These bao buns are easier to make than most breakfast rolls, really! I’ve had them on my list for quite a while. Before I actually tried it myself I wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort. Now, this recipe is definitely already one of my favorites in 2017. The steamed buns originated in China ages ago and suddenly became very popular because of all the street food markets and hipster restaurants around the world.
My soft Chinese bao buns are stuffed to bursting with crispy pork belly and topped with pickled carrots and radishes, cucumber sticks, coriander and crushed roasted peanuts. The pork belly is so crispy and tasty because of the hoisin, soy, sesame marinade. Impress your guests with a batch of these party pleasers!
You will need a bamboo steamer basket for your bao buns. Make sure you buy a big (about 25 cm diameter) and 2-tier design bamboo basket. It’s a lot easier with a big steamer basket and for other recipes you can cook different types of food at the same time!
For the crispy pork belly: Using a Stanley knife, score the skin down to the meat, making the cuts very close together. Put the pork in a roasting tin, add all the marinade ingredients and massage it in with your fingers to coat the pork. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.
Heat your oven to 150C°. Cover the tin with foil and cook the pork for 3 1/2 hrs, coating with marinade every hour. For the last 45 minutes increase the oven temperature to 180C° and remove the foil. Coat the pork one more time with marinade and continue to cook until it is beginning to caramelise around the edges. Remove the pork from the tin and cover in foil. Get rid of any fat from the tin and transfer the sauce to a small pan. Slice the pork and put it back into baking tin. Pour the sauce over the meat and toss everything together.
For the Bao Buns: Mix together the flour, baking powder, grape sugar and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast and a pinch of sugar in warm water, then add it to the flour with oil. Mix into a dough, adding a little extra water if needed. Tip the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave at a warm, dry spot for 1-2 hours, until it nearly doubles in size.
Turn out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half. Gently roll each half into a long sausauge shape. Cut each into 6 or 7 little balls. Form each ball by bringing in the sides and pinching the center. Turn ball over to get a nice, taut ball. Roll the dough ball out to a long, oval shape. Brush the top with a little cooking oil. Fold over one side of the oval and use your rolling pin to gently roll and press together. Place bun on a square cut parchment paper, place into the bamboo steamer and cover with lid to prevent drying. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Fill your pot with water and place your bamboo baskets with your buns on top. Do not turn on the heat yet. Let rest for 10 minutes. Then, turn on the heat to high. When the steam is coming up from your bamboo baskets, reduce heat to medium-high. Let it cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, without opening the steamer. Careful it's really hot – let it rest for 1 minute. Carefully open steamer and lift the steamer baskets off one another to let the buns cool.
For the pickled vegetables: Wash the carrots and radishes in cold water. Put the vinegar, rice vinegar and water in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tabelspoon of rice syrup. Bring it to boil and then remove from the heat. Cut the carrots julienne (stripes) and the radishes into slices. Place the carrots in a bowl, pour over half of the salty liquid and set aside to soften for 20 minutes. Pour the remaining liquid over the radishes and also set aside for 20 minutes. You can also put these pickled vegetables in a jar and keep it for at least a month.
Cut the cucumber julienne (into stripes) and wash the coriander. Open each bun and fill it with the slices of crispy pork belly, pickled carrots & radishes, cucumber sticks, coriander leaves and chopped peanuts. Bon Appetit!