅓ cup of roughly chopped shallots
3 tbsp of roughly diced garlic
1 tbsp of minced ginger
½ tsp of five-spice powder
½ tsp of white pepper
1 small stick of cinnamon
2 pieces of bay leaves
2.5 tbsp of sugar
¼ cup of Chinese cooking wine
¼ cup of soy sauce
1 tbsp of dark soy sauce
2.5 cups (600 grams) of water
2-3 tbsp of pork belly fat from the braising liquid
8 oz of pickled mustard green, diced
⅓ of roasted peanut
3 tbsp of sugar
2.5 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tbsp of sugar
3/4 cups + 2 tbsp of lukewarm water
2 tsp of yeast
cilantro, finely diced
FOR THE PORK BELLY
FOR THE MUSTARD GREENS
FOR THE PEANUT POWDER
FOR THE STEAMED LOTUS BUNS (makes 12 buns)
BRAISE THE PORK BELLY
Slice the pork belly into 2/3-inch thick slaps, then sear in a clay pot or a stock pot for a couple of minutes. The purpose of this step is to render 1.5 tbsp of fat. Don't brown the belly until golden otherwise, it will become dry and stringy.
Remove the pork belly from the pot. Use the pork fat to saute the diced shallots, minced garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and bay leaves over low heat.
When the aromatics are golden brown, and the bottom of the pot feels a little sticky, add five-spice powder, freshly ground white pepper, sugar, Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce.
Introduce the pork back into the pot, then pour 2-3 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Adjust the pieces so everything stays under the water. Turn the heat to the lowest and simmer for 1.5 hours.
MAKE THE STEAMED LOTUS BUN
Add 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp active yeast into 210g of lukewarm water. Stir well and wait a few minutes for the yeast to bloom. If you are using instant yeast, you don't have to wait.
Combine the water and the flour, then knead for 10 minutes or until a smooth nonstick dough has formed.
Cover the dough and let it proof for 1 hour or until it is doubled in size.
Pouch and knead the dough to deflate. Divide the dough into 12 pieces, then roll them into 12 round balls. Cover with a plastic wrap, so they don't dry out.
Take one piece of dough and dust with a little bit of flour to prevent stickiness. Use a rolling pin to roll it into a flat oval sheet. Brush some oil on 1/2 of the sheet, then fold it over.
Put the lotus bun on parchment paper to prevent stickiness. Then place it into a steamer. Do that to the rest of the dough pieces.
Let the lotus buns proof in the steamer for another 20 minutes or until it is 1.5 times the size.
Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Then count the time and steam the buns for 12 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the buns rest in the steamer for 10 minutes before you open the lid, or else they will shrink once they make contact with the cold air.
MAKE THE PEANUT POWDER
Add 1/2 cup of roasted but unsalted peanut and 3 tbsp of sugar into a blender. Blend into a coarse peanut powder and set it aside. You can do this while waiting for the dough to rise.
COOK THE PICKLED MUSTARD GREENS
Rinse the pickled mustard green to reduce sodium, squeeze the water, and dice it. Store-bought pickled mustard green is extra salty. But, of course, it depends on the brand. You can taste yours before cooking.
Use a spoon to scoop out some fat from the pork belly braising brine. Use that to saute the mustard green for a few minutes. Set the pickled mustard green aside.
Pickled mustard green provides some crunch and a bit of acid to balance the fattiness of the pork belly. I think it is similar that western people like to put pickled cucumber or jalapeno on their burgers. So yes, you can use them as a replacement if you can't find the pickled mustard green.
ASSEMBLE THE PORK BELLY BUNS
Cut the braised pork belly slaps into 2.5 inches wide or the same width as the lotus buns.
Open one lotus bun, place a layer of the pickled mustard green in between, and stuff a piece of pork belly. Drizzle a tsp of the braising liquid. Sprinkle the peanut powder on the top, then add some cilantro as garnish. Optionally, spice it up with some diced red chili. Enjoy!