Taiwanese Pork Belly Buns (Gua Bao)

Taiwanese Pork Belly Buns. [Photograph: Cathy Erway]

True Taiwanese pork belly buns have five defining components: the fluffy steamed bun, tender braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, fresh cilantro, and powdered peanuts. All combined, it's a messy, colorful, glorious snack of salty, sweet, pungent, and fresh flavors, with multiple textures to boot.

Why this recipe works:

  • While it can take up to 2 hours, braising the pork belly is very easy: It's simply browned in a skillet and then cooked in the same pan with an aromatic broth until tender.
  • Traditional recipes often call for Asian rock sugar, but this version offers easy substitution options like brown sugar.

Note: Find five spice powder, fresh or frozen Chinese-style steamed buns, jarred pickled mustard greens, and rock sugar at Asian grocery stores.

About the Author: Cathy Erway is the author of The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove. She blogs at Not Eating Out In New York and hosts the weekly podcast, "Eat Your Words" on Heritage Radio Network.

Taiwanese Pork Belly Buns (Gua Bao)

About This Recipe

Yield:makes 6 buns, serving 2 to 3
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:2 1/2 hours
This recipe appears in: Taiwan Eats: Pork Belly Buns (Gua Bao)


  • For the Pork Belly:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • One (1-pound) slab skin-on pork belly, cut into 2-inch strips, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 (1/8th-inch) slices fresh ginger (unpeeled)
  • 1 star anise pod (optional)
  • 1 small fresh red chili, such as Thai chili (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rock, brown or raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup Asian rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder (see note above)
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 4 cups water
  • For the Buns and Toppings:
  • 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon rock, brown, or raw sugar (see note above)
  • 6 fresh or frozen Chinese-style steamed buns (see note above)
  • 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems chopped
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped Asian pickled mustard greens (see note above)


  1. 1

    For the Pork Belly: Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or wok. Cook pork belly until lightly browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip pork belly and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer pork belly to a plate and set aside.

  2. 2

    In the same skillet, add garlic and ginger and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until fragrant. Add star anise and chili (if using), and sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add rice wine and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add five spice powder, dark and light soy sauces, and water and bring to a boil.

  3. 3

    Return pork belly to the skillet and reduce heat to low. Cover skillet and cook until pork belly is very tender, at least 1 hour or preferably 2 hours.

  4. 4

    For the Buns and Toppings: Meanwhile, combine peanuts and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides, until the mixture resembles a coarse powder, about 1 minute.

  5. 5

    Set a steamer over a pot of boiling water. Add buns, cover steamer and cook until buns are heated through and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

  6. 6

    To Serve: Spread pickled mustard greens inside each steamed bun and set a piece of pork belly on top of mustard greens. Top pork belly with a pinch of the chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of the peanut powder. Serve immediately.


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