Tilting Kristina Cho’s amazing new cookbook Mooncakes and milk bread: sweet and savory recipes inspired by Chinese bakeries, it seemed impossible to me to choose the recipe that I wanted to make first. I quickly found my goodies in Chapter Three – “Pork Buns and Beyond” – which is filled with both iconic and new school salty snacks like char siu bao filled with barbecued pork, a pepperoni bun. breathtakingly deep and gorgeous hot dog buns that are as miraculous to behold as they are to separate, one “petal” at a time. Savory buns are my favorite Chinese bakery specialty, so I was delighted to find an entire chapter featuring twists on nostalgic favorites.
But it’s the rolls of pork silk and seaweed that me and everyone I’ve made them for could not stop raving. We had seconds and thirds, we fought for the most squidgiate (and arguably the best) bun in the center of the pan and ate all the leftover pork floss straight from the container.
The bun itself is made from Cho’s main Milk Bread recipe, which she incorporates into all kinds of recipes throughout the book. It’s bouncy and light and uses tangzhong, a quick milk and flour roux that mixes with the yeast dough, keeping the resulting bread very moist. Once you’ve rolled out the dough into a rectangle, you spread a layer of sweet Kewpie mayonnaise, cover with a generous pinch of salted seaweed furikake, and finish it off with a thick layer of pork floss before the dough sets. ‘rolled up and cut into buns (think savory cinnamon buns). When baked, these tall, chewy buns have a sweet touch of mayo, furikake flavor, and a touch of salty richness of pork bristle with every bite.
Pork silk will be a familiar sight to anyone who has poured into the windows of any Chinese bakery, where you will likely find it as a coating on large inflatable sponge cakes, in Swiss style cakes, or in buns. . . (It’s also a very popular garnish for jook or congee.) Also known as sang pork or song rou, among other names, pork bristle is aptly named: it is seasoned finely grated pork. sweet and savory ingredients such as sugar and soy sauce. The pork is then dehydrated until it is wispy and similar to cotton candy. These sweet and savory cured pork chunks are absolutely irresistible, melting on your tongue and leaving you wishing you had a big, spun cone of the stuff as you stroll through a county fair.
Pork bristle is more readily available in the Chinese and Asian markets, but if you’ve never bought it before, let Cho guide you through the aisles of the Asian grocery store. The book devotes several pages to breaking down all the wonders you will discover. find in the aisles, myriads of mushroom and dried bean sauces to the wide world of dried, salted and cured meats. And if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some pork bristle, don’t hesitate: buy the biggest container you can find and whip up those savory buns before you eat everything straight from the pot.