I came across the recipe of making the extremely popular Momofuku's pork belly buns online. While I am not an avid cook, this recipe is extremely easy to make and the result was surprisingly good! Here is the link to the recipe:
Now, I have to admit, I cheated and didn't make the buns myself. In Manhattan (where I live), the buns are readily available in Chinatown. So to save some energy, I purchased my buns and focused all my attention to the pork belly. As you can see from the recipe, it is relatively simple and anyone (like myself) can do it. It is easy because you don't really need to do anything while the brining and the cooking take place. All it takes is time and patience.
I have to say, this was probably one of the best home cooking I had done (not that I have done many) and really turned out very close to the real deal. A few suggestions I gathered from my "experiment":
CHOOSING THE PORK:
- Choose a really good quality pork belly. Since there is minimal seasoning in the meat, a good quality pork belly will make a BIG difference in taste. Mine was Niman Ranch pork belly (purchased at Whole Foods). Next time I may try Berkshire Kurobuta pork belly (if I can find it)
- Choose a piece of pork belly with some "thickness". Mine was a little too "thin", and the meat did shrink after brining and cooking in the oven. I think the result would have been better if the meat was thicker (meaning each layer of the fat and meat was thicker.
- When serving, definitely place only the buns that you need for one time out, and keep the rest in the steamer. While pork belly slices were fine sitting out, the buns turned cold very quickly and became very chewy. Take what you need at one time, and do it again when finish.
- Play around with it! As you see in the picture, we didn't assemble the pork buns completely (which was what they did in Momofuku's restaurants) before we served them. Instead we put everything as a platter and let the diners assemble their own pork buns. Sort of like the "do-it-yourself" fajita party, but we did it with the much better pork buns! It was really fun! I can totally see this becoming a party dish.
- Lastly, we also served the pork buns with kimchi! Of course the choices of condiments are endless - pickles, jalapenos, whatever you like.
I hope you will try out this recipe soon!
If Chang can cook, you can too! :D
Edit: Oh I almost forgot:
1) My leftover pork belly slices were kept for 2 days and they still turned out great! Just reheat it in the oven as the recipe mentioned
2) KEEP THE DRIPPING! I put the dripping (liquid fat) in a ramekin and put it in the frigde. Yesterday I mixed them with some plain noodle, sweet soy, and scallions, and wow! It was REALLY GOOD! :D