Gua Bao is a cut-open steamed bun stuffed with tender, flavorful braised pork, pickled mustard, peanut powder, and cilantro. You can often find this tasty treat at night markets in Taiwan, it is so good that it has made its way across the globe, starting trends in all big cities.
For some reason, I thought I’d shared this recipe but I HAVEN’T!! I can’t believe this myself. I’ve made these for several parties and it’s always been a big hit. Whoever came up with this combination was a genius, all the texture and flavor works so well together and it is addicting. This dish consists of four main parts: bun, braised meat, pickled mustard and peanut powder. Each of them plays an important part in the gua bao and has to be prepared separately.
The bun of gua bao is essentially a cut-open steamed bun. That’s also where the name of this dish came from. “Gua bao”(written as 刈包 or g割包) means cut-open bun in Taiwanese. There’s another creative name for this dish due to the bun clenching a piece of pork- tiger biting a pig (虎咬豬, hou4ga3di1, Taiwanese pronunciation).
The bun is light and fluffy and slightly sweet. It’s easy to make and only takes 10 mins to steam.
The braised pork is actually easier than you think. It’s simple yet full of flavor. You can use the Dong Po Pork recipe, but I’m adding a little extra flavor and less glaze for the Gua Baos. The classic spices for braising pork is used here- star anise, ginger, garlic, chili and soy sauce. The savory of the pork mixed with the sweet of the bun is delicious on it own, but we’re topping it off with more flavors to bring this to a new level.
In Taiwan, Gua Baos are often enjoyed with pickled mustard, sweet peanut powder, and cilantro. The pickled mustard is sour yet sweet with a distinctive flavor, almost like a good dijon mustard really. It is stir-fried with garlic and chili, so it’s got a bit of heat and adds a bit of crunch to the texture. The peanut powder is sweet and nutty, it might sound weird but the combination of peanut powder and cilantro is a classic flavor in the street foods of Taiwan. They work so well together you’ll find the combo in all kinds of dishes from savory to sweet.
If you’re making your peanut powder from scratch with raw peanuts, I learned that the whole peanut has to be ground raw into powder then roast till golden. I’d tried roasting the peanuts first then blend it, all the oil releases and it turns into this sticky oily dough.
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- 2 lb Pork Belly Butt Roast Work too!
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 2 TBsp Sugar
- 2 C Soy Sauce
- 2 Thin Slices of Ginger
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 Chili
- 2 C All Purpose Flour
- 2 TBsp Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/2 TBsp Active Dry Yeast
- 1 TBsp Vegetable Oil
- 3/4 C Water
Pickled Mustard Green
- 1 Package of Pickled Mustard Green
- 1 TBsp Sugar
- 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
- 1 Chili More if you like it spicy
- 2 C Raw Peanuts or use peanut powder if you can find any
- 3 TBsp Sugar
- 1/2 Bunch of Cilantro Chopped
- Slice the pork into strips. Roughly 1" thick, 3" tall and 4" in width.
- With a Tablespoon of oil, fry the pork strips until the color has changed and some fat has been rendered down. About 3 minutes. Remove from pot.
- In the same pot that the pork was fried, leaving only 1 TBsp of oil, smash the garlic, chili and ginger and add to the pot. Fry for 10 seconds then add the sugar until it turns slightly brown and caramelized.
- Add the pork back followed by two cups of soy sauce. Be careful the sauce might splatter. Give it a good stir and add enough water to cover the pork.
- Add the star anise and bring the pot to a boil then turn the heat down to low. Simmer the pork until soft and tender. 30 minutes to 1 hour. I usually let it simmer until all my other ingredients are ready.
- Mix all the dry ingredient and oil in a mixing bowl.
- Add 3/4C of water and mix with a fork until flaky looking.
- Knead with your hands until the dough is soft and smooth. Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes. (while you prep for the toppings!)
- After 20 minutes, punch the dough down and divide them into 8 even pieces. Roll each piece out into an oval that's roughly 5" in length. Brush the surface with vegetable oil then fold them in half so they don't stick after steaming.
- Place the buns 1.5" apart from each other on a steam rack with steam liners and steam on high heat, starting from cold water for about 10 minutes or until cooked. Leave a small crack in the pot while steaming and let the buns sit in the steamer for 5 minutes to cool down slightly before opening the lid so the buns don't collapse.
Pickled Mustard Green
- Take the mustard green out of the package, discard the liquid and dice the vegetable. Finely chop the chili.
- Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil, add the minced garlic and chili, fry for 10 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the diced pickled mustard green, stir-fry until fragrant about 2 minutes. Add 1 TBsp sugar and remove from the pan.
- Grind 2C of raw peanuts into powder
- In a dry pan, over medium heat, roast the peanut powder until slightly golden and fragrant. Remove from the pan and let cool.
- After the powder had cooled, add the sugar and mix well.
- To assemble the gua bao, simply open the steamed bun and add a slice of pork top it with pickled mustard green, peanut powder, and cilantro!
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