Gua bao (割包/刈包)


Almost everything I cook is inspired from food I have eaten around the world, especially street food. Having spent a considerable amount of time in various Asian countries I’ve had the delicious pleasure of tasting numerous styles of steamed buns with fillings consisting of vegetables and meats to who know knows what. (One of the joys of traveling through Asia is there is usually zero English spoken so one may never really know what they are eating.)

Buns in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region Turkestan currently occupied by the Chinese government filled with mutton.

This being said I have not yet been to Taiwan so my exposure to Gua bao (割包/刈包) is limited to a restaurant in North East Portland that specialized in the fluffy little cloud stuffed with a spicy, savory, sweet and tender pork.

While browsing through my local Asian market yesterday I came across frozen Bao buns. So no, this recipe will not include the making of the buns. I picked up a few and started looking around the internet for that truly authentic recipe to recreate these tasty little pockets of goodness. I found nothing, and I found too much. Usually I will research the origin of the food, study it’s history and the region where it came from. I look at the local produce that grows in the area and the types of animal products that would be used in the dish. What I discovered upon researching Gua Bao is there is no set formula but rather many interpretations which makes sens as this is basically, a steamed bun.

So I have chosen to make up my own thing borrowing ideas from different styles of cooking. I am thinking a sweet and spicy braise of pork and an almost Bánh mì style of slaw. Lets begin.

I always start by prepping my ingredients. This dish will have two parts, a meat part and a vegetable part and since the meat will take a few hours to slowly braise I am beginning with just the marinade ingredients.

Cassia bark, Star anise, Birds eye chili, light and dark soy sauce, brown sugar, bay leaf,fennel seeds, Chinese five spice ginger, garlic, Hoi Sin.

As always, I never measure anything, that is why I am not a good baker. It is also why I never really do the exact same dish twice which really upsets my wife. I placed all the marinade ingredients in a pot that I will use for the braise and added water.

The current debate I am having with myself is to sear or not to sear. I have always seared my meat before braising but recently there has been a new thought of skipping this step. The theory is that searing seals in the meat not allowing the braising flavors to permeate the meat as well. I’m not sure about this. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. For now I will stay with the sear.

I let the meat braise, covered for about three hours. I then uncovered it for another 2-3 hours to allow the liquid to reduce. This is what it looked like. As you can imagine the entire floor of our building smelled delicious.

It was time to make the slaw. Pretty basic. Cabbage, Carrot, cucumber, cilantro, rice wine vinegar, sugar and lime juice. Sprinkled some toasted black sesame seeds in there as well.

And that was it. I slathered a bit of Hoi Sin on the bun, added the meat and the slaw and it was absolutely amazing.

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About XPLORE FILM and Sip & Stay

The Art of Life

Tony and Terri-Lynn met in 1987 as teenagers. In 1991 they were married.  Tony has been a professional musician his entire life and spent the 90’s touring and releasing albums.  In 2001 the couple left the cities and moved to a small community on the Oregon coast. This is where they fell into television production and film making. In 2004 Makai Ohana Productions was founded and the couple produced advertising and creative content for hundreds of tourism related businesses and government entities in Southern Oregon and Northern California. Realizing the industry was evolving towards the internet they re-branded the business in 2012 to Xplore Film.  This company would now be an international business producing films world wide as well as an NGO in West Africa where the couple provides clean water boreholes, scholarships and even a prosthetic hand project.

In 2018 Tony and Terri-Lynn with their dog Bisque Kitt packed the belongings they could carry on their backs and flew to Spain. They bought a home and planned to spend equal time between the two countries running the business.  Then Covid hit and the world closed.  By 2020 they realized Spain, and specifically Torrevieja was now home.  They bought a sailboat and started to create a life on the Costa Blanca of music, film, events and community.


Music from Xplore Film

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