Gua bao (traditional Chinese: 割包; simplified Chinese: 刈包; pinyin: guàbāo; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: koah-pau; literally: 'cut bread'), also known as pork belly buns, ambiguously, bao, or erroneously as the bao bun ("bao" means "bun" so the translated name "bun bun" is redundant and "bao" in the Chinese language without any qualifiers is generally used to refer to baozi) is a type of lotus leaf bun (he ye bao) from Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province, with similar variants found elsewhere with sizeable Fuzhounese communities. It is a popular street food in Taiwan which has led to the popular misconception that the gua bao is Taiwanese in origin.
|Course||Snack, delicacie, main dish, side dish|
|Place of origin||China|
|Region or state||Fuzhou, Fujian|
|Created by||Fuzhou people|
|Main ingredients||Steamed bread, stewed meat, condiments|
|Ingredients generally used||Red-cooked pork belly, pickled mustard, coriander, ground peanuts|
|Variations||Fried chicken, fish, eggs, stewed beef|
It consists of a slice of stewed meat and other condiments sandwiched between flat steamed bread known as lotus leaf bread (he ye bing). The lotus leaf bun is typically 6–8 centimetres (2.4–3.1 in) in size, semi-circular and flat in form, with a horizontal fold that, when opened, gives the appearance that it has been sliced. The traditional filling for gua bao is a slice of red-cooked porkbelly, typically dressed with stir-fried suan cai (pickled mustard greens), coriander, and ground peanuts.
The lotus leaf buns are a traditional Chinese accompaniment to rich dishes such as bowl-steamed pork in rice meal or roast duck and thus the buns support a wide array of fillings with gua bao being just one style which utilises pork belly. A lotus leaf bun by itself is called a "he ye bing" but with filings is called a "he ye bao". They are found all across China, being particularly common in North China.
In Taiwan, gua bao were introduced to the island by Fuzhounese immigrants where the flavors were modified to suit local tastes which favoured Southern Fujianese flavours over Eastern Fujianese ones. In Taiwan they are sometimes referred to as Chinese hamburgers although Westerners generally refer to Roujiamo as "Chinese hamburgers". The food is known colloquially in parts of Taiwan as hó͘-kā-ti (虎咬豬; 'tiger bites pig') in Taiwanese Hokkien due to the mouth-like form of the bun and the contents of the filling.
In Hong Kong, they are known as cha bao (叉包) which means "fork buns" as the sandwiches are usually pierced by a toothpick or wooden skewer to keep the fillings in place.
In Japan they are called kakuni manju (角煮饅頭) and are sold as a Chinese snack food. They are a specialty of Nagasaki Chinatown, having been sold in Japan for centuries due to the large number of Fuzhounese immigrants and historic relations between Fuzhou and Nagasaki represented by the construction of Sofukuji Temple. Recognizing the Fuzhounese community and historical connection, Nagasaki and Fuzhou established ties as sister cities in 1980. Another iconic Nagasaki dish of Fujianese origin is champon.
Gua bao became popular in the West through chef David Chang's Momofuku restaurants although he says that he was unaware that the gua bao dish already existed because his Momofuku recipe was inspired by his dining experiences in Beijing and Manhattan Chinatown's Oriental Garden where the Peking duck was served in lotus leaf buns rather than the traditional spring pancake and he called them pork belly buns. The name "gua bao" was used and popularised by chef Eddie Huang when he opened his BaoHaus restaurant.
In the United States, New York City has a significant population of Fuzhounese Americans and gua bao is a popular dish sold at restaurants along with other iconic Fuzhounese dishes such as Fuzhou fish balls and lychee pork.
In the United Kingdom, they are often called hirata buns, named after Masashi Hirata, the executive chef of Ippudo in New York as many ramen restaurants began to adopt the practise of selling gua bao alongside their ramen dishes due to the influence of Momofuku and to meet high demand from customers whom mistakenly believed they were a staple of ramen restaurants.
There have been many new trendy "gua bao" which incorporate pan-Asian fusion or non-Chinese stuffings between the lotus leaf buns, such as kimchi or karaage. Although these are technically not gua bao at all as they do not include pork belly, and in China would only be considered different lotus leaf bun sandwiches (he ye bao).
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