This recipe from chef Karen Bell of Milwaukee's Bavette La Boucherie is a weekend-long event -- but a fun project that's well worth the effort. Rich, hoisin-glazed pork belly nestles in soft white steamed buns with cilantro and pickled veggies.
For pork belly: Place pork belly, skin side down, on a cutting board. Loosen an outside edge of skin with a knife. To remove skin, grasp skin with a paper towel, and with your other hand, place the knife between the skin and the belly and cut away from yourself, angling the knife down toward the board. Place pork belly in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.
In a small bowl, whisk together hoisin sauce, honey, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, the Shaoxing and five-spice powder. Reserve 2 tablespoons marinade. Add the rest to pork belly. Seal bag and turn to coat. Marinate in refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place pork in a 2-quart dish. (Discard marinade.) In a blender, combine basil, mint, cilantro, orange juice, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, the rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil and fish sauce. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour over pork in dish. Cover and bake until tender, about 3 hours. Let pork cool slightly, then turn to coat in cooking liquid. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (The pork will slice much more easily when cold.)
Meanwhile, prepare pickled vegetables: In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, pickling spice and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Put cucumber and carrot in separate containers. Strain enough hot liquid over carrot just to cover. Strain remaining liquid over cucumber. Cover and chill overnight. Drain before serving.
For buns: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water and yeast. Let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. Add flour, sugar, lard, milk powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix on low 8 to 10 minutes. (The dough should gather into a ball on the hook.) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Punch dough down and turn it onto a clean work surface. Divide into 24 pieces about the size of a ping-pong ball. Roll into balls and transfer to floured baking sheets. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut out twenty-four 4-inch squares of parchment paper.
Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 4-inch oval. Brush lightly with vegetable oil, lay a chopstick crosswise over the oval, and fold the dough over chopstick to form a bun. Gently pull out the chopstick, leaving bun folded, and transfer bun to a square of parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap. Repeat. Let buns rest 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove pork from cooking liquid. Cut in half crosswise, then cut each portion into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat an extra-large skillet over high. Brown pork belly slices in batches, in a single layer, about 1 minute per side. Toss browned pork belly slices with reserved marinade; keep warm while steaming the buns.
Set up a bamboo steamer on the stove top. Working in batches so you don't crowd the steamer, steam buns on the parchment squares 10 minutes. Use immediately.* Serve pork in warm buns with pickled vegetables and additional cilantro.
You can cool buns completely and freeze in an airtight container up to 2 months. Reheat frozen buns in a steamer 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft and warm.