Everything You Need To Know About Gua Bao

If just the thought of a fluffy, steamed bun stuffed with tender, juicy pork makes your mouth water, then you need to get your hands on some gua bao as soon as humanly possible. According to Omnivores Cook Book, the tasty Taiwanese dish is made from a bun stuffed with pork belly, cilantro, pickled mustard greens, and crushed peanuts. It's often served as an appetizer, but the combination of flavor and texture is so enticing you might want to make a whole meal out of them. 

Another name for gua bao, according to Lan Jia Gua Boa owner Jack Lan, is "hu yao ju, or tiger bite pig," because — you might have to use your imagination on this one — the little sandwich looks like a tiger mouth biting a pig (via CNN). According to Lan, gua bao is served during the annual Weiya celebration that honors the earth god, and eating the sandwich symbolizes swallowing all the bad luck and deeds from the old year so you can start fresh for the new year. We're not sure if there's a proper bad luck-incurred-to-bao-consumed ratio, but we're thinking we'd like to eat a lot of 'em — just to play it safe.

Enjoying gua bao at home or out on the town

If you want to try your hand at making gua bao, and you're in a hurry to taste these sensational little sandwiches (and why wouldn't you be?), one way to save time is by picking up some store-bought bao buns. Omnivores Cook Book recommends looking for these in the freezer section of an Asian grocery store. For their gua bao recipe, the outlet also recommends buying thinly sliced pork belly, if possible. Of course, for those of us who aren't so brave in the kitchen, we can always order out, and for that, we might have one man to thank.

According to CNN, gua bao wasn't well-known outside of Asia before 2004, when David Chang put it on the menu of Momofuku Noodle Bar. The Momofuku chain became famous for his version of delicious pork buns and even gave rise to numerous other bao-serving restaurants throughout the country (via Eater). Now the restaurant has pork bun making down to a meticulous science with scrumptious results. If you're nowhere near a Momofuku restaurant but are dying to try Chang's version, complete with "hoisin sauce, lightly pickled cucumbers, and scallions," you can order them nationwide on Gold Belly, where they run over $100. If that sounds steep, you might be able to find a local restaurant serving their own delicious gua bao, or it might just be time to whip out that apron.