Classic pork bao

Classic pork bao

The pork gua bao are as iconic a part of BAO as they are the streets of Taiwan, and now you can learn to make them at home. The combination of funky suan cai, sticky pork belly and fluffy bao truly can't be beat.
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  1. Step 1

    First, sterilise the 500 ml jar for the fermented mustard greens. Pour about 2.5 cm (1 inch) water into a large saucepan. Place a steam tray on top (the top of the tray should sit just above the waterline)
  2. Step 2

    Place your jar and lid upside down on the tray and bring the water to a gentle boil for about 15 minutes. This should generate enough steam inside the jar and lid to sterilise them
  3. Step 3

    Carefully remove, then air dry the jar. The jar is now ready for use – it’s best to use it right after sterilising it
  4. Step 4

    Put the chopped greens into a bowl and sprinkle over the salt, massaging it into the greens until it is evenly distributed
  5. Step 5

    Pack the salted mustard greens tightly into a 500 ml sterilised glass jar. After about 30 minutes, the salt will draw out the liquid from the mustard greens and this liquid should cover the greens. If it does not, place something heavy on top (like a fermenting weight) to keep the greens submerged in the brine (the greens must be submerged otherwise they will grow mould). Put the lid on the jar and seal
  6. Step 6

    Leave to ferment at room temperature for at least 14 days, but ideally 1 month. Make sure to ‘burp’ the jar every night by opening the lid momentarily – this will release the gases and ensure that the jar doesn’t explode!
  7. Step 7

    When the greens have fermented to your liking, either transfer the jar to the refrigerator or eat straight away. The fermented greens can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months
  8. Step 8

    For the soy-braised pork belly, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the pork cubes and blanch for 2–3 minutes to get rid of any impurities. Drain, then place in a flameproof clay pot or large saucepan
  9. Step 9

    Add the remaining ingredients to the pot or pan and pour over enough water to just cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 3 hours. There should just be small bubbles on the surface of the liquid. Halfway through cooking, flip the pork cubes to ensure they are evenly cooked
  10. Step 10

    For the tangzhong, put the flour into a small saucepan, pour in the cold water a little at a time, and mix in the flour until smooth. Slowly warm over a low heat until it becomes gluey and you can draw a line on the surface. Remove from the heat, cover tightly with cling film so that the film touches the surface of the tangzhong and leave to cool. The tangzhong can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days
  11. Step 11

    Put 100 g of the tangzhong and all the bao dough dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Start mixing on a low setting and then slowly add the milk and water. Finally, add the oil and continue mixing until the dough is smooth. Cover with a damp cloth or cling film and leave to prove somewhere warm for 2–3 hours depending on the temperature, until doubled in size
  12. Step 12

    To make the peanut powder, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.Spread out the shelled peanuts on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until golden. Shake the tray or turn the peanuts every 5 minutes to ensure an even colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely
  13. Step 13

    Transfer the peanuts, in small batches, to a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse powder (it is best to do this in batches because peanuts have a high fat content and can very easily turn into peanut butter in no time)
  14. Step 14

    Tip the peanut powder into a bowl, add the sugar and mix thoroughly until well combined. The peanut powder can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month
  15. Step 15

    Transfer the pork to a plate and leave to cool. Strain the braising liquid, then bring to the boil and cook until it is a light, sticky consistency, reducing it by about half. When the pork has cooled slightly, chop it into cubes of about 1 cm (½ inch). Put the cubes into the reduced sauce, give it a good stir and remove from the heat
  16. Step 16

    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes – it will gradually become more elastic and the surface of the dough will become smooth
  17. Step 17

    Divide the dough into 40g pieces. Give each a strong knead, then roll into smooth balls
  18. Step 18

    Cover with baking paper to prevent them drying out while you roll the rest
  19. Step 19

    Flatten one of the dough balls with the palm of your hand, then using a rolling pin, roll it into an oval shape 8 cm (3¼ inches) long. Brush the top with oil, then, with a short edge facing you, place a chopstick horizontally across the middle and fold the oval in half over the chopstick. Remove the chopstick and repeat with the remaining dough balls
  20. Step 20

    Place each bao on a square of baking paper a little bigger than the size of the bao, then transfer to a large tray
  21. Step 21

    Cover with a sheet of baking paper and leave to prove somewhere warm for 15–20 minutes until the baos have doubled in height. They should look relaxed, puffed up and the surface should no longer be damp. Imagine touching a smooth baby’s skin. (Alternatively, you can do this final proof directly inside the bamboo steamers.)
  22. Step 22

    For the fried mustard greens, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the doubanjiang (fermented chilli bean paste) and, when the oil starts to turn red, add 100g fermented mustard greens. Stir-fry for 5 minutes until super fragrant and wilted. Season the greens with a few drops of the vinegar
  23. Step 23

    Warm the pork with the sauce over a medium heat for about 10 minutes before serving
  24. Step 24

    While the pork is reheating and the greens are cooking, steam the gua baos. To prepare the steamer, use a deep saucepan that fits your bamboo steamer snugly. If you are steaming fresh dough, there is no need to line the steamer basket/s – you need only use the squares of baking paper that the BAOs are on. If you are reheating BAOs, use muslin or a sheet of baking paper to line the basket/s
  25. Step 25

    Fill the pan with about 5 cm (2 inches) of water, place the empty steamer on top and bring to the boil. This will warm the steamer so that when you place your baos (or other food) inside, it will start steaming straight away
  26. Step 26

    When the baos are ready, carefully transfer them, on their squares of paper, to a prepared bamboo steamer (see below). Cover and steam over a medium-high heat for 15 minutes until they look soft and podgy, not firm, and their surface glistens with a satin sheen. If you feel any resistant patches in the centre that don’t bounce back, keep steaming. Remove from the steamer and either eat straight away or leave to rest at room temperature until the steam has fully evaporated and the baos are completely cool. If your steamer doesn’t fit all the baos, shape them for the second prove only after you have put the first batch in to steam. Over-proved dough results in over-expansion and will look flat and bubbly
  27. Step 27

    The baos can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days or they can be frozen for up to 1 month
  28. Step 28

    If you are reheating cooked baos, add them to the prepared steamer (see below), cover and steam over a high heat for about 10 minutes until they bounce back nicely when pressed with a finger. If you feel any resistant patches in the centre that don’t bounce back, keep steaming. If steaming from frozen, it’s the same process but add another 2–3 minutes in the steamer
  29. Step 29

    To assemble, open a bao and line the bottom with 45 g of the piping-hot, glistening pork, then top with 1 teaspoon of the fried mustard greens. Finish with 1 teaspoon of the chopped coriander and 1 tablespoon of the golden, sweet peanut powder. Repeat with the remaining baos and fillings
  30. Step 30

    Hold a bao lovingly in your hand. Open your mouth fully, like the bao, and eat from the side