Momofuku’s Pork Buns Recreated by The British Larder
I have not been this excited about a book for a very long time! I always try to be enthusiastic and promise myself to read them as soon as they arrive.Unfortunately that promise normally wears off quickly as I get bored and then put it down never to continue. However this one Momofuku has definitely made a mark and so I could not put it down and I still can’t.
If I can make one comment or perhaps a request to his publishers, I would have loved it if the book had at least 10 attached permanent book markers. The reason is I do not read this book as you would nomally by starting on page one and continuing to the last page. I pick a subject, lets say pork buns, read the chapter, put the book down, go back, re-read a few paragraphs again and then set off to the kitchen to cook from the book. After all it’s a cook book and I like to have a few chapters on the go simultaneously. I was reading the egg and the pork bun chapters at around the same time and therefore need a few resident book markers so I can flick backwards and forward. I know I’m weird…BUT it works for me.
David Chang not only made me laugh but also transported me back to memory lane to when I was a chef working in restaurants. He achieved this as well as being a very good business adviser all in one book. I think his ability to take humble food and make it interesting by breaking the monotonous mould and perceived stigma has enabled him to turn his business into the big success it is today. He tells the story in the most honest way and it is remarkable that he had a near failure but then managed to salvage the business by shelving what he thought was a great idea and change his vision and direction to make his business work financially. I commend him for all of those things, he’s inspired me to seriously think about my future.
The book is full of gritty words just as cookery was finally shaking off the stigma that chefs are uneducated creatures and can only communicate by f-ing and blinding in the kitchen. I think I can forgive Chang for his choice of crude words as he’s a great cook that truly understands food.
I also think that David Chang has put the cat amongst the pigeons with his fantastic restaurant group, lets face it a chain of restaurants are normally pretty restricted and nothing more than average. Not Momofuku, this restaurant chain is the one that everyone talks about. They do not need white pressed table cloths with waiters that have swallowed broomsticks or even fancy glassware, no it’s simple and humble and serves honest good and ground breaking food. His name is on every chef’s lips. I first heard about David Chang from Sat Bains and honestly did not know who he was talking about but he rated this chef highly. Then when Mr.P went to El Bulli and saw that Ferran Adria was reading the book we thought we better wake up, buy the book and read it.
When the book arrived we both could not contain ourselves and fought over who was going to open the box and then once inside….we were both disappointed…looked at it, paged through and then went ohh what’s the fuss about?? However I did not give up and a few days later I picked it up and started reading the book as described above, then it all started to make sense and I really got into the whole vibe! Now the saying “do not judge a book by it’s cover” seriously made sense to me!
After reading the pork bun chapter a couple of times and re-visiting a few of the paragraphs, we set to work to make these famous pork buns that everyone allegedly was talking about. Unlike Chang I made my own steamed buns from beginning to end and even cooked the pork sous-vide,which is not Chang’s method of oven cooking the pork belly. David stated that he bought in the steamed pork buns in when he first opened up but there is nothing wrong with this as his kitchen was too small. But this is a leaf I’m seriously taking out of Chang’s book; that he was not going to jeopardize the success of the business due to wanting to make everything himself. He resorted to purchase a perfectly good product made by someone else, there is a real trust between him and his suppliers. All these pieces makes this brilliant puzzle even more interesting, I bet now that they have moved to a larger premises he would be making his own steamed buns…..perhaps….or perhaps not.
I had to adapt the recipe slightly as I’m in the UK and our flour reacts slightly differently, I had to add a bit more water and I used fresh yeast. It’s a lengthy process as you make the dough, leave it to prove for about 1 and half hour, knock it back, shape the balls, prove the balls for 30 minutes, shape the buns, prove them for 30 minutes and then finally steam them for 10 minutes. I’m so pleased that I persisted and made them as they are outstandingly delicious and light as a feather!
We even made the quick salted pickles from the book, I think next time I’m going to try one of the three other pickle methods, how great is this three different methods! Outrageous!
This is not generally the kind of thing we would have made, certainly not Mr.P but after stuffing his face with 7 pork buns in a row (felt sick as a consequence!) he agreed that this one was a winner! We will be making these buns in the future at every cocktail event, they are a stunning party piece!
Sous-Vide Belly of Pork
- 1kg belly of pork
- 30g honey
- 40ml soy sauce
- 40ml Port wine or red wine
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leafs
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
Heat the water bath to 83°C.
Prepare the pork belly by removing the rind and score the fat with diamond shapes, do not cut all the way through, just score the fat. Cut it into 6 x 7cm x 7cm pieces. Make sure you wear clean disposable gloves when you prepare the meat for sous-vide cooking.
Stir the rest of the ingredients together to make the marinade.
Place the belly of pork into a clean large vacuum bag and add the marinade, I seal the belly twice on hard vacuum as the vacuum opens the pores of the pork and the marinade penetrates faster and more effectively. (Seal the bag once, cut the bag open and seal again)
Cook the pork belly pieces in the preheated water bath for 9 hours. If you have left the pork belly whole I recommend that cooking time should be 12 hours.
Chill the belly in ice water once cooked and refrigerate until needed. Do not keep the cooked sous vide belly of pork for longer than three days in the fridge.
To reheat the belly: Preheat the oven to 160 °C, open the vacuum bag and place the pork pieces on a lined baking tray, place the sauce into a small saucepan and reduce over high heat to form a thick glaze. Place the pork in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, slice them in 5mm thick slices for the buns, place the slices on a tray and glaze the pork with the reduced sauce. Keep it warm until your buns are ready to be serve.
- 375g strong bread flour
- 20g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast (do not use fast action yeast)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 40g vegetable suet
- 1tbs full fat milk powder
- 10g caster sugar
- 1tsp table salt
- 200ml water
Weigh the flour, suet, fresh yeast, baking powder, powdered milk and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl of a mixer, with your fingertips rub the fresh yeast into the flour until it's evenly distributed and resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the salt and sugar and attach the dough hook, mix on low speed for 30 seconds and then while the machine is running on low speed slowly add the water.
Mix with the dough hook for 5 minutes until the dough come together in a smooth and velvety ball but not sticky, if the dough seems a bit dry at this stage add a extra 20ml of water and mix for a further 2 minutes.
Lightly grease a mixing bowl and place the smooth dough ball in the bowl and lightly cover with a clean and dry tea towel. Leave to prove until double in size for about 1 and half hours, it was very cold when I made these buns and for that reason it took a while to prove.
Push the air out out and divide the dough into 4 equal shape logs and cut each log into 25g balls, roll the dough into smooth balls and place them on a lightly floured tray with adequate space form them to double in size, lightly cover with a clean and dry tea towel and leave to prove for about 30 minutes until double in size.
Place a large saucepan with water on the cooker, bring to the boil.
Grease a chopstick lightly with oil, on a lightly floured work surface roll each ball with a rolling pin to about 4" oval shapes, place the greased chopstick in the middle and fold the dough bun over (as in the photo). It almost looks like a little pac-man, place the buns on individual grease proof squares back onto the tray, lightly cover with a clean and dry tea towel and leave to prove for about another 30 minutes until they are puffed up.
Place the puffed buns in a steamer basket with enough space between each to swell even further, place the steamer basket over the pan of rapid boiling water and steam the buns for 10 minutes.
To serve the buns reheat them in the steamer for 3 - 4 minutes.
Food Fanatics Tip
Make the buns a day in advance keep them refrigerated and re-heat them in the steamer for 3 - 4 minutes.
Quick Salted Cucumber and Radish Pickles
- 1 English cucumber
- 12 breakfast radishes
- 8tsp caster sugar
- 2tsp table salt
- 1tbs olive oil
Wash the cucumber and radishes. Use a mandolin to slice the cucumber into 2mm thick slices. Cut the radishes into quarter wedges.
Mix the sugar and salt together, David Chang advises that you should use a ratio of 3:1 sugar to salt but I have adjusted that slightly as I thought is was very salty.
Mix the cucumber slices and radish wedges with the sugar and salt mixture, leave to cure for 10 minutes.
Wash the pickles thoroughly under cold running water and leave them to drain in a colander for about 5 miutunes, pat them dry with kitchen paper and toss them in the oil.
Refrigerate the pickles for 20 minutes before serving.
Food Fanatics Tips
Use the pickles within 4 hours, unfortunately they do not keep very well however refer to the book for two alternative pickling methods, they all sound delicious and interesting.
Assembly of the Pork Buns
- Steamed Buns
- Belly of pork slices
- radish and cucumber pickles
- 125ml hoisin sauce
- 3 spring onions, washed and sliced finely on a angle
Reheat the buns and pork belly, open each bun and spread hoisin sauce on both sides, arrange a selection of the pickles, pork and the spring onions, serve.
Makes 25 pork buns