Acclaimed new york restaurant Momofuku was coined by founder and chef, David Chang, a foul-mouthed, badass cook with a blatant disregard for rules. He transformed what was formerly a barely-surviving, 600-square-foot joint to what it is now today a damn famous restaurant with long queues forming all the way out.
What I particularly admire about David Chang is the fact that he is, on some level, a hippie businessman. He openly admits in his book that when he started out, he knew nothing about payrolls, taxes or the other shit required to start a business. He stuck by what he wanted to do, cooked what he loved and it sure as hell paid off in the end.
Now, give the name a google and you’ll most likely end up reading about its famed pork buns, or the famous chef/owner of the place as well as tons of stellar reviews. While I was in New York last year, I did not get to eat at one of Chang’s restaurants (something I’m still kicking myself over..) and after spending hours reading reviews of the place (particularly the.. pork buns) online, I knew I had to give it a try myself. It was all I could think about the entire week at school “pork belly, pork buns.. must.try.david.changs.pork.buns. I swear I was this close to planning a trip there again just so I could eat at a Momofuku joint. AH, damn those online food reviewers, painting such an illustrious picture of these buns that it almost bordered on obscene.
Firstly, if you’re thinking that it’s anything like the Chinese pork buns we’re used to here (stewed pork in a deep, dark sauce), well, it’s not. It’s a pork bun of the Japanesey sort €“ yes, the pork is meant to be roasted. Just thought I’d give a heads up because certain people I served it to looked confused, “huh what kind of pork bun is this?” or “why is the pork roasted not stewed?”.
The pork belly here is roasted for 2.5 hours, by which time the meat should be tender (but not yet falling from the bone), the skin crispy and caramelized from its brine of sugar and salt. After a spell in the refrigerator, the pork belly is sliced and warmed up. The final assembly of the bun includes hoisin sauce, a delicious quick cucumber pickle and a garnish of spring onions.
- 1.5 kg skinless pork belly
- ¼ cup sea salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- Combine the salt and sugar, then proceed to rub it all over the pork belly, making sure all sides are covered. Discard any excess salt-sugar solution.
- Cover the meat and refrigerate it for at least 6 hrs, but no more than 24.
- Heat the oven to 225 degrees celcius.
- Discard any liquid that has accumulated in the container, and roast the belly, fat side up, for an hour. Baste it with its own fat halfway through.
- Turn the temperature down to 125 degrees celcius and cook for another 1 hr €“ 1 hr 15 minutes, until the belly is tender, yielding a pillow-like texture.
- Chill the pork belly as this is the only way you can get neat-looking slices.
- Cut the pork belly into ½ inch slices and warm it up for about a minute or 2 in a saucepan.
Quick Cucumber pickles
- Japanese cucumbers, sliced
- Combine the vegetables with a 3:1 ratio of sugar to salt.
- Toss them together and leave for 10 €“ 20 minutes.
- If the pickles are too sweet or salty, rinse off the brine and start again, tasting as you go along.
Note: This is best consumed within 4 hours.
- Steamed buns (the Chinese kind that look like smiles. I love how white and pure these buns look!)
- 1 T hoisin sauce
- 1-2 slices of pork belly
- spring onions
- pickled cucumbers
- Brush the steamed buns with hoisin sauce.
- Arrange a few slices of the pork belly, garnish with the cucumbers and spring onions.
Did it live up to the hype? Let’s just say I’ve converted several weight-conscious friends (people who freak out at the mere mention of pork fat, pork belly or pork skin) to actually consume and like these pork buns’ pork fat and all..
p/s: You know you’ve made it as a chef/cookbook author when people online start dedicating an entire blog to cooking out of your cookbook..
This article is written by our guest blogger, Lace Zhang. In her spare time, she bakes, cooks and share all about the goodness of it here