Oh man, if you haven't had pork bao then you are in for a treat! Pork belly slowly braised in some soy & ginger beer, pan-fried in a sticky spicy-sweet sauce and finished with some fresh vegetables and herbs wrapped up in a pillow-like bun. Hell yeah!!!
Why I Love This Recipe
I think the main reason I love this recipe is because I hadn't eaten a good bao in a long time. Prior to living in Brisbane my wife & I lived in NYC for nearly 5 years. Anyone who has lived or visited NYC knows that there is a RIDICULOUS amount of great street food in the city. Every corner has some kinda epic dumpling, tacos, bao house or funky sandwich shop so we were blessed to eat some of the worlds best food there. I hadn't made bao since I left NYC so was excited to (try) replicate some of the ones I had tasted there.
It all balls down to a pillow-like bao bun, perfectly cooked pork, sticky, spicy-sweet sauce and some simple fillings. Crack open a bottle of wine and sit down beside your loved one (shielding your food from them of course!) and enjoy one of the most moreish bites you will have!
What is Bao?
Bao is the term given to steamed buns that are of Chinese origin. These buns are light and slightly sweet. Classically the bao bun was served with pork but these days there are many variations of them around the world. I have gone 'somewhat' traditional in my pork bao bun.
To make the buns you need flour, yeast, water, sugar & oil but being a stay at home Dad with a 4-year-old who just wants to play babies all the time I opted to purchase frozen ones from my local Asian market and to be honest they are probably better than I could make any!
Prepping Pork Belly
To prep the bork belly for the bao buns I firstly remove the skin. Then I slice the pork into 1" thick pieces and then cut them into pieces the size of your index finger. I like to put 2 pieces of pork per bun so you are looking to get 24 slices. Alternatively, you can cut them longer and just get 12 slices. Just remember the pork belly will shrink as it's being cooked.
Alternatively, you could cook the belly whole, steam it and cut it afterwards but more on that below!
Cooking Pork Belly For Bao
To cook the pork belly for my pork bao I braised it in a mixture of ginger beer & soy. Place the pork and liquids into a frying pan, bring it up to a low simmer and then cover with a lid. Cook the pork on a low heat for approx 1 hour. This will tenderize it enough for you to pan-fry afterwards.
As mentioned above you could cook it whole if cooking a larger quantity. For this, I would leave the skin on the pork, lay it on a wire rack in a roasting tray above the liquid and then cover with foil. Cook in the oven @ 160c for 1-2 hours. Once cooked, you can easily remove the skin. I prefer cutting the pieces as it cooks quicker and also cools a little quicker to store in the fridge or to be able to handle.
Once ready to make the pork belly bao fry the pork quickly in a frying pan and then add the glaze ingredients. Reduce the heat and cook for 6-7 minutes!
Pork Bao Glaze
For my preperation of pork belly I cook the belly in the sauce/glaze. This gives me a delicious sticky, spicy & sweet piece of pork that you will find hard not to eat before placing in the bun!
I use kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce), ginger, garlic, vinegar, oil & chilli flakes. This really couldn't be any easier - simply mix them all together and store in the fridge until ready to use!
What To Serve With Pork Bao
Keep it simple here. Think fresh vegetables, maybe something pickled (cucumbers) and something to add a little texture too.
For my version of pork bao I julienned (fancy word for little matchsticks) some carrot, sliced some red chilli, spring onions and chopped some peanuts for a little nutty texture. Oh, and don't forget the obligatory coriander leaf 😉
My plan is to keep the toppings as simple and as complimentary as possible and let the pork belly do the talking!
Moores Hill Winery - Tasmania
If you are travelling to Tasmania or from Tasmania then a visit to Moores Hill is a MUST! I first visited the winery about 3 years ago and LOVED the wines immediately. At the time (unknown to me), Fiona one of the owners was on hand at the cellar door and gave me a wonderful tour of their wines and chatted at length about the winery, cellar and their philosophy. It was an amazing experience and others who I have recommended it to have enjoyed it just as much, not to mention have all bought cases of wine and/or signed up to their wine club.
This is the third wine from Moores Hill that I have featured on my site and I am sure it won't be the last! Their 2019 Riesling, rated 95 pts from Mr Halliday is simply joy in a glass! In fact, their Riesling is definitely one of their flagship wines and is rated highly every year.
I get lime on the nose with a little slate or chalk too, a deliciously juicy palate with plenty of acidity too. Lychees, grapefruit and what I believe is best described as 'moreish' too. There is a great length to the wine too. Drinking beautifully now but it's definitely a Riesling that will reward a little cellaring. That's why I have 6 of them. 3 to enjoy and 3 to squirrel away for the future - just gotta keep Mrs AnotherFoodBlogger away from them 😉
It works beautifully with the spicy, sticky pork belly bao so keep scrolling to get the full recipe!
Alternative Pork Belly Recipes
Crispy Pork Belly w/ Sweet Potato & Cider by Yours Truly
Twice cooked pork belly w/ Spiced Orange Sauce by Andrea Geddes of 'The Cooking Collective'
Carbonara w/ Pork Belly & Peas by Scarlet Singer Paolicchi of 'Family Focus Blog'
Pork Belly Tacos by Angela Morris of 'A Food Lovers Kitchen'
- 400 g pork belly (14oz)
- 12 bao buns
- 4 tbsp peanuts
- 1 handful coriander
- 4 carrots
- 1 tsp sesame seeds optional
- 2 spring onion
- 2 red chili
- 375 ml ginger beer (1.5 cups)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 150 ml kecap manis (2/3 cup)
- 2 tsp chili flakes
- 2 tsp ginger grated
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 100 ml rice vinegar (1/2 cup)
- 50 ml olive oil (1/4 cup)
- Cut the skin from the top of the pork belly and then cut into 1” thick pieces about the length of your index finger.
- Place pork belly, ginger beer & soy sauce into a saucepan, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1 hour.
- Slice the carrots into thin matchsticks, the spring onion and chili into thin slices too.
- Chop the peanuts, pick the coriander and set aside.
- Mix the glaze ingredients together until ready to use.
- Heat a saucepan of water ready to steam the bao buns.
- Once porked is cooked, pat dry and fry for 1-2 minutes per side (be careful as it will burn quickly due to the sugars in the ginger beer)
- Add glaze to pan, reduce heat to low/medium and cook for approx. 6-7 minutes until glaze has reduced and is sticky.
- Remove pork and place in a bowl until ready to use.
- Steam pork buns using a bamboo steamer or colander over the previously boiled water (approx. 2-3 minutes, following instructions on packet
- Place carrots on base of bun, top with pork belly and remaining ingredients
- chef knives
- chopping board
- measuring utensils
- mixing bowl
- frying pan w/ lid
- saucepan & steamer
- pork belly can be made a day or 2 in advance and fried to order when needed making this a quick meal when ready.
- bao buns should be steamed at the last minute as they go cold very quickly.
- you can skip the glaze step if you want and just fry the pork belly and add a nice sriracha mayonnaise instead.