Pork Buns with Black Pepper

Fluffy steamed buns with a rich savory filling of black pepper seasoned pork. Each bite bursts of unctuousness and a lingering finish of aromatics that will make your tastebuds dance! The recipe allows you to make the buns at home with your own ingredients and seasonings, it gives a homemade touch and allows you to adjust the recipe according to your preference. It’s a great option for a homemade meal, whether you’re looking for a new and exciting recipe to make for dinner, or a fun and delicious way to entertain guests.

five pan fried buns plated in a gray pan sprinkled with sesame seeds, julienned scallions and seared.

Tips

What are Taiwanese black pepper buns?

Taiwanese black pepper pork buns (pepper buns, black pepper pork buns) are a popular night market food from Taiwan. They are made by filling a fluffy, steamed bun with a savory filling made of ground pork, green onions, black vinegar, and coarsely ground black pepper. The filling is usually sautéed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other fragrant seasonings to create a flavorful and savory filling. The buns are then steamed to cook the filling and give the buns a soft and fluffy texture. The buns are often served with a side of soy sauce or other dipping sauce.

What is yeast?

Yeast is a type of fungus that is commonly used in baking to make bread rise. It consumes sugars and releases carbon dioxide gas, which causes the dough to rise. Yeast can be found in two forms, fresh or dry. When used in baking, yeast helps to create a light and airy texture in breads and other baked goods. It’s also used for brewing beer, making wine, and fermenting foods like soy sauce and vinegar. Here are the different types of yeast available:

  • Fresh yeast (compressed yeast) – This type is perishable and must be stored in the refrigerator. It can be found at some specialty food stores, but its availability may vary. It is typically sold in large blocks, which may be more than is needed for everyday home baking. This type of yeast is typically used by professional bakers, it has a shorter shelf life than dry yeast and should be used quickly after purchase. It also can be found in smaller portions, but it’s best to check the availability at local specialty food stores or bakeries.
  • Dry yeast – This type of yeast is more commonly found sold in a small envelope at grocery stores, supermarkets, and online retailers. It can be stored in the pantry for several years, but it’s best to use it within 3 months of purchase.
    • Active Dry – Needs to be dissolved in liquid (slightly warm water or milk) before using
    • Instant (rapid-rise yeast, bread machine yeast) – Can be added directly to dry ingredients without proofing. It is finer and more active than active dry yeast.

How do I buy dry yeast?

Dry yeast is readily available for purchase at most grocery stores or can be easily ordered through grocery delivery apps. I recommend choosing jars over individual envelopes because they are more shelf-stable and reliable. It’s also important to pay attention to the expiration date, as yeast loses its activity over time. To ensure the best results, it’s best to use yeast within 3 months of purchase and discard any that’s been sitting in the pantry for an unknown amount of time. It’s also a good idea to store the yeast in a cool, dry place, away from light and moisture.

How do I test if my yeast is still alive?

Yeast is a living organism that is essential for baking bread. It ferments the sugars in the dough and produces the CO2 that causes the dough to rise. To ensure that the yeast is active before using it in a recipe, it is important to check its activity. To test if yeast is active, mix it with a tablespoon of liquid such as milk or water and wait for 5 minutes. If it becomes frothy and bubbly, it’s active and can be used, but if there is no change, the yeast is no longer alive and should be discarded.

It is important to use lukewarm liquid and not exceed 115 F / 65 C as high heat can kill the yeast. It is worth mentioning that checking the yeast for life is not always included in the instructions of a recipe, but it is a good practice to follow. When buying yeast, it is better to buy jars over individual envelopes as they are more stable and reliable. It’s also important to use yeast within 3 months of purchase and discard any that’s been sitting in the pantry for an unknown amount of time.

What is Shaoxing cooking wine?

Shaoxing wine (Shao-hsing, Shaohsing wine) is a type of Chinese rice wine that is made by fermenting glutinous rice, water, and wheat. It contains a very small percentage of alcohol that evaporates when exposed to heat, so its primary function is to add flavor. The taste and aroma of Shaoxing wine are similar to that of sherry. I find it to be a great ingredient to use with chicken or pork, as it helps to purify any unpleasant flavors of the protein while also adding a fragrant aroma to the dish.

What type of pork are needed for Chinese buns or dumplings?

80/20 ground pork is an important ingredient in this recipe because it has a high fat to protein ratio. The fat content is crucial for creating a juicy and flavorful consistency in the buns. Using lean cuts of pork will result in buns that are dry and less appetizing. The fat in the ground pork also helps to keep the buns moist and tender. It is essential to choose ground pork with a high fat content, this will ensure that the buns are juicy and flavorful.

7 steamed pork buns topped with sesame seeds and scallions on a plate

Taiwanese Black Pepper Buns

Crisp pan fried buns with a juicy pork filling with notes of black pepper and black vinegar.
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Cuisine Chinese

Ingredients
  

Aromatic Stock

  • 4 scallions trimmed, rinsed, white section only
  • 1 2-3 inch knob of fresh ginger peeled
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1/3 cup Shaoxing cooking wine

Buns

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp white granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1-2 cups lukewarm aromatic stock
  • Filling
  • 1 lb 80/20 ground pork
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup aromatic stock

Garnish

  • 1 1/4 cup neutral oil divided
  • Remaining aromatic stock divided
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds divided
  • 4 scallions rinsed, trimmed, green section julienned, divided

Instructions
 

  • Aromatic Stock | Fill a pot with water and set it on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add in scallions, ginger, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add Shaoxing cooking wine and remove from heat. Allow to cool until lukewarm.
  • Bun | As the stock cools, prepare the bun dough. Test the yeast by mixing it with a tablespoon of lukewarm stock or water. Allow it to sit for a few minutes. If the mixture becomes frothy and bubbly, the yeast is active and can be used. If the appearance does not change, discard the yeast and purchase fresh yeast.
    In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and yeast. Slowly pour in aromatic stock while kneading the dough with your hands until a dough ball forms. Knead for an additional 10-14 minutes by hand or 5-8 minutes using the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer.
    The dough should have a shiny and supple appearance without being excessively sticky. If needed, add flour 1/2 tbsp at a time to achieve the correct consistency. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl and cover with a lint-free towel or greased Saran Wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free area such as a microwave, oven with only the pilot light on, bookshelf, or pantry for 1-3 hours, or until doubled in size.
  • Filling | While the dough rises, prepare the filling by mixing together ground pork, five spice, sugar, black pepper, white pepper, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, and aromatic stock in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate to marinate until ready to use.
  • Assemble | After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and gently press out the air by making a fist and punching the top of the dough. Transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape them into a log. Cover the pieces with a damp towel while shaping. Roll each dough piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick using a rolling pin.
  • Seal and Shape | Take one piece of shaped dough and place it in the palm of your hand. Add 3-4 tablespoons of filling to the center. Use your other hand to pinch the edges of the dough closed, pleating as needed. Use your index and thumb to twist and seal the filling inside. Trim any excess dough as necessary. Steam the buns with the pleated side facing upwards to prevent the filling juices from seeping out and making the buns soggy.
  • Cook | In a skillet over medium-high heat, add 3/4 cup of oil.
    Once the oil is hot, add 6 buns to the skillet, spaced at least 2 inches apart, with the pleated side facing up. Cover the skillet with a lid, leaving a small opening for steam to escape. Pour half of the aromatic stock over the buns to create steam and help sear the bottoms.
    Once you hear sizzling, indicating that the water has evaporated, remove the lid, and sprinkle half of the sesame seeds and half of the chopped scallions on top of the buns.
    Continue to sear for 8-10 minutes. Using a wide spatula, remove the buns from the skillet and repeat the process until all buns are cooked.
  • Serve | These buns are best enjoyed the same day and can be reheated in the microwave for 10 seconds. They also freeze well. To freeze, place the buns in a freezer bag, making sure they are not touching, and separate them with small pieces of parchment paper. To defrost, take them out of the freezer and microwave for 1-2 minutes until hot.

Notes

Shaoxing wine is aiding to purify the natural flavor of the protein while also adding fragrance and aroma.
Ground pork is key since it has a high fat to protein ratio. The fat is essential to creating a juicy consistency. Using lean cuts of pork will yield buns that are dry and less appetizing.
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