If your butcher doesn't have fresh pork belly, the Asian market probably will. If you have a Sunshine Market in your area, it is fabulous.
Special equipment-steamer for buns, parchment paper
To serve 4-5 as an ample appetizer
1-3lb pork belly, skinless
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
If needed, remove the skin from the pork belly with a sharp knife. Then place it in a dish and cover it with the salt and sugar. Cover, refrigerate for 6-24 hours.
Heat oven to 450. Line a roasting pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, and place belly in the pan. Roast for 1 hour, basting halfway through. Turn oven down to 250 and cook 1-1 hour and 15 minutes more.
Let cool, remove from pan and refrigerate til cold. You don't have to do this, but you get nicer slices this way. When cold, slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and reheat in oven before serving.
If you're making the buns, pour the fat through a fine sieve and reserve. The word bun makes me think of a rounded mound of bread like a hamburger bun, but these are flat, folded over, half-moon shaped buns.
You can make these ahead, cool and reheat in the steamer or freeze and reheat, or you can buy them
And make your life infinitely easier.
For about 20 Buns
2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 c water at room temp
2 1/8 cup bread flour
3 tbl sugar
1 1/2 tbl nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 tbl kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 tbl pork fat or crisco, plus more for shaping buns
Dissolve yeast and water in mixing bowl fitted with dough hook. Add everything else and mix on low for 8-10 minutes. It should come away from the sides of the bowl to form a neat, not too tacky ball. Turn this into an oiled bowl, cover, and let stand in a warm place til doubled in size.
Remove, cut dough in half. Cut each half into 5 pieces. Cut each piece into 2. Roll each one into a ball and place on a cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes in a warm place.
Cut 20-4" squares of parchment paper.
Flatten each ball into an oval and roll into a 4 inch oval. Put a chopstick into the pork fat, and lay the chopstick down in the middle of the bun. Fold the bun over the chopstick, and pull the chopstck out, place on parchment paper square, and put on cookie sheet. When done, cover with plastic wrap and let rest/rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.
Let the water come to a boil in your steamer and place buns (still on parchment squares) into steamer without crowding. Let steam 10 minutes. Momofuku says to remove the parchment, but it's easier to reheat if you leave them on.
Quick cucumber pickles
1 English cucumber, sliced into 1/8" slices
2 tbl sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbl rice wine vinegar
Mix all together, let stand at least 1 hour.
Quick pickled cucumbers
Open the bun, smear on hoisin, fill with 1 or 2 slices pork, cucumber, and add Siracha or kimchee to taste. Repeat until it's all gone!