Pork Buns (Gua Bao) with Crispy Pork Belly and Cucumber Pickle

Hello! Last week was full on, so I’m glad I took the week off from blogging. We now have a car, have been approved for a rental property and I’m making good progress on getting a job. Posts will still be a bit sporadic over the next few weeks as we settle back down into some kind of normality. Once I’m working full time again, I hope to get into a new schedule, so that I know when I am cooking blog recipes and when I will be posting. I’m hoping for one or two posts per week, even more if I can save up for some studio lights so that I can photograph at night. In the meantime, I do have a few recipes prepared for you! So despite the fact we no longer live there, these pork buns are coming to you from my Singaporean kitchen. Fingers crossed, I will have a new kitchen to show you soon.

Ummm…hello pork buns. This was the second time that I took advantage of the pre-made leaf buns that you can buy in Singapore. You can see a pic of the first batch that I made here. The pre-made buns are easy to find in Singapore but I’m guessing they might be tricker to come across in Aus. I do plan to make my own from scratch (one day) but in the mean time, here are two home made recipes from Lady and the Pups and Not Quite Nigella that look very promising.

I also used a new method to cook the pork belly which I adapted from this recipe and then I added a cucumber and chilli pickle, using my usual quick pickle method. The results were pretty damn good, even if I say so myself :)


Other than the pre-made buns, you’ll only need a few, easily obtainable ingredients.


pork rashers

This cut of pork is sold as pork rashers in Aus and it’s called sliced pork belly in Singapore. It is indeed just sliced pieces of pork belly and will often have some tiny bones that are easiest to pull or cut out after it’s been cooked.



The initial simmer will cook and soften the pork, while the second roasting step will crisp up the skin for crunchy crackling.



I used baby cucumbers because they are sweeter than the basic cucumbers you get in Singapore. Normal sized Lebanese cucumbers will also do the trick though.


cucumber pickle

I used the same pickling recipe as my daikon and carrot pickle. I say if you are onto a good thing, then stick to it!



After the initial simmer, let the pork cool on a rack to help dry it out and then using a small and sharp knife, prick the pork skin all over. Prick all the way into the skin and fat until you feel the resistance from the meat.



If your pork rashers won’t sit up themselves, you will have to get a bit nifty with some foil to help your pork stay standing up. You want the skin and fat facing upwards to ensure you get the best crackling.



The pre-made buns are available in supermarkets in Singapore, normally near the fresh noodles. Sometimes they are labelled as just steamed buns other times they are called leaf buns or bao. You may be able to get these fresh (or more likely) frozen in good Asian grocers in Aus too, but I haven’t been back long enough to seek them out yet.

Once they are steamed, they come unstuck and open up like a little envelope to hold your crispy pork and pickle.


crispy pork

Oh my! Crispy, crunchy crackling


Pork Buns

Cut the pork into baton-like pieces and then load up your buns with the pork and pickle, garnished with a long slice of Asian chives (or spring onion) and drizzle with some kecap manis.


Pork Buns (Gua Bao)

Get in mah belly!


Pork Buns (Gua Bao) with Crispy Pork Belly and Cucumber Pickle

Ingredients – Makes 10 Pork Buns

For the Pork – Adapted from Overseas Pinoy Cooking

  • 4 pork rashers, about 600g worth
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly bashed
  • ½ tsp of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp of salt


For the Pickle

  • ¼ cup of rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup of fine white sugar
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 1 cup of cucumber that’s been thinly peeled into strips
  • 1 long red chilli, roughly chopped


For the Buns and Garnish

  • 10 pre made leaf buns (bao)
  • Asian chives, cut into 5 cm lengths. Alternatively use spring onions
  • Kecap manis to garnish



  1. Place the pork, star anise, garlic, peppercorns and salt into a medium sized saucepan. Cover with water so that the pork is submerged with about 2cm of water on top of it.
  2. Place over medium high heat and bring up to the boil with a lid sitting ajar on the pot. Once it boils, reduce to medium low heat and simmer steadily for 30 minutes or until the pork meat is just starting to soften. The pork will start to float, but if any meat becomes too exposed, top up the saucepan with some extra water.
  3. While the pork is cooking, make the pickle by heating up the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir continuously just until the sugar has dissolved and then remove from the heat and add the cucumber and chilli to the pickling liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or for the rest of the pork cooking time.
  4. Once the pork has simmered for its allocated time, drain well and let the pork cool on a rack for 10 minutes. At this point, preheat the oven to 250°C and grease a small to medium sized ovenproof dish with a little olive oil.
  5. After the pork has cooled for 10 minutes, use a small sharp knife to prick the pork skin all over. Prick all the way into the skin and fat until you feel the resistance from the meat below.
  6. Place the pork into the greased baking dish so that the skin is facing up. You will either need to pack in the pork tightly, or use some balled up pieces of foil to help the rashers stand skin side up.
  7. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the skin has crackled right up and sounds very hard when tapped with a knife. Rest for 5 minutes.
  8. While the pork is resting, steam the buns as per the packet instructions.
  9. To assemble the gua bao, chop the pork into bun sized pieces ensuring each piece has some crackling. Place the pork onto the buns, top with the cucumber pickle, some pieces of chives and drizzle with kecap manis.
  10. Best eaten as soon as made.


Pork Buns with Cucumber Pickle



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Hi! I’m Taryn. The Wooden Spoons is a food blog and collection of wooden spoons, recipes and stories. I’m a Canberra fan-girl with a passion for all things food. I love South East Asian food, fusion food done well and slow cooked anything. I don’t get quinoa, have a mild phobia of milk touching my skin and custard from a package freaks me out. Thanks for joining me on my cooking and food adventures.

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