Honey Braised Pork Belly Pies | My Element
June 21, 2018
Every time I comeback to Shanghai, I always surprise myself. At this point, it's not the constant change that surprises me, but the extent to which I am in touch with my own emotions and environment that catches me off guard. Upon realizing this, I was curious to find out why I felt so connected to Shanghai as opposed to Hong Kong or Ithaca. To many others, Shanghai is definitely outside of the comfort zone. The busy streets, constant yelling, alarming pollution, and terrible traffic are often scare away any expats who express the slightest interest in the city. Yet, I consider myself an American citizen, but the majority of the United States clearly is not my element. My ideals and beliefs align more closely with Western ideals, but my heart is so much closer to Shanghai. After much thought, I figured it all began with what I love the most: food.
My Holy City
Shanghai is my holy city, and I would never trade that part of my life for anything else. I may not agree with everything in Chinese culture & customs, but it is still my home. It is still my element. Brad & Butter is all about food, and I want to take this opportunity to share my top three quick bites in the city.
1) Bubble Tea at Yi Dian Dian
Probably the most familiar item in this list, bubble tea something that became more than that ice cold, satisfying drink on a hot summer day. Bubble tea stores throughout the city were places friends would gather to hangout while enjoying something affordable. My favorite bubble tea store is a popular chain called Yi Dian Dian. The store sells is drinks for an extremely affordable price, but really prides itself in using quality ingredients to produce quality refreshments.
2) Pan-Fried Dumplings at Yang's Dumplings
Probably the most iconic of all Shanghai street foods, Yang's Dumplings is a delicacy visitors cannot miss. The dumpling is and pan-fried in a special wok, creating the signature crispy exterior to contrast with the juicy, succulent pork filling. These dumplings can be found all over the city, but Yang's is no doubt the most famous of the stores. While the store offers several kinds of dumplings, you can never beat the original pork dumpling.
3) Mango "Pancakes" at Honeymoon Dessert
One of my favorite dessert spots ever since I was a child is Honeymoon. The chain specializes in simple, Asian desserts such as mango sticky rice and warm sesame soup. However, growing up, my all-time favorite was definitely their "pancakes." These aren't the pancakes slathered in maple syrup we know o. They're essentially fresh fruit and cream wrapped in a small pancake-like wrap. The pastry is delicate, light, and fresh, which makes for a great dessert after a heavy meal...or you can just have them for breakfast. Trust me, try one and you'll know why I would rather have these than a regular stack.
This week's bake is an homage to my motherland. Shanghai is known for all sorts of dishes in Chinese cuisine, but the most well-known is probably braised pork belly. The pork belly is cooked in soy sauce and sugar for a long time, creating a salty, sweet, and sticky mass of flavor. In true Brad & Butter fashion, I've decided to put my own spin on this classic dish and serve it as a pie. Although the cooking process takes a while, the recipe itself really is quite simple and is a great way for rising bakers to venture into pie-making.
I hope this post has somewhat piqued interest in travels to Shanghai. There is always a place for someone in Shanghai, and I can say with confidence that you will not regret visiting!
For the Shortcrust Pastry
- 135g of all-purpose flour
- 70g of butter, chilled
- 1 tbsp. of granulated sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 2-3 tbsp. of cold water
For the Braised Pork Filling
- 150g of pork belly
- 3 tbsp. of honey
- 2 tbsp. of soy sauce
- 1 egg, hard boiled
- 2 stalks of green onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes
- 2 small slices on ginger
For the Shortcrust Pastry
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Rub the cubed butter into the flour mixture until the dry ingredients take on a slightly yellow hue & the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.
- Make a well in the middle of the mixture and add in the cold water. Mix until the mixture is able to hold its shape, forming a dough when pressed against the side of the bowl. *
- Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough to approximately 3mm in thickness and adhere to the pie tins. **
For the Honey Braised Pork Belly
- Chop the pork belly into small, bite sized pieces and flash fry in a pan with some oil.
- Add the soy sauce, honey, green onion, red pepper flakes, and ginger to the pan and bring to a boil.
- Once the liquids begin to boil, add in enough water to cover the pork belly, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer for at least 45 minutes.
- Once the sauce is glossy and viscous, mix in the cubed, hard boiled egg. Discard the slices on ginger.
- Fill the pie tins lines with crust with copious amounts of the braised pork.
- Roll out the remaining pastry dough and cover the pies, pinching the sides so that the filling does not leak out.
- Use a sharp knife to make four small slits in the top layer of pastry. Brush with an egg wash.
- Bake in a preheated 170C/340F degree oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is dry to the touch and has become a rich golden brown.
* If the dough is too dry and does not hold its shape, add more water 1 tbsp. at a time.
** Make sure to reserve leftover dough to cover the pies and to make any decorations.