Everyone in New York who is remotely aware of the New York dinning scene has heard of Momofuku group of restaurants. It’s one of those places that most everyone I know has visited at least once or want to visit. It also elicits a lot of opinions in people, there are some people who firmly fall in the camp of hating Momofuku - they don’t like the food and think its too popular and too expensive for what it is. Then there are people like me who fall head over heels for all things Momofuku. I’ve been known to spend a glorious afternoon at Momofuku Ssam indulging in their rotisserie duck over rice served with chive pancakes and a generous pour of ssam sauce. It its one of my favorite meals best eaten on a lazy weekday afternoon when you have nothing better to do then read a magazine and devour good food. (Ssam is also conveniently located across from Momofuku Milk Bar where you can indulge in one of their cookies for dessert. My personal favorites include the confetti cookie and the corn cookie.) I had yet to tackle recreating any of the Momofuku dishes for home consumption, but I knew there would be no better time to do it then for a fancy New Year’s Eve dinner where I could test my hands at the famous pork buns. I have a slight love (bordering on obsession) with pork buns since they are the cutest looking sandwiches I’ve ever come across and making my own seemed most logical. These really are delicious – salty and sweet with the perfect crunch from the cucumber. We managed to eat about 10 of them on New Years Eve and then devoured the rest on New Years Day. Not a bad way to start a new year.
Momofuku Pork Buns
Makes 15 Buns
So I did a lot of tweaking to this recipe not because I imagined the original was bad in anyway but more so because I figured the tweaking would make it possible for more novice cooks to make this at home (I’ll include both the original and my changes below). I also halved the original recipe since the idea of having 30 pork buns in the house and only 2 of us to eat them seemed rather dangerous. On the plus side the buns do reheat beautifully (wrapped in tin foil and cooked at 350 for 15 minutes keep them on there parchment paper). Also! I purchased hoisin sauce, which I regret now since I found a killer recipe for it online that is beyond easy. (Can be found here!) I figured I would provide it to you so you don’t have to purchase it if you don’t want to! I imagine its about 1000 times better then the store bought stuff (I am still upset I didn’t think to look this up sooner.)
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
¾ cups warm water (110 – 115 degrees)
1 ¼ tablespoons grapeseed oil (or pork fat/lard which is what the recipe suggests)
2 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or 2 cups bread flour and ½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour which is what the recipe suggests)
¾ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Recipe adapted from Gourmet
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
2 ¼ cups water, divided
1 ¼ pounds skinless boneless pork belly, cut into quarters
¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth or water
Accompaniments: Hoisin sauce, thinly sliced cucumber, chopped scallions
Brine Pork: Stir together kosher salt, sugar, and 2 cups of water until sugar and salt have dissolved. Put pork belly in a large sealable bag, then pour in brine. Carefully press out air and seal the bag. Lay in a shallow dish and let brined, chilled at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
Make dough: In a glass measuring cup, mix together yeast, water, and oil/pork fat until yeast is dissolved. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together flour (or flours), salt, and sugar until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Once it comes together, knead for 8 minutes.
Coat a large bowl with grapeseed oil; add dough and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size in a warm spot, about 2 hours.
Roast pork while dough rises: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Discard brine and put pork fat side up in a foil lined 8 to 9 inch square baking pan. Pour in broth (or water) and remaining ¼ cup water. Cover tightly with foil and roast until pork is very tender, about 2 ½ hours. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees, then roast until fat is golden, about 20 minutes more. Cool 30 minutes. Cut cooled pork across the grain into 2 inch slices. Cover slices with foil.
Make buns: Punch dough down. Roll dough into a log about 15 inches long. Cut dough into 15 golf sized pieces. Transfer to a parchment paper-liner baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; let rise 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut out 15 square pieces of parchment paper (4 inches each).
Working with one piece of dough at a time, press dough flat and, using a rolling pin, roll dough toward you into a 6-by-3 inch oval. Brush each piece of dough lightly with grapeseed oil and fold in half using a chopstick. Place each piece of dough on an individual piece of parchment paper. Repeat process with remaining dough. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise slightly, about 30 – 45 minutes.
Set a large steamer in a large skillet or pot with water about ½ inch up the sides of the steamer; bring to a boil. Working with about 5 buns at a time, place buns on their parchment paper in the steamer; cover and steam over high heat until puffed and cooked through about 3 minutes. Transfer buns to a plate with tongs, then discard parchment paper and wrap buns in kitchen towels to keep warm.
To serve: Brush bottom half of each bun with hoisin sauce, then sandwich with a slice of pork and some cucumber and scallions.