Steamed Hirata buns with pork belly

Hirata buns are a current food trend in the UK, hitting London last year, after they became popularised in New York by chain Momofuku.

There is also a restaurant called Kitchenette in Manchester, which as far as I’m aware, is the only place that specialises in these steamed buns. They’re apparently Taiwanese in origin (called Gua Bao), but are usually given the Japanese name of Hirata.

I tried them first at Kitchenette and thought they were bloody delicious, so thought I’d have a crack at them at home.

They’re very light and pillowy, which is in complete contrast to steamed buns I’d tried before, which I found to be a bit heavy.

Hirata Buns with Pork Belly
Hirata Buns with Pork Belly

These are surprisingly easy to make and since they steam within minutes are quicker to actually cook then I first thought. Most of the recipe time is of course, for proving the dough and slow cooking the pork.

if youu like a bit of heat, you simply must eat these with sriracha chilli sauce (another current foodie trend).

Recipe from Olive magazine.

Makes 12 buns,

  • golden caster sugar 3 tbsp
  • dried active yeast 1 ½ tsp
  • plain flour 350g
  • rapeseed oil 4 tbsp
  • baking powder 1 ½ tsp

Pork belly filling

  • pork belly slices 1kg, skin and excess fat trimmed off
  • garlic 2 cloves, crushed
  • Chinese five spice ½ tsp
  • honey 3 tbsp
  • hoisin sauce 5 tbsp
  • soy sauce 4 tbsp
  • Shoaxing rice wine 4 tbsp
  • groundnut oil 2 tbsp

Garnish

  • cucumber shredded and tossed with 
a splash of rice wine vinegar to serve
  • spring onions shredded to serve
  • Sriracha chilli sauce to serve

Mix the sugar and yeast with 250ml warm water and leave until the mixture starts to froth a little. Put the flour in a large bowl with a large pinch of salt and add 2 tbsp oil and the yeast mixture. Mix to a rough dough with a wooden spoon and then tip onto a floured surface and knead until you have a smooth, soft dough. Knead in more flour if you need to. Tip into an oiled bowl, turning the dough until it is coated in oil, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. Punch the air out of the risen dough.

Tip it onto a floured surface, flatten it out with your hands and sprinkle with the baking powder. Fold the dough over and knead until the baking powder is incorporated and the dough soft. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

To make the pork filling put the meat in a dish in one layer. Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the meat. Leave for 2-3 hours or overnight. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Sit a rack on top of a roasting tin in which you’ve poured a splash of water. Lift the pieces of pork from the marinade put them on the rack. Roast the pork for 1 hour, turning and basting 2 to 3 times with the leftovermarinade.

To finish the buns, cut out squares of baking paper. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into an oval about 12 x 6cm (use a little more flour if the dough is sticky). Put on a piece of baking paper, brush one side with oil and fold gently in half using the paper (you want to be able to open them once they are cooked).

Put a large steamer over a medium heat and steam the buns a few at a time for
6-8 minutes or until puffed and cooked through (open carefully and check the middle is cooked through). Don’t let them touch or they will stick. Cut the pork into pieces and stuff into the buns with some cucumber, spring onion and a squirt of chilli sauce. Best made and eaten straight away.