Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Steamed Pork Buns a la Momofuku

Ever since I cracked open the book Momofuku by David Chang, I've been thinking about making the steamed pork buns that he is famous for making in his eatery Noodle Bar in New York's East Village.  I'm inspired by his spirit and his attitude.  If I had my own place, I would also have a backbone and a voice that I would never fail to use amidst any criticism.  It reminds me of a friend I have in the corporate world where you have to just smile and nod despite the rediculously unrealistic demands they make.  Express discontent?  Await your backlash by upper management.  Voice any problems you've encountered?  They'll look at you like they hadn't heard a word you said.  The look says just conform and don't expect change.  No corporate BS anywhere near this guy.  I love that Chang continued to do things his way, no matter what the critics said.  No matter how closely he came to failing.  He brought in $500,000 his first year in that 27 seat noodle bar that served ramen and became famous for pork buns.  Even considering New York's cost of living, that seems pretty profitable to me.
Momofuku pork buns are made with what you see above - pork belly.  I believe I've read along the way that he prefers the Berkshire breed of pork, to be specific.  Pork belly is seasoned and cured to make bacon.  You won't be able to walk into any store to find pork belly like you can bacon.  I found my pork belly at K Oriental in West Little Rock.  On the weekends, they receive shipments of the fresh stuff.  That's when I go.  This was the thickest cut I could find.  It was about five dollars for a pound and a half or so.
I also roasted a pork loin as a leaner option for dinner guests.  The fat was mainly on the outside, and I trimmed it before I served it.  I followed the brine recipe for both the pork belly and the pork loin.  They were mouthwateringly delicious!
I love my meat thermometer.  Once I inserted the tip into the middle of the loin, I could check back to see when it reached the medium temperature of 145 - 155 per USDA recommendation at about an hour and thirty three minutes of cooking.
That's a coincidence.  Many things happen in threes.  I actually noted that in a book that I've been reading lately.  The Lucky One.  Things happen to him in threes.  Also in this recipe, you need three bowls.  The dough will rise three times.
This recipe makes sixteen buns.  I knew that I would have to ask my neighbors over to help eat.  The recipe also says that you can freeze some before you steam them, though.
You want to roll the dough out into an oval shape.  I don't work with dough much, but I think I came pretty close.
  I learned from another blogger site to stick a chopstick along the center, then fold over to make the "sock monkey" shape.
Steam the buns, then add a little bit of hoisin sauce, which is like a sweetish Asian barbecue sauce.  Then add your meat, whether you choose the flavorful, slightly fatty pork belly or the leaner yet still flavorful pork loin.  The cucumbers and scallions add freshness and crunch.  Yummmm thank you David Chang!  I hope to visit one of his four restaurants, if not all, the next time I visit NYC!

Click here for the full recipe from Epicurious.  Then click here for the recipe from his book.  Yes, they're different.  The first recipe uses cake flour, and the second uses bread flour.  I am not a baker, so I don't know how much of a difference that makes.  This man is such a mystery!


  1. I cannot wait to try this. I have a nice piece of pork belly in the freezer and I ordered David Chang's book this morning. Thanks for all the great tips, too!

    1. The steamed buns turned out alright. They weren't the perfect white pillowy type that I've seen on other sites. But those sites admitted they went to an Asian grocery store and bought them from the frozen section. I will see if I can find some here in Little Rock!