If you’ve ever tried the mouthwatering pork buns at Momofuku or Ippudo in NYC, you’ll understand why we’re sharing this amazing recipe with you. Our Momofuku & Ippudo-style pork bun recipe features tender, slow-braised pork belly sandwiched between homemade soft bao buns. It’s a dish that offers an otherworldly deliciousness that will leave you wanting more. But what sets our buns apart? We’ve mastered a special ingredient and method to ensure they’re extra pillowy soft, unlike most recipes out there. So, if you’ve struggled to recreate that squishy softness at home, you’re in for a treat with this pork bun recipe.
What Are Pork Buns?
Pork buns come in many forms and have a variety of delicious fillings. They originated in China and have since been adapted and perfected in Japan and New York City. No matter the type, pork buns typically consist of a fluffy, snow-white yeasted steamed bun (bao or mantou) and slices of braised or barbecued pork, or a ground pork mixture. Let’s explore the different varieties of pork buns:
Mainland China Chinese pork buns (baozi 包子, or bao buns)
These snowy white buns are filled with char sui, ground pork, vegetables, or a combination of meats and veggies. Each region in China has its own specialty pork fillings, and bao buns can even be filled with sweet dessert fillings like whipped cream, egg custard, or red bean paste.
Japanese pork buns (nikuman 肉まん)
Similar to the Chinese baozi, these buns feature ground pork, vegetables, or a combination of both. They have a fluffy, snow white yeasted dough wrapped around the filling.
Taiwanese pork buns (gua bao 割包)
These half-moon-shaped buns are filled with saucy braised pork belly and various toppings like pickled mustard, cilantro, and peanuts. They’re eaten like a sandwich or taco and are the inspiration for the Nagasaki kakuni manjū and Momofuku and Ippudo pork buns.
Nagasaki kakuni manjū pork buns (Nagasaki Chinatown pork buns)
These buns also have a half-moon shape and are filled with braised pork belly slices and various toppings. They are enjoyed as a delicious sandwich or taco.
Momofuku and Ippudo-style pork buns (based on gua bao from Taiwan)
The star of this recipe! These buns are filled with succulent braised pork belly slices and topped with sugar-and-salt quick pickled cucumbers, mayo, scallions, hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce, and more. They’re a heavenly combination of flavors and textures.
Why We Love This Pork Buns Recipe
Here are a few reasons why we believe you’ll fall in love with our homemade pork buns:
- A special ingredient ensures our buns are fluffier than most recipes.
- The tangzhong method we use for the buns makes them even softer.
- Preparing the pork belly for brining and braising takes just 5 minutes.
- The braised pork belly is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of dish, requiring minimal effort.
- Both kids and adults adore these steamed pork buns.
- You can make the pork belly and buns ahead of time, allowing for easy meal prep.
- These buns are perfect for creating the ultimate breakfast pork buns.
- Pork and bao buns can be made in advance and frozen for up to 3 months.
- Making your own pork buns at home saves money and allows you to customize the fillings to your liking.
Homemade Pork Buns I’ve Made Throughout the Years
Over the years, I’ve experimented with various homemade pork buns. They have always been a hit, whether I used store-bought bao buns or made them from scratch. In this post, I’ll be sharing the recipe for the braised pork belly and the bao buns. However, if you’re only interested in the braised pork recipe, you can find it here.
Momofuku & Ippudo-Style Pork Buns Ingredients
To recreate the iconic Momofuku and Ippudo-style pork buns, you’ll need the following ingredients:
Braised Pork Belly Ingredients:
- Pork belly
- Kosher salt
- Chicken stock
Extra Soft Bao Bun Ingredients:
- Cake flour or 00 flour
- Instant yeast (or active dry yeast)
- Dehydrated potato flakes (or potato flour as a substitute)
- Dried milk powder
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
How to Make the Best Homemade Pork Buns Just Like Momofuku & Ippudo
Prepare yourself for an easy and rewarding cooking experience with this pork belly recipe. The preparation is almost entirely hands-off, guaranteeing fantastic results. Make the braised pork belly a day in advance, allowing it to chill overnight in the fridge for easy slicing. I’ve also included a tangzhong method in the bao bun recipe to ensure they are incredibly soft. If you don’t have a steamer basket, don’t worry! I’ll provide a DIY method for steaming the buns. Let’s get started!
Make the Braised Pork Belly (one day in advance)
- In a liquid measuring cup, mix all the ingredients (except the pork belly) until the sugar and salt dissolve.
- Place the pork belly and scallions in a plastic bag or airtight container. Add the brining liquid, ensuring the pork is completely submerged. Refrigerate for 12 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Remove the pork belly from the brine and discard the liquid.
- Place the pork belly on top of the scallions in an oven-proof baking dish. Mix the water and chicken stock, then pour it over the pork belly.
- Bake for 2 1/2 hours until the pork is tender. Increase the oven temperature to 450F/232°C and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. You can use the broiler function for the last 20 minutes to speed up the browning process, but keep a close eye to avoid burning.
- Allow the pork belly to cool in its juices and refrigerate it in an airtight container.
- When ready to serve, slice the chilled pork belly into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. You can reheat the slices by dipping them into a pot of reheated braising liquid or pan-searing them until warmed through and golden brown. Enjoy!
Make the Bao Buns
- In a small pot, bring 1/4 cup of water to a near-boil over high heat. Gradually add 1/4 cup of flour while whisking constantly with a fork. Reduce the heat to medium and continue stirring for a few minutes until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and let the tangzhong cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment, combine flour, yeast, sugar, powdered milk, potato flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
- Slowly add warm water to the mixer on low speed, then add the cooled tangzhong by pinching off small pieces into the bowl.
- Mix on medium-low speed for about 12 minutes until the dough is smooth, occasionally stopping to pull the dough off the hook.
- Remove the dough, shape it into a round, and place it back in the lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 to 1.5 hours).
- Punch down the risen dough and form it into a log. Cut it into 16 equal pieces and keep them covered while working.
- Roll each piece into a small round dough ball and place them on a parchment-lined tray. Cover them loosely with sustainable plastic wrap and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
- While the dough balls rise, cut out 16 pieces of 4×4-inch parchment paper squares for easy steaming.
- Working with one dough ball at a time, use a rolling pin to roll it into an oval shape about 1/4-inch thick. Brush the top with vegetable oil and fold it in half using a chopstick in the middle to form a bun. Gently transfer the bun to a parchment square.
- Keep the buns and dough covered while you work. Let them rest for another 30 minutes until they rise slightly.
- Set up a steamer basket over a pan with boiling water. Make sure the buns don’t touch the water. Steam the buns for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the steamer.
- Assemble your pork buns by heating the pork belly slices and placing them on the buns. Add hoisin sauce, sugar-and-salt pickled cucumbers, scallions, and Sriracha sauce. Feel free to include additional toppings like homemade mayonnaise, lettuce, or cabbage. Serve and enjoy!
How to Store Braised Pork Belly
You can make braised pork belly 2 or 3 days in advance. Simply slice it and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to reheat and eat. If you plan to freeze it, place parchment paper or freezer paper between each slice for easy portioning.
How to Reheat Braised Pork Belly For Pork Buns
There are three simple ways to reheat sliced braised pork belly:
- Use a kitchen torch to sear it on both sides.
- Pan-sear it in a skillet until warmed through and golden brown.
- Reheat the braising liquid, then add the sliced pork belly until warmed through.
How to Store Homemade Bao Buns (Pork Buns)
Once the buns have been steamed and cooled to room temperature, place a parchment paper square between each one. Wrap them in a larger piece of parchment paper and store them in an airtight freezer bag. If you use a different container, ensure you wrap them well with sustainable plastic wrap to prevent frost.
Bao buns can be stored for up to 3 months (even longer if properly wrapped). Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or steam them from frozen, allowing for a few extra minutes.
4 Ways to Reheat Bao Buns (Pork Buns)
Here are four methods for reheating your bao buns:
- Re-steam the buns by placing them in a parchment-lined steamer basket over a pot with boiling water. Steam for approximately 5 minutes or until warmed through and soft. Avoid letting the buns come into contact with the water.
- If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can create a DIY steamer by using a small pot and a metal colander. Place the buns in the colander over the pot with boiling water, ensuring they don’t touch the water. Cover with a lid and steam until warmed through and fluffy.
- Reheat the buns in the oven by wrapping them in aluminum foil with two damp paper towels on top. Seal the foil completely and bake in a preheated 350°F/176°C oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through and soft.
- Microwave the buns by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and microwaving for 30 to 40 seconds until steaming hot.
Homemade Toppings For Pork Buns
The beauty of making homemade pork buns is the ability to add your favorite toppings. We recommend using hoisin sauce, salt & sugar pickled cucumbers, sliced scallions, Mayu mayonnaise, or our soy-sesame mayo recipe provided below. For an extra kick, drizzle some Sriracha sauce.
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, crushed or whole
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional but recommended)
- 1/4 teaspoon Japanese Nanami Togarashi chili pepper mix (optional)
Salt & Sugar Pickled Cucumbers
- 1-2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 dried chili (optional)
- 1 drop of toasted sesame oil (optional)
With this recipe, you can create homemade pork buns that rival those of Momofuku and Ippudo. The combination of tender braised pork belly and fluffy bao buns is irresistible. Impress your friends and family with this delightful dish, and feel free to customize the toppings to your liking. Don’t forget to visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill for more delectable recipes and dining experiences. Enjoy!