Pork Belly Buns (Gua Bao)

Pork Belly Buns (Gua Bao)

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  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • One (1-pound) slab skin-on pork belly, cut into 2-inch strips, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 (1/8th-inch) slices fresh ginger (unpeeled)
  • 1 star anise pod (optional)
  • 1 small fresh red chili, such as Thai chili (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rock, brown or raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup Asian rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder (see note above)
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 4 cups water
  • For the Buns and Toppings:
  • 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon rock, brown, or raw sugar (see note above)
  • 6 fresh or frozen Chinese-style steamed buns (see note above)
  • 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems chopped
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped Asian pickled mustard greens


Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or wok. Cook pork belly until lightly browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip pork belly and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer pork belly to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet, add garlic and ginger and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until fragrant. Add star anise and chili (if using), and sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add rice wine and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add five spice powder, dark and light soy sauces, and water and bring to a boil.

Return pork belly to the skillet and reduce heat to low. Cover skillet and cook until pork belly is very tender, at least 1 hour or preferably 2 hours.

Meanwhile, combine peanuts and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides, until the mixture resembles a coarse powder, about 1 minute.

Set a steamer over a pot of boiling water. Add buns, cover steamer and cook until buns are heated through and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Spread pickled mustard greens inside each steamed bun and set a piece of pork belly on top of mustard greens. Top pork belly with a pinch of the chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of the peanut powder. Serve immediately.