Sucker punch of flavour, right to the chops? Yes, please. I’ll take one of them! These Cider & Five Spice Steamed Pork Buns are your virtual Monday ✋. All you need to know about these is that they are waaaay easier to make than you think they are. Promise.
Let me let you in on a little secret… these intimidated me for two days before I put my big girl pants on and just made ’em already! Now, being classically trained and only ever working in French or French inspired Modern British kitchens, Asian food is kinda outside my comfort zone. Maybe some of you are all like “what? I make these all the time.” Well cool. But they were a bit iffy for me.
But, I’m here to tell you 1.Feel the fear. 2. Embrace the fear. 3. Just put your big person pants on and get in there and make ’em anyway. The pork bit. Totally easy. The steamed buns are what made me nervous. The idea of steaming bread… hmmmm. I’ve eaten my body weight in steamed buns in my lifetime, so I was familiar with the steamed concept. However…
I just thought maybe I needed to have 3000 years of ancient Chinese wisdom behind me when I started out. A bamboo steamer… I also thought I needed a bamboo steamer. Off I went in search of a bamboo steamer. Not so easy to track down in a small Norther English town. I did find that my local Waitrose had steamers… on sale no less! Woo Hoo! I thought this was gonna be a total game changer. I got there and I guess the sale had been on for more than 10 minutes, cause… yep, you guessed it. A big empty shelf where the stock pile of bamboo steamers had once lived. Hmmm… How on earth was I gonna pull off Cider & Five Spice Pork Steamed Buns without the steamer? It was bad enough that I didn’t have all that Chinese wisdom behind me! Now, no steamer. Oi Vey!
I did what any self respecting chef would do when faced with a cookware challenge. I made it happen. I had a vegetable steamer at home. Can I call that a Eureka moment? Will you guys let me have that one?
With the steamer at the ready, I set to work. I started with the pork. He takes about 3 hours in a slow oven. Chillaxo relax pork. I used really concentrated home made chicken broth (recipe coming later) and I covered the belly with Chinese Five Spice. I also had 3/4 of a bottle of cider left on the counter from the night before. Don’t ask. So being one to not waste small batch artisan cider I tossed that in too. Covered the whole deal with some foil and in it went for 3 hours.
Then the steamed buns. (Insert dramatic cello music here). If you can knead some flour and lard together, you got these covered. Once all the rising and knocking back business was done I got these little beauties on some greaseproof paper in the bottom of my steamer. About 6 minutes in and I was rewarded with the fluffiest softest buns I’ve ever had.
I know this post has been a little over the top with the drama, not normally my style at all. It’s just that I know it happens to us all when we go outside our comfort zone and our minds run away a little bit. When really as soon as you face the fear, it turns out to be not a big deal at all. All of my running around town (literally) and I had the answer (the veg steamer) at home the whole time. And once I got into this recipe and just made it, they were so easy. And turned out soooooo awesome. Do yourselves a favour this week and make one recipe that you’ve been thinking about for days/weeks/months but you’ve put off because it’s intimidated you. You will be richly rewarded with a new sense of kitchen mastery and probably some pretty awesome food too.
This recipe was adapted from Waitrose Kitchen Magazine.
Cider & Five Spice Steamed Pork Buns
- For the pork
- 500 g pork belly skin removed
- 500 ml chicken stock
- 350 ml cider
- 2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
- 100 g hoisin sauce
- 4 spring onions/ scallions finely sliced on the diagonal
- For the steamed buns
- 25 g lard chilled
- 75 g plain flour
- 50 g strong white bread flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
- 5 g dried yeast
- 75 ml whole milk
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- vegetable oil for greasing
- For the pickle
- Thinly sliced cucumber
- 3 tbsp vinegar. White Wine Vinegar is fine
- 1 tsp light brown sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 140c. Season the pork belly with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the 5 spice. In a medium metal roasting tin, place the pork belly, chicken stock and cider and cover with foil. Plce in the oven until pork belly is tender and pulls apart easily. About 3 hours. Rest in the stock until cool.
To make the buns, Rub the lard into the flours and salt until breadcrumbs form. Heat the milk to just warmer than room temperature. Add in the yeast and sugar and let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is activated and the mixture is foamy.
Pour the milk mixture into the flour and bring together into a dough. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook on medium speed.
Place in a bowl and cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm until doubled in size. About 1 hour. Knead the baking powder into the dough, then divide the dough into 8 smooth buns. About 30g each. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
Gently roll each bun on a lightly floured surface to an oval about 10cm long. Place each on a small square of parchment paper and brush the tops with veg oil. Carefully fold the bun in half widthways. Rest for another 20 minutes.
Transfer the pork to a foil lined tray. Reduce the remaining braising liquor by about 3/4. Then stir in the hoisin sauce. Turn the grill to high and brush the pork belly with some of the sauce. Glaze under the hot grill. Repeat this process until all of the sauce is used and the pork is sticky and delicious.
Steam the buns in the steamer for 6-8 minutes, until they are puffed and cooked through. For best results, do this in batches.
Meanwhile shred or slice the pork and make the cucumber pickle. Mix the vinegar and sugar. Add the cucumber and leave for 2 minutes.
Fill the steamed buns with the pork, pickle, spring onions and some red chilli if desired.