The steamed bun with pork belly is the signature dish of David Chang, owner of the Momofuku restaurant group, Beard award winner, and all-around culinary badass. Chang didn’t invent the steamed bun, of course, but his take on the dish has certainly become one of the more famous dishes around the country in recent years.
Here in Little Rock, we’ve got our own steamed bun master, Justin Patterson of Southern Gourmasian. Justin’s steamed buns come with shredded pork shoulder, Balinese chicken, or braised beef short rib, and while I’ve never eaten the Momofuku buns, I’ve packed away enough of Justin’s to know that they’re something pretty incredible. So it takes chutzpah on my part to come along with a steamed bun post, doesn’t it?
Well, I didn’t do my pork belly exactly like David Chang, and I used store-bought buns, so I won’t try to say that what we did here is superior to anything. But they were pretty good, so I figured I’d share them with you.
Braised Pork Belly
- 1-2 pounds pork belly. I’ve been getting mine from Mr. Chen’s on South University, but Hillcrest Artisan Meats also sells it. Belly is just a big slab of uncured bacon, and if you get yours with the rind still on, be sure to remove it.
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup white sugar
Mix your cup of salt with your cup of white sugar. Score your pork belly in a crosshatch pattern on the meaty side, then rub the salt/sugar mixture all over it. Discard the excess rub, and let the belly cure overnight in the fridge.
After the belly has cured, discard any juice that has accumulated, rinse the belly, and pat it dry. Brown the belly on all sides in a skillet until it has a nice golden color. Place the belly in a baking pan. Mix the red wine, soy sauce, and vinegar with the brown sugar and pepper flakes, then pour the mixture over the belly. Add enough water to the mix to just cover the belly (or if you have stock handy, use that). Heat your oven to around 400 degrees, cover the belly, and let it cook. Check the belly every half hour or so to make sure that there’s enough braising liquid to keep the belly almost covered. After a couple of hours, you can decrease your heat to around 350 and let the belly rock on until it’s fork tender.
Remove the belly from the pan, saving the braising liquid for another use (it makes a great addition to beans or soup). Slice the pork belly thin, and serve on steamed buns with hoisin sauce and simple pickles — just slice some cucumbers thin, sprinkle them with salt and sugar, and let them sit for an hour or so in the fridge. Enjoy!