Recipe Friday: SoSoBa Apple-Glazed Pork Belly Bao

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Recipes Issue: November 2016

Everyone loves apple pie, right? If you’re a fan of the fabulous fall fruit, you’re in luck because during November more than a dozen Valley restaurants are featuring recipes using CaseWerks Apple Pie Liqueur to celebrate CaseWerks Pie Month. SoSoBa, The Nonstop Noodle Shop in downtown Phoenix is participating by using the beguiling liqueur in apple-glazed pork belly steamed bao buns. SoSoBa co-owner Tyler Christensen says that even though SoSoBa is primarily a noodle shop, every now and then they make bao buns – "our version of a slider.” Christensen is sharing the recipe because he says bao buns are a great holiday party food. “It’s something you can prep ahead and it’s ready to go. And you look like a rock star. It’s a cool, unique thing to serve.”

Apple Bao Trio at SoSoBa. Courtesy SoSoBa.NOTE: The following apple cider recipe also makes a great fall cocktail. Reserve some of the large batch (before it reduces to a glaze), then when the mood strikes, warm the mulled cider and add 1.5 oz. bourbon and 1/2 oz. Caskwerks Apple Pie Liqueur. Top with cinnamon.

SoSoBa Apple Bao

Pork belly
Rub bellies with a seasoning mixture (SoSoBa uses a proprietary blend of spices, but you can buy pork rub in specialty markets) Let pork bellies cure overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, place pork bellies in a large baking dish over a mirepoix of carrots and onions (enough to cover the bottom of the dish) and then cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 3 hours until the pork reaches the proper internal temperature. Remove pork bellies from pan and put another pan or something heavy on top to press the meat down while it cools in the refrigerator. This will compress the meat and make it firmer for grilling so that it won’t fall apart. Once cooled completely, remove the bellies and slice into ½-inch thick pieces. Your slices should fit perfectly into the bao buns.

Apple glaze
2 quarts unfiltered pressed apple cider
¼ cup of sugar
4 star anise
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 orange rind
1 oz. Caskwerks Apple Pie Liqueur (optional)

Add all ingredients (minus the liqueur) to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove and discard orange rind and star anise. Double strain through a fine chinois and cheesecloth into another saucepan.
Bring to a light rolling boil and let the cider reduce until it has reached a dark-caramel color with a thick viscosity. Reserve.

Sunamono salad
To garnish and add a light crispiness to the pillowy soft bao buns and braised pork belly, mix the following together:
shaved radish
sesame seeds
seaweed salad
jicama
light dressing of sweet vinegar
salt to taste

To assemble the bao buns
Steam frozen bao buns (available at Asian markets) for 10 minutes until pillowy soft and slightly tacky on the outside. Lightly oil and sear the buns in a pan (or a on griddle) just to brown and crisp the exterior. Sear three pieces of pork belly until there is a nice char on both sides. Add 1 oz. of the prepared apple glaze to a saucepan and heat, then add pork bellies and glaze in small batches. Add 1 oz. Caskwerks Apple Pie Liqueur to the sauté pan and flambé to cook off the alcohol.
Place one glazed belly in each bao bun and then add the sunamono salad and serve.