Pork Buns... Yay!
Happy Labor Day and welcome to a rainy day in Seattle. I realize how often I talk about the weather here, but it is, in truth, a notable factor in my cooking mood. So much for the last summer outdoor barbecue fiesta. Instead, say hello to the oven roasted meats season. Inevitably, the question arises sometime in the afternoon, "what's for dinner?", to which I replied, "Pork Buns". The response I got was an emphatic, YES!
As usual, I went to Uwajimaya for my pork belly. Talking to the butcher, I inquired why their pork belly was so thin (thin as in not thick). I was saying I like their pork belly because it is not as fatty as you might find elsewhere and he explained to me that they get the thin belly expressly because most of their customers prefer a less fatty pork belly. The thicker pork belly is more fatty and their supplier breeds their pigs to have the leaner belly. So, the belly winds up being thinner because it is less fatty. The less fatty pork belly is preferred for braising and stewing, and in our case for making pork buns.
I followed David Chang's pork bun recipe. Not the first time, and certainly not the last time. Minor changes were made. My pork belly had the skin on. I removed the skin and rubbed both the belly and the skin with an equal mixture of salt and sugar. I've made his various pork recipes enough that I just have a ready made mixture of sugar and kosher salt and use it whenever needed. It's a great simple dry rub / brine. Just put enough on to amply coat the pork. I don't think I ever use as much as his recipe calls for.
I planned on making crackling with the skin. At 450f in the oven, I roasted the skin for only 15 minutes and the belly for 40 minutes. Then I turned the oven down to 250f and roasted the belly for another hour and the skin for another 30 minutes. If you are wanting to serve this at a dinner party, for presentation and ease, you can cook the pork ahead of time and chill it. This will allow you to cut the belly into nice and neat slices. Then heat the slices in a hot fry pan to serve. For my family, we can dispose with the beauty factor and just go ahead and eat at will.
Serve with steamed buns, sliced cucumbers, hoisin sauce, and our favorite, ginger scallion sauce. I will never stop making this dish. It is something everyone should experience. Pork paradise!