CHINESE BARBECUED PORK BUNS WITH PICKLED VEGETABLES (gua bao, for six to eight)
Translated into English as “cut bread,” gua bao are also known as Taiwanese (or sometimes Chinese) hamburgers. They originated in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province in China, and were brought to Taiwan by Fuzhounese immigrants. Colloquially they are called “tiger bites pig,” referring to the mouth-like form of the bun (commonly called a lotus leaf bun in China) and the pork filling. Now a popular Taiwanese street food, similar versions have spread throughout China.
David Chang’s Momofuku Restaurant in New York City helped bring gua bao to the United States, where it now appears on Chinese restaurant menus either as an appetizer with the pork filling or sometimes as a replacement for the spring pancake typically served with Peking duck. This recipe uses quick cooking pork tenderloin instead of the more laborious pork belly or spareribs, and store-bought buns, which can be found in the freezer section of most stores specializing in Asian groceries.
For the pork:
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon chili garlic paste
1 pork tenderloin, about 2 pounds
canola oil for brushing
For the pickled vegetables:
2 large carrots, peeled
1 English cucumber
1 large daikon or watermelon radish, peeled
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
16 store bought folded Chinese buns, steamed according to package instructions
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup thinly sliced radishes
½ cup roasted peanut halves
1. To make the marinade for the pork, in a large nonreactive bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, five spice powder and chili garlic paste until the sugar is dissolved and the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Place the pork in the bowl so that it’s covered by the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
2. To make the pickled vegetables, using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, cut the carrots, cucumber and radish lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick ribbons. Cut the ribbons in half lengthwise, and then cut them crosswise into roughly 3 inch lengths. Place all the vegetables in a bowl and add the rice vinegar and sesame oil. Toss to coat and season to taste with salt. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
3. About 30 minutes before you plan to begin grilling, remove the pork from the refrigerator and let sit in the marinade at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. Brush a grill pan lightly with canola oi. Remove the pork from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Place the pork on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until the outside is nicely grill marked and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin registers 145*, about 20 minutes.
5. While the pork is cooking, transfer the reserved marinade to a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
6. Transfer the pork to a carving board and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice the pork into rounds about ¼ inch thick. To assemble, brush the inside of each of the buns with the reduced marinade, add a few pieces of pork and some of the pickled vegetables. Top with cilantro leaves, radishes and peanuts and serve immediately with the remaining vegetable pickles alongside.
FROZEN MINI LOTUS LEAF BUNS
adapted from the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen