(New) Tradition: Non-traditional Holiday Dinner, Part 1 – Momofuku Inspired Pork Belly Buns

For as long as I can remember, I have spent December holiday time with my entire (extended) family, which includes 7 aunts/uncles, all of their children, and the grandparents – it’s a lot of people.   The holidays have always been a secular occasion for us – a nice time of year to spend time together, share love, laughter, food, stories, and gifts – though because of this, I had not been as exposed to many of the religious traditions that are the pinnacles of big December holidays (e.g. of Christmas or Hanukkah) around the world. 

The only “tradition” my family has kept in the last years has been: hilarious.  Each of the grandchildren (which ranges from me and my older brother – both in our mid-twenties- down through just under 20 cousins total, ranging from age 1 to 17) – having to display some sort of talent/entertaining performance for our grandparents (all aunts/uncles watching, naturally) before gifts are opened.  Will share more on this later… I digress.

Anyhow, this year, having the holidays with just our nuclear family – my parents, my brother and me – I wanted to start a new tradition.  And as my epically contrarian self, I determined that our holiday dinner “tradition” should be to always have a super non-traditional holiday dinner! Ha! Eat that, Santa.  So having spent most of my 2014 eating super dank food between the east and west coasts, I was feeling confident, and I decided to take on the task of preparing our first non-traditional holiday dinner tradition.  

The first course was inspired by David Chang @ Momofuku – I’m so predictable, right?  Between eating way too much ramen and too many pork buns at Momofuku and having my passion for cooking reignited by watching The Mind of a Chef on PBS, it was inevitable, and I was determined to make David Chang’s infamous pork buns for my family.  

I think they turned out okay: 

Roasted Pork Belly on Steamed Buns  (Inspired by Momofuku)

> Prep the pork belly!

>> Take about 3 pounds of pork belly (remove the skin), mix a bowl of about half of a cup of kosher salt and sugar and coat your pork belly

> Cover it and let that hang out for 6 – 10 hours

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> Meanwhile…start your steamed bun dough!

>> Mix a packet of active dry yeast, 1.5 cups of water, 4.25 cups of bread flour (my mom suggests that next time I should try self-rising flour as that’s what she usually uses to make traditional Vietnamese steamed “bánh bao”), 6 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/3 cup of bacon/pork fat (i made some scrumptious bacon for breakfast and reserved the fat to use in my dough!) 

>> Mix that until it’s all combined for about 10 minutes then gather into a ball.

> Let that sit and rise in an oiled bowl for 1-2 hours!

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> After about 6-10 hours, there should be some liquid that has accumulated in your roasting pan with your pork belly – pour all of that out.  Preheat your oven to about 450F and cook for about 45 minutes; flipping it over once in between.  Then turn your oven down to about 250F and cook until the pork belly is well browned and tender.

> Finish up your bread!  Cut up your dough ball into about 20 even pieces and roll them into balls.

>> Roll each mini ball out into small ovals (I usually just use a wine bottle to roll out my dough – works well if you can’t find your rolling pin!)

>> Place your rolled dough on small pieces of cut parchment paper

>> Brush each piece of rolled dough with a bit of vegetable oil, lay a chopstick across the center and fold the dough over onto itself making a wee little bun!

>> Steam your buns for about 10 minutes per batch.

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> Start your flash pickled cucumbers!

>> Take 5 persian cucumbers and run them over a mandolin or slice super thin (if you’re good at that).

>> Add about 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, and some coarse ground pepper.

>> Toss well and let that sit in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble your buns!

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> When everything’s ready to go – assemble your buns!

>> Cut your pork belly into 1/4 inch thick slices, open a bun, spread about 1.5 tablespoons of hoisin sauce, about 1 tablespoon of Sriracha sauce, throw on some of your flash pickled cucumbers and some curled scallions and ENJOY!!

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Happy Holidays!

xo, Huckleberry Kim

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