Momofuku this!

Even with all of my eclectic food experiences growing up, “Chinese” and other Asian cuisine was a stranger to my palate.  That is, unless you count frozen and canned “treats” from the likes of La Choy and Chun-King. 

It wasn’t until about 30 years ago when one of my friends from high school suggested an evening out in Philly’s Chinatown that I experienced the real deal and liked it.  From there, the doors to my stomach were opened: sushi, curries, and tandoori, love it all.  

As pretty much of a late comer to the various types of Asian cuisine, I have very little experience preparing it at home.  Yeah, we have a wok…an electric one that we dig out of the cabinet and use every so often.  And we’ve been known to toss a package of frozen samosas into the toaster broiler on occasion.  But most of our consumption of “eastern” foodstuffs is done at restaurants or from those oh so typical cardboard takeout cartons.

So when friend Mark passed along a link  to the blog “Momofukufor2.com” that detailed how to make steamed pork buns ala Momofuku,  I took it as much as a challenge. 

At first, I was going to attempt to prepare the buns from scratch but it seemed like a bit more work than I wanted to delve into at the moment.  It was suggested that one could find the buns in the frozen food section of any good Asian grocer.  

A quick Google search turned up a likely spot…the Asian Food Marketin Plainsboro, so off I headed up Route 1. 

The store is part of a chain and sure enough, the frozen food aisle was a treasure trove of frozen goodies, including the Mantou I was searching for. 

 Score! 

Then it was on to the produce section for the fresh Kirby cucumbers and the green onions.  On the way, I swung by the meat case and found very nice packages of sliced pork belly.  This would be slow roasted for the filling of the buns and the veggies used for garnish.

The greatest challenge was locating and deciding upon the jarred hoisin and sriracha sauces. The aisle was long, the shelves head high, and filled with multitudes of dipping and seasoning sauces.  I could have spent all day pondering the selection but urged myself to get on with it. 

Finally, I gathered up all my goodies, checked out and headed home.

Arriving back at the house, I gave Mark a call and invited him and the Mrs. to lunch the next day.  He set me on this path…so he was going savor or suffer the result. 

The pork belly slices were rinsed and patted dry.  Then I put them into a plastic bag with a mixture of  1/3 cup each of sugar and kosher salt.  The meat was tossed and rubbed in the sealed bag until thoroughly coated then placed in the fridge overnight.  

In the morning I got up early and removed the pork from the bag.  Some recipes suggest rinsing off the sugar/salt rub. (I didn’t but it is an option.) I placed the pork slices, fat side up, in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil.  This went into the oven preheated to a very low 250 degrees. I slow roasted the pork for about three and half hours and then finished by cranking up the oven to 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.                

About a half an hour before my guests were due to arrive, I sliced the Kirby cukes and tossed them in bowl with a mixture of 3 parts sugar to one part salt.  I also sliced up some green onions, set the table and sliced up the pork. 

About 15 minutes before my guests were due, I poured some water into my (electric) wok and brought it to a boil.  I steamed some frozen shrimp shumai that I had also purchased on my trip to the market and served them as starters while I steamed some of the frozen mantou.

Steamed pork bun with shrimp shumai

 

We took out places at table and assembled our steamed buns. 

I’ve not had the original or any other version of this dish but found it pretty tasty.  I think my guests did to…we finished off the package of buns and about two thirds of the pork belly.   

 

The best part came the next morning.

 I opened another package of mantou and cooked one in the microwave (it wasn’t much different than steaming them and since I was only doing one…).  I dressed the split bun with a schmear of hoisin on each half.  Then I laid on a single egg, fried over easy.  Topped that with some of the leftover pork belly and  chopped scallion and a dash or two (or three or five!) of sriracha.

Voila!   MomofukoMcMuffin!   

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