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Bao Buns Filled With Roast Porc Belly, Crackling, Crispy Kale and Mustard Dressing by Bao Selecta

Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 1½ hours + marinating and proving time | Cooking Time: 2 hours

For Porc From Wales Week 2021, we teamed up with foodie @baoselecta - aka Cardiff-based Nick Spann, who specialises in creating bao buns and Taiwanese street food - to show why we should be choosing to source our porc locally.

Nick had always been a chef with aspirations of his own food stall but was always unsure what he wanted to do, he founded Bao Selecta in 2016 after making bao buns for his friends at a party which proved to be a surprise hit. In 2017, Nick and his girlfriend Karolina packed their bags and travelled east Asia for a year: they bought a motorcycle, befriended a lot of locals and ate at every street food market and bao hut that they could find. They came back, spent £200 on second-hand equipment and launched in Cardiff.

Here’s what Nick says about his recipe:

“If you’re busy, ask your local Asian supermarket for frozen bao buns, but it really is quite fun to make your own and you will be learning a new skill that will make you lots of new friends! This recipe makes 8 buns, however it’s worth making a double recipe and freezing what you don’t use as they can be reheated.

“Roasted porc belly is a perfect bao bun filling, because the succulence of the meat contrasts with the crispy crackling in the fluffy bao and is just a match made in heaven. Add a snappy mustard dressing and crispy salty kale and you’re destined to have an incredi-BAO time!”

Ingredients

  • 800g-1kg porc belly, unscored and an even thickness if possible
  • 200g rock salt
  • 20ml rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 50ml Chinese cooking wine (or sherry or sweet wine)

For the bao buns – dry mix:

  • 250g Chinese bapao flour (or plain flour), plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 8g baking powder

For the bao buns – wet mix:

  • 25ml milk
  • 110ml warm (not hot) water
  • 15ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 4g fast action dried yeast

To garnish:

  • 80g kale for crisps
  • 20ml oil
  • ½ tsp chili flakes
  • 60g carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or coarse grated
  • 50g ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks or coarse grated
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 50g mayonnaise
  • 20g wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Method

  1. At least 4 (preferably 12) hours before cooking, use a metal skewer or pointy knife to make a few hundred tiny holes (roughly 1mm deep) in the skin of the porc. Take care to pierce the skin only: if you pierce through to the flesh this will cause you problems when making your crackling. 10 minutes of poking holes should do the trick!
  2. Turn the porc belly upside down. Rub the flesh only with onion powder, Chinese five spice powder, sugar, table salt and pepper. Pat the porc skin dry with a paper towel.
  3. Place the wine in a wide container in the bottom of the fridge (just big enough to fit the porc) then add the porc (flesh side down) and leave the skin to dry out for 4-12 hours, uncovered if possible.
  4. To make the bao buns, mix the bao wet mix and leave until the yeast starts to bubble.
  5. Sieve the bao dry mix ingredients into a dough machine mixing bowl, add the wet mix slowly and mix for 2 minutes on medium (or 4 minutes if mixing by hand). Check the dough: it should feel clammy but it shouldn’t stick to your hands. Add a touch more flour if it is sticky and a small amount of water if it is dry. Then knead for 2 minutes on high (or 8 minutes by hand).
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Brush the dough lightly with oil and cover the bowl with a slightly moist cloth. Leave to prove in a nice warm place for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.
  7. Preheat the oven to 130ºC / 110ºC fan / Gas Mark 1. Mix the kale, oil and chili flakes on a tray and roast in the oven for 5 minutes, mix, then roast for another 5 minutes. Remove the kale once it’s crispy to touch, but before it goes brown. Once the kale is cool, place on kitchen roll and sprinkle with salt to taste. Turn the oven up to 200ºC / 180ºC fan / Gas Mark 6.
  8. Place the porc onto a large sheet of foil (double up the foil if it’s thin). Make a foil tray by folding the sides of the foil closely up around the porc, slightly higher than the porc by roughly 2cm.
  9. Dab the porc skin with a paper towel then brush 20ml vinegar onto the skin. Make a rock salt crust on top of the skin by pressing the salt down gently to condense the crust. Place the porc parcel onto a baking tray and roast for 1¼ hours near the bottom of the oven.
  10. Now make the bao garnishes. First mix the mayo, mustard and sugar, then set aside. Then mix the carrot, ginger, vinegar and salt, then set aside.
  11. Make 8 small squares out of baking parchment (7cm).
  12. Take the bao dough onto a floured surface and divide into 50g pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then roll into a circle - the dough should be 7-8mm thick. Brush the top with oil and then fold over; this should look like some nice lips! Place each bun onto a piece of parchment and then into a metal or bamboo steamer basket. Once all the buns are in the steamer, cover them with the lid and leave to prove for 30 minutes. (Don’t turn the steamer on yet!).
  13. Remove the porc from the oven and remove from the foil parcel. Discard the crust and brush away all the salt that you can from the sides and top of the meat.
  14. Turn the oven up to a medium high grill setting (or if you don’t have a grill, you can just turn the oven up very high to 240ºC / 220ºC fan / Gas Mark 9).
  15. Return the porc to the oven on the bottom shelf (about 25cm away from the grill if possible) for 30-40 minutes or until cooked and golden. TIP: it’s important to have the crackling level to ensure even cooking, so use a spoon or two to support underneath the meat if needed.
  16. Boil the kettle, place the water in a pan, place your steamer on top and steam your buns on a medium boil. No matter how tempting it is, do not lift the lid on the steamer for about 15 minutes! Sudden lowering of temperatures can ruin your dough. After the 15 minutes, leave your buns in the steamer on a low heat until you need them.
  17. Remove the porc from the oven and slice it into 1cm thick slices. If you can’t cut through the crackling, try turning the meat upside down briefly and slice that way, but don't leave the meat upside down for long as the moisture and juices will soften the crackling.
  18. To serve, fill the bao buns with the porc, ginger and carrot garnish and as much kale as you can fit in! Add the mustard mayo and sprinkle with cracked pepper.

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