So I had been reading the Mr. Jiu’s cookbook recently, and something that inspired me was seeing them take milk bread dough and turning that into buns. I have done something like that before with my “Fred bread”, but seeing it done by a restaurant that I really look up to just validates my decisions in doing that. So for this recipe, gua bao is a Chinese/Taiwanese bun that is stuffed with slices of pork belly, pickled mustard greens, and usually candied peanuts. For my variation, I braised the pork in black garlic and soy, just to give it a nice, rich, caramel-y lacquer on the meat. Instead of the peanuts, I went with semi-glazed pork skin, using soy and honey to give it a nice golden finish. The bun dough is made with my own milk bread recipe, which differs from Mr. Jiu’s recipe significantly(I’m not saying mine is better, but I will say that mine has a richer flavor to it since my butter to flour ratio is a LOT higher). Overall, these buns represents my pride in my cultural upbringings, being both Taiwanese and Chinese, and combines it with ingredients that I genuinely love to cook and eat, being black garlic and pork.
For the milk bread buns:
1 packet(2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar or honey
3/4 cups milk, in 3 parts
2 cups flour, in 4 parts
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
a pinch of salt
Heat up 1 part of your milk until just lukewarm, then stir into that the yeast and sugar and let that sit in a warm place. In a pot, stir together 1 part of the flour with 2 parts of the milk on medium heat until it forms the texture of a thick paste. Take off heat, and stir in the cold butter and salt until that is fully melted into your (tangzhong) mixture, and the mixture is now just lukewarm in temperature. In a stand mixer, combine and knead together all of your ingredients for 10 minutes, or until the dough begins to cling to the dough hook attachment. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. Then roll out the dough on a slightly floured surface, divide into 10 equal pieces, and form your bao. Allow the buns to sit on parchment at room temperature for 45 minutes. Then steam for 12 to 15 minutes.
For the pork belly:
1 8oz piece of pork belly
1 clove black garlic
1 tablespoon fermented black bean paste
1 tablespoon mushroom soy
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
Slice the pork belly and slowly render out the fat in a pan. In a pot, heat up the remaining ingredients. Once the pork belly is golden brown on each side, place into the pot with the other ingredients, and add in enough water to submerge the meat. Cover and simmer to 45 minutes, or until soft, then reduce down the liquid until it glazes your meat.
For the pork skin:
reserved pork skin from pork belly
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Score the pork skin and place onto a roasting rack. Roast at 400 degrees F for 55 minutes. Brush the top with the honey and soy sauce, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Allow the skin to fully cool down and harden before cutting into smaller pieces.
For the mustard greens:
1 bunch Chinese mustard greens, stems removed
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup water
Simmer the honey, vinegar, soy, and water, then place the greens into the liquid, with the heat turned off. Allow the greens to sit in the liquid for at least 20 minutes before using.