Momofuku’s Famous Pork Buns

Yes, I made them.

And they are pretty f***ing good.

Oooh, did I say that? Chalk it up to me channeling the one and only David Chang, the potty-mouthed, no-holds-barred New York chef sensation who created these wonderfully pillowy steamed buns stuffed with juicy, fatty-delicious pork belly.

How good are they? When my husband and I visited New York last year, we ate these pork buns three out of four days we were there. If they were on the menu, we simply had to have them.

Chang serves these at his Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Momofuku Milk Bar bakery. They’re so popular that you’d be hard-pressed to walk into any of these establishments and not find them gracing every table.

The recipe comes from the “Momofuku” cookbook (Clarkson Potter), written by Chang and New York Times writer Peter Meehan.

Making them at home is straight-forward, but does take some effort.

You have to marinate, cook, cool, and neatly slice the pork belly.

You have to make the quick pickles, which are so easy and fantastic tasting.

And you have to buy or make the buns. Yes, I actually made them — all 50 of them by hand. Whew.

These little bundles of sweet-salty-tangy porkiness would be great for a cocktail or dinner party. Or heck, just indulge by wolfing down a small mountain of them for dinner, yourself.

One bite, and you may just find yourself cursing to the high heavens a` la David Chang, too.

Pork Belly for Pork Buns

(Makes enough for 12 pork buns)

One 3-pound slab skinless pork belly

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

Nestle the belly into a roasting pan or other oven-safe vessel that holds it snugly. Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub all over the meat; discard any excess salt-and-sugar mixture. Cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours but no longer than 24.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Discard any liquid that accumulated in the container. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown.

Turn the oven temperature down to 250 degrees and cook for another 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the belly is tender — it shouldn’t be falling apart, but it should have a down pillow-like yield to a firm finger poke. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the belly to a plate. Decant the fat and the meat juices from the pan and reserve for other uses later. (The meat juices can be added to broths or sautes; it will keep a week in the fridge or indefinitely in the freezer.) Allow the belly to cool slightly.

When it’s cool enough to handle, wrap the belly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in the fridge until it’s thoroughly chilled and firm. (You can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but the only way to get neat, nice-looking slices is to chill the belly thoroughly before slicing it.)

Cut the pork belly into 1/2-inch-thick slices that are about 2 inches long. Warm them for serving in a pan over medium heat, just a minute or two, until they are jiggly soft and heated through. Use at once.

Momofuku Steamed Buns

(Makes 50 buns)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

4 1/4 cups bread flour

6 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening, at room temperature, plus more for shaping the buns, as needed

Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and fat and mix on the lowest speed possible, just above a stir, for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should gather together into a neat, not-too-tacky ball on the hook. When it does, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Put it int a turned-off oven with a pilot light or other warmish place, and let rise until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper or a knife, divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total. They should be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball and weigh about 25 grams, or a smidge under an ounce. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the armada of little dough balls with a draping of plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.

Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Stick it back under the plastic wrap (or a dry kitchen towel) and form the rest of the buns. let the buns rest for 30 to 45 minutes; they will rise a little.

Set up a steamer on the stove. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment. You can use the buns immediately (reheat them for a minute or so in the steamer if necessary) or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a stovetop steamer for 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.

Quick-Pickled Cucumbers

(Makes about 2 cups)

2 meaty Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

Combine cucumber slices with sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat with sugar and salt. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Taste if the pickles are too sweet or too salty, put them into a colander, rinse off the seasoning, and dry in a kitchen towel. Taste again and add more sugar or salt as needed. Serve after 5 to 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Momofuku Pork Buns

(Serves 1)

1 steamed bun

About 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

3 or 4 slices Quick Pickled Cucumbers

3 thick slices pork belly

1 scant tablespoon thinly sliced scallion (green and white)

Sriracha, for serving

Heat the bun in a steamer on the stovetop. It should be hot to the touch, which will take almost no time with just-made buns and 2 to 3 minutes with frozen buns.

Grab the bun from the steamer and flop it open on a plate. Slather the inside with the hoisin sauce, using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Arrange the pickles on one side of the fold in the bun and the slices of pork belly on the other. Scatter the belly and pickles with sliced scallions, fold close, and voila: pork buns. Serve with sriracha.

From “Momofuku” by David Chang and Peter Meehan

More: My Q&A with David Chang

More: David Chang’s Visit to Kepler’s in Menlo Park

More: My Adventures Eating at Momofuku Noodle Bar and Momofuku Ssam Bar

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57 comments

  • Food Gal, you are killing me. It is 7am as I am reading this and I am positive I could eat at least four of these right now. I’ve been hearing about these for awhile now and though have never had them from the source, I’ve been craving them. Looks like I can make them myself, if I can get my act together. Yours look picture-perfect!

  • I had already planned to make some pork belly sandwiches this weekend with a different method but now I’m going to have to get David’s book and make this another weekend.

    Why do you torture me so?

  • a small mountain for myself–yes please. you have no idea how good these look.

  • It does take work but I was amazed to see how easy the pork belly prep was in the book.

    Mad props to you for making the buns!!!! That’s a lot of time and hard work but at least you had tasty food in the end 🙂

  • I had been wanting to make these buns since David Chang made them on Martha Stewart show several months ago. Procrastination no more. A small mountain of these juicy buns would be lovely right about now.

  • I just got my hold notice at the library that I can go pick up the Momofuku cookbook at the library today (yay!). I don’t know if I’ll actually make the pork buns; I’m checking out the cookbook more to oggle at the food. But if the book has the recipe for the rice cake/noodles that I had at Ssam bar, I may be tempted to try making that!

  • I heard an interview with Chef Chang (probably Good Food w/ Evan Klieman) and he was so humble about his steamed buns. He said something like, next time you find yourself making a loaf of white bread, like Wonder bread, steam it, don’t bake it and you’ll probably get something similar. You, Carolyn, making 50 steamed buns in one full swoop are equally as humble… and I am equally impressed. Gorgeous!!

  • These looked delicious in his book, and you make them look even more delicious (and approachable). I’m definitely making these.

    This rocks. Thanks!

  • wow-these look so delicious! And cursing is a given when cooking (and sometimes eating), isn’t it?

  • Oh man, those look amazing Carolyn! And that pork. Wow. Absolutely mouthwatering.

  • That pork looks amazing! I have thinking about getting the Momofuku book and now I definitely will.

    Nice to “meet” another Bay Area food-lover and fellow Columbia grad.

  • Erin: I’m a native of the Bay Area, but actually I did not graduate from Columbia. I received a writing award from its grad. journalism program a few years back when I was a food writer for the San Jose Mercury News. The awards for exceptional diversity writing were given out during a Columbia U. conference all about reporting on diversity issues. It was one of the best I’ve ever attended.

  • OK, so the question is do you have any leftovers from those 50 buns? 😉 I totally would rent a car again to drive to your place to get one! (I still have memories of eating the pork belly buns at Ssam Bar.)

  • You did a great job. They look incredible! The quick pickles look like a delicious topping.

  • Carolyn this is f** awesome, the caramelized pork in the buns is make me drooling….I understand why is so famous 🙂

    Have a great week,

    Gera

  • Holy Shitsky! I am way impressed with this C. And here I was bragging about saving chicken fat for schmaltz.

  • WOW! Those buns look amazing! 50 by hand?

  • I think I’d be in the “wolfing down a small mountain of them for dinner” category!

  • um, i bow down to you. the end.
    okay, that’s not the end. bravo! the buns alone would be stellar, and with the added fat-tastic pork belly, buddy, i’d be in heaven.

  • Single Guy Ben: I have a dozen or so leftover buns in the freezer. But you have to supply your own pork belly. Meat Boy (the hubster) demolished all of that, as you probably guessed. 😉

  • I would imagine that the buns are good with roast duck too!

  • Carolyn, we must be psychically linked! I made David Chang’s pork buns today! Yours look fab!

  • OMG! Those pork buns look f****** incredible! I’m drooling! I’ve been going nuts with that cookbook, myself. I just posted about Chang’s amazing Bo Ssam. Took forever to make, but so worth it. These buns are going to have to be my next try. I just have to figure out where I can get some pork belly around here.

  • Wow, the pork looks amazing… Foodgal you are such an inspiration! It takes quite a lot to get me thinking about making bread, but these just look and sound so good.

  • These look so awesome! Definitely a must try!

  • WHOA! Amazing pictures. Chewy steamed buns and charred pork belly. Does it get any better?!?! Beautiful post.

  • You made these, you amazing, adventurous foodie, you! OMG. I love these buns!! I wish I had a Momofuku cookbook…all his creations sound freaking amazing, and I love his unique twists on things.

  • Love it! These look insanely fabulous!

  • Looks amazing! I wish that I could have one right now. This is the inspiration that I need to actually make them myself. Thanks Carolyn!

  • I’ve never been a big fan of Momofuku, but I do love the pork buns!

  • Wow! Those look delicious! I’m going to have to get a copy of that cookbook! Must…have….pork….buns….

  • You made them from scratch? Wow. Very niceeee. 😉

  • The Chinese (Hokkien) has a pork bun like this too – braised pork bun and very good!

  • I don’t own a copy of this book yet…have been living vicariously through everyone’s reviews/posts about the recipes they’ve tried.
    I think this one just sealed the deal. Time to grab a copy for myself!

  • Great job on the pork buns CJ! Colby wants to come over to eat a few.

  • Oh my – when you look up food porn, as much as I hate that term – this picture should be there – sums it all up!

  • so delicious, cant wait to try againhttp://digitalphotographytemplates.blogspot.com/

  • damn…now I want to make these again. I’ve served these for various groups of friends, and it’s always been a hit. And for the most part, it’s easy, too.

  • bravo!!! kudos to you for making everything from scratch. we cheated and bought the buns when we made ours.

  • OK. This is so worth the time! We may have to try that recipe for the bun itself as that seems to be the most daunting part.

  • I’m headed to NY this summer and this is going on the must eat list! These look incredible!

  • Lovely. And delicious, too. Without Chang’s attitude but with your way, way, way better style and class.

  • Kudos to you for making everything from scratch! How long did it take you? Like an entire day? Or more than one day????

    Gotta say your photo is one of the best I’ve seen yet of that dish.

  • Jen: It took a few days to make it all, but a lot of it was inactive time. For instance, you have to marinate the pork for up to 24 hours, then you roast it, then you refrigerate it so it firms up enough to slice easily. Then the day you plan on eating it all, you make the pickles, which takes no time at all. And if you’re like me and make the buns, then that does take a few hours. But once you get into the groove of rolling and folding them, it doesn’t take too long at all to do.

  • God I love those things. Fantastic job!

  • I am now determined to find the time to make some! (with store bought buns, of course) I’ve never had it, but love pork belly. My parents actually discovered how easy it was to take skin-on pork belly and roast in the oven with just salt and lemon juice to get crispy-skinned roast pork like from the chinese deli’s. Also very non-intimidating. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Everyone who’s ever said anything to me about these pork buns always speaks of them with drool coming out of the corners of their mouths. I have this cookbook and didn’t bother to crack it open until I saw your photos here.

  • Oh my gosh these look simply mouthwatering! I must. get. that. cookbook!

  • i am gonna try this tomorrow~ ^_^ meat is marinating in the fridge. wish me luck

    p/s: ur step by step guide in project foodie is awesome~

  • Edda: Oooh, I am so psyched to hear about how your pork buns come out. I’m sure you will love them. And I’m sure a long line will be forming outside your front door from everyone reading this who wants to sample them. 😉

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