Yum bun. Bao. Flesh and buns. Momofuku. Thank you glorious chefs for bringing these sweet buns to everyone's lives. These sweet Asian pillowy sandwiches are a revolution to my life.. Well, maybe just to my diet. When I made these Asian lion's head meatballs last year, it was to satisfy my boyfriend's obsession love of sandwiches. These certainly tick the box too. The traditional "gua bao" from Taiwan is the godfather of bao: signature pickled greens, coriander, crushed peanut powder as the holy trinity of accoutrements... Lest we forget the sweet and sticky pork belly slices. I am a total pork belly fanatic and devotee. How I've managed to have so little pork belly on the blog so far is atrocious. This recipe draws inspiration from the original, but just some personal tweaks suited to my taste.
I've got to admit before you read any further I'm a total cheater here. Those buns...aren't mine. There are some great recipes out there, but you need time and patience. And faith that you've not wasted four hours for nothing. When I first started out recipes for buns for supper clubs, there were so many variations: different rising times, gluten levels, fat content, flour brands, kneading levels...it's endless torture if you aren't a pro at bread. Now, I have a stock pile in my freezer that I can always whip out should the craving call for me. However, in comes convenient frozen buns from Asian food stores. Since these buns have become more famous, they're readily available in most places which is fabbo.
What goes in it is up to you. I believe pork fillet to be an underused, value for money, secret weapon for bite sized glory. It's protected in cornflour when fried, so stays crispy on the outside and full of juicy goodness on the inside. Tucked into a soft bread bun, sliced carrots and a sweet coconut cashew crumb it's a perfect "sandwich" to put a smile on your face. You can use this pork recipe for noodles, rice or a side dish with vegetables...don't just limit yourself to buns, just enjoy how you want. The sweet sugar combo will surprise you. I took the idea from a pork belly dish we have in Hong Kong - where the belly is cooked and served cold, to dip into a choice of a spicy mustard kick, or caster sugar for a contrasting flavour.
Ingredients (makes generous filling for four or five buns)
250 grams pork fillet
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs light sot sauce
60 grams cornflour
4 tbs of vegetable oil for frying
60 grams cashew nuts
1 tbs light brown sugar
1 1/2 tbs dessicated coconut
1 large carrot, finely grated
Sriracha sauce or any chilli sauce. This chilli jam goes excellent too.
4 frozen bao buns ( packs available at your Asian grocery stores)
Slice the pork fillet into 1 inch thick pieces. Add the sesame oil and soy sauce to the pork and marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly toast the cashew nuts in a dry pan. Keep an eye on this until you see the cashews start to change colour. Take them off the heat, and crush in a food processor ( or just bash them up with a rolling pin). Mix the sugar and coconut into the nuts and set aside.
Set out the cornflour on a plate or shallow dish. Coat each piece of pork generously in the flour and dust off any excess.
In the wok, heat the oil and wait until very hot. If you drop one piece of pork into the pan it should sizzle away loudly and quickly. If it's not hot enough, the oil will soak into the flour, and you're left with a soggy piece of meat. Unattractive.
Place half the pork into the pan. Remember, as soon as you add more meat, it reduces the temperature of the pan, so keep it on high for at least a minute. If the oil starts spitting up, reduce the temperature very slightly. Cook for two or three minutes each side, or until you see a golden brown colour on the pork. Repeat and cook the second batch of pork. Once all is done, sprinkle a spoonful of the nut mixture onto the pork, and a pinch of salt.
To make the bao, set in a steamer until hot and fluffy. Alternatively, sprinkle a few drops of water on the buns and out it in the microwave for a minute, checking halfway to make sure it is defrosting evenly.
To assemble: I like a layer of chilli sauce, three pieces of crispy pork, a generous teaspoon of nuts and then grated carrot to finish. Eat quick before the other buns get gobbled up.