Pork Belly Bao Buns at Chifa, you’re quite the dish! Tell me a bit about your heritage.
Well, the Iron Chef himself, Jose Garces, wanted to update the traditional Chinese-Cantonese bao: meat or veggies steamed inside of a bready bun. With Garces’ take, I’m more of a small sandwich. Small in stature, not in taste or presentation, of course.
Well, of course! What are you wearing?
I’m dressed in a lovely hoisin glaze made with sweet potatoes, sesame, garlic and quite a bit of sugar. Then I accessorize with house-made pickled daikon radish and julienne carrot plus a red-chili-pepper-based togarashi mayo topped with sliced scallions.
Now, forgive me, but how do you keep your buns so light and fluffy?
Girl, don’t apologize for my good fortune—I know I look good! Chef Natalie Maronski says it’s all about the buns! And the key to my set is they must double-proof, or rise, to prevent them from being too dense. They’re steamed in house every morning, pre-steamed before service and then steamed again on pick-up to ensure the perfect texture.
You are one high-maintenance sandwich. Is your filling equally time-consuming?
I’m a bit of a diva, I’ll admit. The pork belly is cooked sous vid-style: It’s brined and cryo-vaced then cooked in a set-temp circulator bath for 10 hours at 82 degrees celcius. Finally, the pork is sliced, baked and tossed with hoisin.
You’ve got the salty/sweet thing going for you: Is that why you’re Chifa’s most popular dish?
I certainly appeal to a wide range of taste buds. Even if you’re a Veggie, I have a cousin who’s stuffed with tofu, instead of pork, that’s coated in cornstarch, deep fried until he’s nice and crispy outside. Customers who’ve tasted tofu say he’s just as good as his meaty cuz.
Do you agree?
Do you agree that Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” is a follow-up on par with “Single Ladies?” Did Sex & the City 2 rival the original?
I think I get your point?
Honey, they might taste the tofu, but I get them to make the reservation.
Chifa, 707 Chestnut St. 215.925.5555. chifarestsaurant.com
PW's Taste of Philly 2014