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The Hirshon Taiwanese Gua Bao – 割包


Units Scale
  • Gua Bao dough
  • 300g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g of milk powder
  • 4 tbsp of caster sugar
  • 7g of fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200ml of water, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. rendered pork fat or lard (preferred) or vegetable oil
  • oil, to brush the buns
  • red food coloring, (optional)
  • Braised pork filling
  • 500g of skinless pork belly
  • 2 red chilies
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 4 tbsp of dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp of Chinese yellow rock sugar (preferred) or regular sugar
  • water, as needed
  • Shaoxing rice wine
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Pickled mustard green is known as suan cai (酸菜) in Chinese with a very unique sour taste. After being minced and briefly stir-fried, it presents a milder sour taste that can eliminate greasiness. If this is unavailable, you can use other pickles such as Kimchi
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 10 radishes, small, cut in rounds
  • 1/4 cabbage, julienned
  • 1 green chili, slit
  • 120ml of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 3 tbsp of water
  • For garnish
  • coriander, chopped
  • 1 cup toasted peanuts
  • 1 tbsp. sugar powder
  • Optional spicy sauce
  • 2 fresh thai bird peppers
  • 2 minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced scallion
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil


  1. To begin, prepare the pickled vegetables. Mix together all of the cut vegetables (not the suan cai, if using) in a bowl
  2. Bring the vinegar, sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Adjust the seasoning according to taste
  3. Set aside to cool, then add the pickling liquid to the prepared vegetables, mixing well
  4. Transfer to a clean glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use. It’s ideal if you can prepare this a day or 2 ahead for the pickling effect to be obvious. Use the suan cai in a 50/50 ratio to the pickled veggies – if not using then obviously use all pickled veggies.
  5. Now make the dough. Add the flour, milk powder, sugar, yeast, salt, baking powder, oil and baking soda to a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the lukewarm water, using a wooden spoon to bring it all together
  6. Either using the dough hook of a standing mixer or with your hands on a clean surface, knead the dough until it no longer sticks and is elastic and pliable – this should take around 5–6 minutes on medium speed in a mixer or around 10 minutes by hand. If you feel it needs more flour, add only a spoonful at a time
  7. Grease the mixing bowl with oil and put the dough inside. Cover with cling film and set aside to rise. I preheated my oven at 100°C for about 6 –7 minutes and placed the bowl inside with the light on. It took the dough about 2 ½ hours to double in size
  8. Cut out 20 square pieces of baking paper while the bun dough is proofing
  9. Punch the dough down, transfer the to a lightly floured surface and shape into a thick log. Slice the log into 10 equal parts and roll each part into a neat ball
  10. Roll out each ball into an oval shape and brush with some oil. Place 1 square of baking paper on 1 side of the dough and fold the dough over the paper so it is sandwiched inside. Place this on another baking paper sheet and repeat the process with the remaining balls
  11. Set aside to double in size for around an hour or so. I decided to add a design of three spots over the bun as is traditionally done, but it’s purely optional. Use a chopstick to dip in the red colour and put 3 spots on each bun
  12. When ready to steam, place a bamboo steamer over a pot of simmering water and place the bao buns (with baking paper still attached) into the steamer
  13. Steam them for about 10 minutes, making sure the water temperature is not too hot
  14. Once the buns are really puffy, take them out of the steamer and set aside until ready to use
  15. To make the filling, place the cut pork belly in a pan and fill with enough water (with a good splash of shaoxing rice wine added) to cover the meat completely. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat for a couple of minutes until you can see that all the foam-like impurities floating on the top. Remove these with a spoon and drain the meat in a colander, rinsing well with cold water while you’re at it
  16. Transfer the meat to same pan and add all of the remaining ingredients. Give everything a good mix
  17. Cook on low heat for about 1 1/2–2 hours, checking occasionally and adding dashes of water if you think it’s drying out
  18. Let the meat braise until it is completely cooked and is tender, but not falling apart. Remove the pork from the stock and set aside. Resist the urge to eat this on its own.
  19. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, add a bit of cornflour and keep boiling until it becomes thick and syrupy.
  20. Toast the peanuts and then grind them into a very coarse powder, then mix with 1 tablespoon of sugar powder.
  21. To assemble, fill the buns with pickled vegetables and pork belly. Spoon over the thickened sauce and serve with a sprinkling of chopped coriander.
  22. Add optional spicy sauce and serve immediately.