Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chinese Pulled Pork Sliders, or Non-traditional Gua Bao

Pork shoulder makes a great substitute for belly in this sandwich.

Until I learned about the Momofuku eateries in Manhattan and eponymous cookbook this year, I hadn't realized that Chinese pork sandwiches, a popular menu item, were so appreciated here in the states.
Momofuku's creator, Korean American chef David Chang, apparently knows a good thing when he tastes it and has shared his discovery.

Of course in my case, he would be preaching to the converted. Yesterday I was craving some Taiwanese gua bao, made of pork belly, pickled greens, a little crushed sugared peanuts and steamed buns, but around here there aren't any restaurants making that kind of food, traditionally served streetside from a cart. I have no better luck even finding a simple slab of pork belly. My supermarket never, I mean NEVER, carries slabs — just tiny packages of thin-sliced belly. But yesterday while I was picking up a few groceries, the packages of pork shoulder, my go-to economy cut, caught my eye. Hmmmm ... I love Taiwanese pork belly buns. I love Southern pulled pork.

At that moment I decided that Southerners don't have to be the only ones to claim pulled pork as their birthright. I would do a Chinese pulled pork shoulder as the filling for my homemade gua bao. For the braising liquid, I would go with something similar to the one for my soy sauce chicken.

I didn't have the pickled greens on hand, either. Tradition already out the window, I decided the shiso greens would have to stand in for the picked greens, or suan cai. It was a good choice. The shiso gave the sandwich a note of herbal freshness contrasting with the rich salty sweetness of the braising sauce. I had some honey roasted peanuts that I planned to crush and sprinkle on the meat, but ... ahem ... I mumble ate mumble them ... something happened to them while the pork was braising.

For the bun, I didn't have time or a steamer available to make my own from scratch, so I pulled a package of man tou from the freezer. My gua bao ended up being something like a Chinese pulled pork slider. I managed to take a picture just before I finished off the last one.

Chinese Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe


1 1/2 cups low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 shallot, chopped
3 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1-inch piece ginger root, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice

2 pound pork shoulder (aka butt roast)

1. Combine all ingredients except pork in a medium saucepan. Stir sauce over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then add the pork, turning to coat with sauce, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, then cover and let simmer until pork is fall-from-the-bone tender, about 3 hours.

2. Allow to cool, covered, until pork can be handled.

3. Reserve one cup of braising liquid and bring it to a boil in pan until reduced to a thick, almost syrupy consistency. Meanwhile, pull pork meat apart and discard pieces of fat. Toss pulled pork with reduced sauce, and when ready, serve pork in a steamed bun (available in the freezer section of many Asian grocery stores), garnished with pickled greens or fresh greens, if you prefer.
If buns are unavailable, serve rice or noodles.

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