Boston Embraces the Pork-Belly Bun
Variations on the street-food standard are showing up on menus all around town, from food trucks to fine-dining stops.
The wild popularity of fatty-pork-stuffed buns must be credited to New York chef David Chang and his game-changing eatery Momofuku, but we’ve embraced the Taiwanese street-food standard (traditionally known as gua bao) around here, too. Authentic (and cheap) buns can be had at Chinese restaurants like Jo Jo TaiPei in Allston and Taiwan Café in Chinatown, while updated versions bearing refined touches like spiced aioli, apple-hoisin sauce, and house-made pickles are showing up on food-truck and fine-dining menus alike. Part of the stuffed buns’ appeal for chefs is their versatility, says Mei Li, co-owner of the Mei Mei food truck. “There’s the opportunity to riff on the ingredients and play around with what you put inside,” she says. And for diners? The buns are “like a white-bread sandwich,” says East by Northeast chef Phillip Tang. “The idea as a whole is easily accessible for people.” At right are four anything-but-white-bread versions.
1. East by Northeast: $9 for two
Crispy pork belly, house-made steamed bread, sweet bean paste, house-pickled onions, and apple slices.
2. Clio: $7 ?each
Tamarind-glazed pork belly, chili aioli, and pickled cucumbers and bean sprouts.
3. Harvest: $15 for two
Glazed pork belly, kimchi, cilantro, mint, and wasabi aioli.
4. Mei Mei: $7.50 each
Roast pork (with cracklings), house-made steamed bread, local apple-hoisin sauce, sesame-chili aioli, pickled cucumbers, carrots, parsnips, and onions.