Momofuku/Ippudo Inspired Pork Buns

Momofuku/Ippudo Inspired Pork Buns

There is nothing new about pork buns. David Chang may have brought them fame at Momofuku, using pork belly and crisp vegetables, but he certainly didn't invent the dish. In my humble opinion, the pork belly buns at Ippudo are even better, with their spicy hoisin joining the luscious pork belly. I've taken inspirations from both restaurants and several published recipes online and created my own version.

Boozy Epicure's Momofuku/Ippudo Inspired Pork Buns
This recipe serves 4 quite happily, but I often cut it in half when making just for my husband and me. Also, both restaurants serve their pork belly in slices. This makes for beautiful presentation, but the slicing works best when the pork belly has cooled. I find it easier and just as tasty to shred the pork belly while it is still hot, and I prefer some slightly different garnishes than both restaurants. Momofuku uses cucumbers and scallions, Ippudo uses lettuce. My favorite is jicama, carrots, cucumbers and cilantro, but I enjoy using radishes and scallions as well.

Ingredients For Pork
4 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp each: black peppercorns, whole allspice berries, whole juniper berries
1 clove
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 lbs pork belly, skin removed, cut into quarters
1 large onion
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup  water

Ingredients For Buns
1 cup warm water (you'll use it in half cup increments)
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp nonfat dried milk
3 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Vegetable oil

Shredded carrots, thinly sliced cucumber, shredded or sliced jicama, fresh cilantro leaves, hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce

You need to start the recipe by brining your pork belly a day before you plan on using it. Create the brining liquid by placig the water, salt, sugar, molasses, and all the spices and bay leaf in a pan and heat over low to dissolve the salt/sugar and bring out the flavor of the spices. When that mixture has cooled to room temperature (warm brine and raw pork is a very bad idea) transfer it to a large ziplock bag and add your pork belly. This goes into your fridge and needs at least 12 hours to soak/brine.

Pork in brine, ready to go.

Making the Pork Belly - takes about 3 hours of cooking time
The next day, preheat your oven to 300 F and make sure you have a rack in the middle of your oven. Slice your onion, laying them on the bottom of a baking dish. Pull out your pork belly, removing any stuck on spices, and place it on top of the onions. Pour the 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup water over the top, put on a lid (or cover with foil) and place in the oven to bake until the pork belly is super tender, around 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid or foil, crank up the heat to 450 F, and roast until the pork is golden, about 20 minutes more. Once it is golden and gorgeous you have two choices. Remove the pork from the onion and cooking liquid, then either chill it (at least an hour) and slice it into pretty slices to be reheated later, or shred it and leave it in a warm oven ready to use once your buns have steamed.

Onions in baking dish.
Pork belly and liquids in, ready to cover and bake.

Pork belly after 2 1/2 hours.
After the 450 roast for 20.
Sliced pork belly, brushed w/hoisin and broiled on high.

Making the Buns - takes about 3 1/2 hours
Once the pork is in the oven, I start the buns. You can do this by hand but I find a stand mixer works well. In the bowl of your mixer, add 1/2 cup of your warm water, the yeast, and a pinch of your sugar. Give that 10 minutes for the yeast to bloom and in a separate bowl, measure out your flour and whisk in the remaining sugar. Once the yeast has bloomed, whisk in the dried milk and the remaining water. Add your flour sugar mixture to the liquid mixture (no baking powder yet!) and, using the dough hook, mix everything together until the dough is smooth. It takes about 5 minutes.

Dough is working, this is at 2 minutes.
Place your dough in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours. Once your dough has risen, take it out and flatten it into a disk. Sprinkle the baking powder on top, then gather the edges of the dough to seal the baking powder in. You will now need to knead the dough by hand (I don't like using the stand mixer here) to get the baking powder fully incorporated. This takes about 5 minutes. Once it is fully combined, put it back in the oiled bowl and let it rest for another 30 minutes.

Dough and baking powder
After second knead, it needs to rest.

Prepare your steamer. I use a bamboo steamer and I found very convenient perforated parchment liners. You can also cut 16 rectangles of parchment paper (about 3" by 2"). Once your dough has finished its 30 minutes, it should have puffed a bit. Roll the dough into a log and cut into 16 uniform pieces. Roll each piece into a 6" by 3" oval, brush oil on the inside, fold the oiled side over itself, and set on the parchment squares to rest its third and final time, a full 30 minutes. In my photo below, I had forgotten this last rise, so my buns weren't nearly as puffy as they should be. Fortunately, they were still tasty.

Not perfect, but still delicious.

After this last rise, you then steam the buns, full steam, for 3-5 minutes. If you are steaming the buns in batches, you can wrap them in kitchen towels to stay warm.

This is half the dough, cut into portions.

Rolled out and oiled.

Folded over, sitting on liners - don't forget the final rest.

Preparing the Toppings/Condiments and Serving
I like shreds or thin slices for all the veggies. I also don't bother with making homemade hoisin sauce. I buy it and mix 2/3 hoisin and 1/3 sriracha. My husband doesn't like the heat, so he sticks with plain hoisin. When time comes to serve, I like to let people assemble their buns themselves, so I prepare all the veggies and sauce, then put out the pork belly and the buns and let people get to it. To assemble, I like to slather sauce directly on the bun, place pork on the sauce, then add veggies and fold over.

Different night, slightly different toppings, but same pork buns, served with edamame.

Have you had Momfuku or Ippudo Pork Buns? Do you make pork buns at home? Got any tips you'd like to share? And if you've got a bun recipe that uses rice flour that you love, please let me know.

Labels: , ,