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Gua bao on a wooden plate.
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5 from 2 votes

Gua Bao (Taiwanese Pork Belly Bao with Pickled Carrots and Daikon)

Melt-in-your-mouth braised pork belly balanced with fresh cilantro and crisp pickled carrots and daikon, all nestled in a fluffy bao bun!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian, Taiwanese
Servings: 10 gua bao
Calories: 458kcal
Author: Edwina

Ingredients

Braised Pork Belly

  • lb skin on pork belly cut into around ¾" thick and 3" wide pieces.
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce optional
  • 2 tbsp Shoaxing wine or rice cooking wine
  • 1½-2 cup water or until almost covers the meat.
  • 1 star anise optional
  • 2 bay leaf optional
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick optional
  • 2 stalk scallion

Pickled Carrots and Daikon

  • 6 oz carrots or 1½ cup shredded carrots
  • 6 oz daikon radish
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey can be replaced with sugar
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar

Others

  • 10 boa buns homemade or store bought
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar or more to taste
  • cilantro
  • Taiwanese sweet chili sauce optional

Instructions

Make Braised Pork Belly

  • Heat a Dutch oven (I use a 4qt one) over medium heat and lightly brown both sides of the pork belly. Do it in 2 - 3 batches. Scoop out the oil rendered from the pork if you want to save it for other uses.
  • Put all the meat back into the pot and then add sugar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce and Shoaxing wine, and let it boil for a few seconds before adding water.
  • Add spices (if using) and scallion in the pot, cover and bring it to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low to low, and maintain a gentle boil for 1.5 hours. Reposition and turn the meat 1 to 2 times so they can cooked evenly.
  • After it's done cooking, turn off the heat and let it sit for another 30 minutes with the lid on. You can also let it sit overnight in the fridge once it cools completely.
  • After 30 minutes (or before serving), turn the heat to medium or medium high and cook uncovered until the liquid becomes sticky and able to coat the meat. During cooking, reposition and turn the meat a few times to ensure even cooking.

Make Picked Carrots and Daikon

  • Peel and julienne carrots and daikon. You will get about 3 cups total between the julienned carrots and daikon.
  • Place carrots and daikon in a big bowl and toss it with salt. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, rinse and drain the carrots and daikon, and then add sugar, honey and rice vinegar. Toss until you can't feel the sugar with your hands.
  • You can serve the pickles right away, but it will taste better if you let it sit for 30 minutes in room temperature before serving.
  • Put the pickle in a glass container and store in the fridge for up to one week.

Peanut Powder Mix

  • Freeze the roasted peanuts for 15 minutes before processing. This is optional, but it will help prevent oil from coming out due to temperature increase from processing.
  • Place the roasted peanuts in a blender, pulse until it becomes coarse powder. Scrape the blender a few times in between pulses.
  • Pour the peanut powder into a small bowl and mix with powdered sugar. Taste and see if you want to add more sugar.

Assemble Gua Bao

  • Steam the bao buns and cover it with a kitchen towel to keep warm.
  • Open the pocket of the bao bun and stuff with a small handful of cilantro, a piece of pork belly, some of the peanut sugar mix (and sweet chili sauce if desire), and some pickled carrots and daikon and enjoy!

Notes

You can replace the star anis, cinnamon stick and bay leaf with ¼ tsp of five spice powder or just omit it if you don't like the taste. 
If you want to make the braised pork belly in an Instant Pot, select the "sauté" function to brown the meat before adding the seasonings, water, spices and scallions. Switch to "manual" mode and set the cooking time for 45 minutes on high pressure.  Once it's done cooking, let the pressure release naturally before opening the lid.  Use "sauté" function to reduce the liquid.
The pork belly tastes even better the next day, so if you have time, I would recommend making it the day before and letting it sit in the fridge overnight before you reduce the liquid.
The peanut powder used in gua bao (and a lot of other Taiwanese street food) is different from powdered peanut butter. I like to make this peanut powder with my Vitamix dry grains container, but if you don't have one, you can make it with any high powered blender.  It's helpful to freeze the roasted peanuts for 15 minutes first before blending, and scrape down the blender between pulses.
I use my homemade bao bun recipe and make 10 buns to go with this gua bao recipe. 
 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 458kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 807mg | Potassium: 307mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 2875IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg