Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Tiger Bites Pig" 虎咬豬 Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly stuffed in Sliced Buns 割包

Anyone who calls him or herself a true Taiwanese should be no stranger to today's dish. Though the more common street name for it is "Gua Bao (割包)", they are also referred to as "Ho Ka Ti (虎咬豬)" in the Taiwanese dialect, which literally translates into "Tiger Bites Pig". But before you let your imagination run wild, let me just clarify that there are no illegal tiger-eating involved here. This dish rather got its distinct name by the shape of its bun. Instead of cutting a regular Mantou in half, sliced buns are customarily made to be used for Gua Bao. The two bun flaps resembles the mouth of a tiger, and if you are gifted enough, you should be able to see a tiger biting a piece of pork. Cute, huh? The traditional Gua Bao is stuffed with braised pork, sweet peanut powder, pickled mustard greens, and a huge bunch of cilantro. But since I had no access to 3/4 of the condiments, i improvised and made my own peanut powder (or more like granules) and sprinkled it with chopped spring onions instead. My Guao Bao may not be 100% authentic... but for a taiwanese food-deprived person like me, i couldn't even tell the difference! It's really that piece of slowly braised pork belly (which simply melts down your throat) that plays the key role to this celebrated Taiwanese sandwich. With the excess oil and fat melting out of the pork during the long braising/cooking hours, 'greasy' would be the last word you use to describe Gua Baos. So don't let that fatty piece of pork scare you away, give it a try... it's the best part!

Part #1: Sliced Buns
from 美食美景紐西蘭美女的家
makes 14 sliced buns
  • 1 cup water
  • 40 grams (6 tablespoons) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 500 grams high-gluten flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast

  1. For Bread Machine: place all ingredients in the listed order into your bread machine. Set the mode to "Knead and Rise" (this took around 1 hour and 20 minutes on my bread machine).
  2. If kneading by hand, you can also place all ingredients in the listed order into a big bowl and knead for 15 - 20 minutes until the dough forms a smooth ball [picture 1]. Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size [picture 2].
  3. Remove the dough and separate it into 50 gram pieces (around 14).
  4. Form the dough into a ball and with a rolling pin, roll it out into a long oval shape [picture 3].
  5. Light brush one surface with vegetable oil and fold the dough in half [picture 3, 4]. Place the dough on cut-out baking paper or a cheesecloth to prevent sticking. Let it rise for another 30 minutes, covered, in a warm place [picture 4].
  6. When the dough has risen after 30 minutes, place them inside the metal or bamboo cooking steamers that you are using. Make sure they do not touch, about 1 inch away from each other.
  7. Turn on the stove to high heat until the water starts boiling.
  8. Once the water has boiled, turn down to medium heat and steam for 10 minutes.
Steaming TIPS:
  • Avoid opening the lid too soon-- the buns will collapse when met with cold air.
  • Make sure the water on the steamer lid does not drop onto the buns, as they will create rough surfaces.
  • If the buns harden up after leaving them out for too long, just quickly steam them again and they'll be soft and fluffy in no time.

    Part #2: Tiger Bites Pig 虎咬豬
    • 600 grams skin-on pork belly, cut into half inch slices
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • One Bunch of spring onions, cut into 3 inch segments (or 1 whole onion)
    • 5 slices fresh ginger
    • 2 red chili peppers (more if desired), sliced
    • 1 Chinese spice bag
    • 50 mililiters rice wine
    • 3/4 cups soy sauce
    • 3 to 4 cups water (enough to submerge the meat)
    • 1/3 cups brown sugar
    • Hard boiled eggs, peeled (optional)
      (To utilize your sauce to its fullest, you can add in some eggs to make another dish: Taiwanese Stewed Eggs!)

    • Steamed sliced buns (recipe above)
    • Braised Pork belly
    • Sweet peanut powder
      (or pulse peanuts and a little bit of powdered sugar into a powder with your food processor)
    • Pickled mustard greens (酸菜)
    • Fresh coriander (香菜)
      (replace with chopped spring onions if you don't like coriander)


    1. To help the pork maintain its shape during braising, pan sear the sliced pork in a saucepan on medium heat, for about 1 minute on each side [picture 1]. [I pan seared the pork without adding any oil, but you can add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil if you'd like].
    2. In a medium pot, make the braising sauce by adding garlic, onions/spring onions, ginger, chili peppers, Chinese spice bag, rice wine, soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. Add in the pork belly and eggs (optional) and bring to a boil over high heat [picture 2].
    3. Once it starts boiling, turn down to low heat and let it simmer and braise for 1.5 - 2 hours [picture 3]. Feel free to adjust the sauce to your liking but remember that the sauce will thicken as it cooks so don't go too crazy with the seasoning!

    4. Once the buns are steamed and the pork braised, assemble the bun by adding the pickled mustard greens, braised pork, peanut powder and garnish with coriander [picture 4].

    "Tiger Bites Pig" 虎咬豬
    Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly stuffed in Sliced Buns 割包


    1. ohhh my gosh, I totally forgot about this sandwich. I can taste it just by looking at these pictures. great job!!

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    3. I'm not that familiar with Taiwanese cuisine, but this sounds delicious! I love that you made the buns yourself, and I'm always on the lookout for bread-baking ideas!

    4. I dont know how you find time to do that? Can you freeze those sandwidwiches?

    5. @Denise: thnkss, i miss tw food a lot.

      @valerie: thanks! steaming bread is so much easier than baking, and faster too!

      @monikucha: LOL, i am surprised myself that i make time to do this. After steaming the buns, let them cool and place them in plastic bags and Freeze them. When you want to use them, just steam them again.

    6. I am also not familiar with Taiwanese cuisine, but your dish sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

    7. Just what I miss a lot. Looks very delicious.

    8. was just looking for a new way to enjoy my favorite cut of pork and this showed up in google!!!

      will come back for more

    9. i really want to try this soon!
      what is high gluten flour and how is it different will all purpose flour? is there any way i could substitute high gluten flour? i cant find it in grocery store near me

      thanks :D

    10. Hey Aisha,
      there's 3 basic types of flour: pastry, all-purpose, and high-gluten. Pastry flour is commonly used for crumbly desserts, such as cookies. All-purpose is what we most commonly use, and High-gluten is suitable for breads (more bouncy and elastic). But you really don't need to be too technical with this. Just use all-purpose flour and it should be fine!

    11. thank you for this post!!
      i'm planning on making this for mother's day since it's one of her favorite dishes...i've looked at a lot of recipes and but most of them just wasn't authentic enough(*cough* momofuku *cough*)
      but yours is what i've been looking for! i had a question though~~ is it better to slice the pork belly first before you braise it? or afterwards? i see that you sliced it first so was wondering if there really is a difference...thanks again :)

    12. @Terry: thanks, i'm glad you like it! I usually slice the pork before i braise it. Remember to pan-sear (some people deep fry) the pork belly before you braise though, it'll help it retain its shape during the long boiling hours. I never tried braising it whole, but i'm guessing slicing them will have more flavor because of the increased surface area that's being braised. And plus, after such long braising hours, i'd want to dig into the food right away, wouldn't want to waste any more time slicing it afterwards ;)

    13. thanks for your reply!! i'll slice the pork first then~~
      sorry i have another question :| will it make a difference if i braise the pork belly the night before it's to be served? and just leave it in the sauce?
      and do you know what's the Chinese spice bag called in Chinese?
      thanks so much for your help!

    14. @Terry: Yes, of course you can braise it the night before and leave it, it'll intensify the flavors even more! If it gets too salty, just add a bit of water and cook it off. I usually save up some of the braising sauce and add more cuts of meat after my 1st pot, it gets better everytime :)
      And a Chinese spice bag is called a "Lu-Bao" or 滷包.

      They're usually packed in little bags like this:

      And filled with spices like these:

    15. How do you slice the pork belly. It's really difficult for me to cut.