Thank God for Bao! The Taiwanese street-food stall turned cult London mini chain is known for its perfect, fluffy steamed buns – and these braised pork versions are possibly the most perfect of them all.
Bao is now doing delivery, but you can’t order the buns to your home (it’s offering tasty rice boxes with prawn, grilled beef, tofu and chilli chicken leg instead). So if you’ve got bun cravings, there’s only one thing for it right now... learn how to make them. Here’s how.
Classic braised pork gua bao
What you need to build the bao
Soy braised pork belly (recipe below)
Fried fermented mustard greens (recipe below, should be prepared a week in advance)
Peanut powder (recipe below)
How to make the soy braised pork belly
1kg pork belly
50ml light soy
40ml dark soy
60ml Shaoxing wine
Two spring onions
One garlic clove, crushed
20g ginger, sliced and crushed
One piece of star anise
20g rock sugar
A pinch of garlic powder
Four pieces of whole dried red chilli
6g cinnamon bark
Water to fill
1. Cut the pork belly into manageable blocks so that it can fit into your pot nicely – around two inches squared is good. Blanch the chunks first to get rid of any impurities and place into a casserole pot or large saucepan.
2. Measure out all your ingredients and place them into the pot with the pork belly. Add water so that it just about covers the ingredients. Bring the pot to the boil and then turn it down low. Let it simmer for three hours, the simmer should be very low with small bubbles on the surface.
3. Take the braised pork belly out to cool and bring the braising liquid to the boil on a high heat to reduce to a light sticky consistency.
4. Once the pork belly has cooled slightly, chop into rough 1cm cubes. Add the chopped pork back into the reduced sauce and give it a good stir. Put on medium heat for ten minutes to let the sauce and pork incorporate once again, and then it will be ready to serve.
How to make the peanut powder
200g de-shelled peanuts
Two tablespoons of caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 175C and roast the peanuts until golden. It should take roughly 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Let them cool down completely and pulse blitz in a blender until they become a fine powder. It is best to do this in small batches as peanuts have a lot of fat content and can turn into peanut butter in no time.
3. Mix caster sugar with the peanut powder.
How to make the fermented mustard greens
1kg Chinese mustard greens
One teaspoon doubanjiang (a spicy fermented broad-bean paste that you can easily find in Chinese supermarkets)
Few drops of rice wine vinegar
1. Wash the mustard greens thoroughly, then chop up into one-inch pieces. Sprinkle the salt sparsely and evenly over the greens. Work your hands through the greens to ensure the salt is properly mixed in.
2. Sterilise a glass jar and fill it with the salted mustard greens, packed as tightly as possible. After time, the salt will draw out the liquid from the mustard greens. This liquid should cover the greens, if not, make sure you place something heavy on top to make the greens submerge in their own brine.
3. Let the jar ferment for at least seven days, but the longer the better.
4. Once the mustard greens have fermented, drain the liquid and finely chop.
5. Put two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of doubanjiang and let it fry. Once the doubanjiang starts to colour the oil red, add in the chopped fermented greens and stir fry for five to ten minutes until the mix is super fragrant and wilted. Season the greens with a few drops of rice wine vinegar.
How to put it all together
1. Steam the gua bao on a high heat for about ten minutes. To check that it is steamed all the way through, press the gua bao with your finger and if it bounces back nicely it is ready.
2. Wash and chop the coriander finely.
3. Assemble the bao with piping hot sticky pork, fried fermented mustard greens, a big pinch of chopped coriander and then dust with the golden, sweet peanut powder.