Whenever I visit my parents, my mother aka Mamma Dukes, seems to take it upon herself to make sure that everyone is full, all the times, day and night. Bless her heart and the fact that she’s a phenomenal cook makes the whole gesture impossible to deny. So one night she decided to hit everyone in their culinary achilles heel and serve up a whole ham with all the fixins.. Let us all bow our heads in silence. Pig has died, pork has risen and I will come again…for seconds. The homily of ham. Halfway through my second helping, I am already thinking about having ham and eggs the next morning, delicious ham sandwiches for lunch and maybe more ham for dinner. Skip to two days later. So. Much. Ham. Too much. I needed to change things up. So, while staring at the tower of Tupperware, I started looking around the rest of the fridge, away from the leftovers. There were radishes, a bushel of cilantro, ginger, chili paste and some Asian sauces and it hit me. Pork Buns! It would change up the the flavor profile thats been lingering for the last few days and we finish off the ham, per the Dukes request. Two birds, one stone. Asian style pork buns are one of my all time food favorites and this is a simple way to transform the leftovers into something unique and delicious. Keep this recipe in the back pocket for when Easter rolls around.
Asian Pork Buns with leftover ham, pickled radish and cilantro.
5 radishes sliced
1 1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
1 thumb sized piece of ginger sliced
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 tsp coriander Seed
1 bay leaf
1 bay leaf
About 1lb/16 oz. Think about two ounces per bun
3 shallots sliced
1/4 c shaoxing cooking wine
1/4 c chicken stock (optional)
1/2 tsp chili paste (preferably sambal)
2 T hoisin sauce
Half bushel of cilantro hand picked into bite size pieces.
1 package of 8. Can be found in the frozen section at any Asian grocery store.
First thing to get going is the pickled radishes as they take some time. You may even want to do these a few hours ahead of time. The longer they sit the better.
1. Put all the pickling liquid ingredients in a sauce pot and bring to a boil. As soon as you are at a rolling boil, remove from heat and strain the liquid onto your radishes in an air tight container. Cover the top of the liquid with some plastic wrap so that the radishes are fully immersed in the liquid. Put lid on container and store in the fridge for at least an hour, 3-4 hours is ideal.
2. The ham. Shred your ham with a fork or your fingers so the meat is in long stringy bite sized pieces. Set aside. Take a large pan, with some neutral oil and turn your burner to medium heat. When the pan is hot sauté your shallots with about a teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper and keep the pan moving or stir consistently so they don’t burn. After a couple of minutes add the ham and toss with the shallots for about a minute. Then deglaze the pan with your shaoxing cooking wine and continue to stir. If your wine is burning off too quickly and the ham is beginning to brown, you can then add some chicken stock to keep the meat moist. You can now add the hoisin sauce, chili paste and salt to taste. Cook for another couple of minutes so the flavors incorporate and turn off heat and reserve. Feel free to vary the measurements for personal preference. Since the meat is already cooked you have the luxury of playing around with the flavor and tasting it till it’s just right. I personally like it spicy, so I put a bit more chili paste. Your call.
4. The bao buns. The buns out of the package just need to be briefly steamed. This can be achieved with a traditional asian bamboo steamer. Or, if you are like me and don’t have one, you can just use a pot with an inch of water with a steamer rack inside and a lid. Turn the burner on high and wait for the water to start releasing a heavy cloud of steam. Place frozen buns inside and cover and let steam for two minutes. You know they are done when they are pillowy soft to the touch. Check the middle of the bun to make sure the are done. If you are in a pinch, you can wrap the frozen buns in a wet paper towel and microwave for 30-45 seconds. They come out a little flat and wet, but it works.
5. Cilantro garnish. Super simple. While the buns are steaming take your picked cilantro and place in a bowl and dress lightly with a dash of sesame oil, fresh cracked pepper and salt. This also may be a good time to re heat your ham if needed.
6. When the buns are ready, the key is to assembly the finished product fairly quickly, because they tend to cool fairly quickly.
Take the buns out of the steamer, open them on a plate and fill each with about 2oz of the meat filling, which is a decent pinch with your tongs or a good sized scoop with a standard kitchen spoon. Place dressed cilantro on top and finish with 2 to 3 radishes. Fold the top of the bun over and serve.
7. Bask in the praise from those you just served.