Chinese Pork Belly Bun (Rou Jia Mo, 肉夹馍)

These Chinese pork belly buns are made with melt-in-your-mouth braised pork belly stuffed with peppers and cilantro in a fluffy flatbread. They are absolutely irresistible! {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Three pork belly buns on marble serving board

Pork belly bun, or Rou Jia Mo (肉夹馍) in Chinese, is a Chinese sandwich that is similar to the idea of doner kebab or sloppy Joe. It uses pre-cooked braised pork belly, chopped cilantro, and peppers with flatbread to create a super delicious sandwich, that is usually sold for 1 to 2 dollars on the street.

If you’ve ordered pork belly buns in a Chinese restaurant, you might have come across the Taiwanese version. It usually uses skin-on pork belly stuffed in steamed buns with cucumber and hoisin sauce.

The one I’m introducing today is the Mainland-style pork bun with a special gravy, that originated in Xi’an (one of the oldest cities in China; it used to be the ancient capital of China and was the starting point of the Silk Road). Although there are two types of meat bun – pork and halal (which usually uses beef or lamb) – the pork one is much more popular among Mainlanders.

The Xi’an style pork belly bun is made with melt-in-your-mouth pork that is slowly braised for hours in a savory master sauce. It’s served with crispy peppers and cilantro in a fluffy grilled flatbread, with a spoonful of velvety gravy. It’s so irresistible that you’ll always ask for more after you finish the first one.

Flatlay of pork belly buns with chopped cilantro and Sriracha sauce

Making braised pork belly is super easy

In making the pork bun, the key ingredient is the meat gravy. The real-deal gravy is made from a master sauce, also called “thousand-year sauce” (卤汁, lu zhi). The reason it has this name is that the braising liquid is reused again and again for years, so it will be infused with flavor from all the meat that has been braised in it over time. I know it might sound a bit gross or not really great from a sanitation standpoint, but the truth is, the gravy is super delicious, with a complex flavor, and there’s no simple way to replicate it.

For family cooking, people usually buy the master sauce directly from the supermarket. But it is actually very easy to cook it from scratch in your kitchen. The base of the sauce is soy sauce and several spices, such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and star anise. You can braise just about anything in the master sauce – pork, beef, chicken, eggs, root vegetables, etc. A good master sauce should be well-balanced so that not a single ingredient is outstanding or overpowers the others. Meat that is slow cooked in this sauce will be tender, moist, and infused with a rich savory flavor that is not overwhelming.

Braised pork belly process shots

Chinese braised pork belly for making pork belly buns

Authentic pork belly bun vs. improved version

To make an authentic pork bun, Chinese street vendors always chop the pork belly finely before stuffing it into the bread. They also add plenty of cilantro and pepper to blend them in the minced pork while chopping. This step is to cut the grease of the fatty pork belly. After mincing the pork into small pieces, the fat will have “dissolved” and the sandwich will taste juicy and moist without feeling too greasy. The mixed vegetables will add crispy texture and lemony flavor, so the sandwich will be less heavy.

When I create this pork belly bun recipe, I made some small changes.

  1. I cut off the pork belly skin and saved it for later (it’s a key ingredient in soupy dumplings), because many people don’t like its texture in the pork buns.
  2. Select leaner pork belly so the fat will mostly melt into the gravy after cooking. This way, the sandwich will turn out less greasy.
  3. Chop the braised belly into large chunks to preserve its meaty texture.

Flatbreads, braised pork belly, and chopped pepper and cilantro for making pork belly buns

A few more cooking notes

(1) Always make a big batch of braised pork

The pork takes about 3 hours to braise, with about 15 minutes of active cooking time. The process and time used are the same, no matter whether you braise 1 pound or 4 pounds of pork. I always buy a whole slab of pork belly from the Asian market. It costs less than $20 to get 3.5 to 4 pounds of meat, which lasts us for several meals. You can serve the leftover pork on rice or make fried noodles.

(2) What flatbread to use

I introduced a super easy recipe to make the Chinese flatbread at home (recipe here). It takes as little as 30 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook.

If you don’t want to cook the flatbread, you can simply buy pita bread from the grocery store instead. I found that panini bread and dinner rolls are also a good substitute (not authentic, but still taste great!). Of course you also can serve the pork over steamed rice and pair it with a vegetable dish.

(3) Add some spiciness

If you want to add a kick to the sandwich, try adding a few drops of homemade chili oil or Sriracha sauce. It tastes so good with just a bit of spiciness!

(4) Cook ahead and serve later

This recipe is also a perfect option for hosting a dinner party. The braised pork and the bun can be prepared beforehand. The day you intend to serve the buns, simply heat the pork and gravy on the stove and warm the bread in the oven. It will only take a few minutes to assemble the buns and everything will taste warm and fresh.

Close up of three pork belly buns on marble serving board

Cooking video

I created a short cooking video in the past, demonstrating how a Chinese street vendor would serve the buns. The video is slightly different from the recipe below because I updated the recipe with a few small tweaks, but the cooking process remains mostly the same.

More delicious pork recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Three pork belly buns on marble serving board

Chinese Pork Belly Bun (Rou Jia Mo, 肉夹馍)


  • Author: Maggie
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 10 mins
  • Yield: 10 buns
  • Category: Main, appetizer
  • Method: Braising
  • Cuisine: Chinese

Description

The nutrition facts below include the homemade flatbread with the toppings.

To adapt the recipe to gluten-free, use tamari to replace the soy sauce and use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine. You can use gluten free bread to assemble the sandwich.


Ingredients

  • 3.5 lbs (1.2 kg) pork belly (*Footnote 1), cut into 2-inch (4.5-cm) chunks

Braising

  • 4 dried chili peppers
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 whole nutmeg (or 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder)
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick (5 centimeters / 2 inches in length)
  • 2 large pieces ginger
  • 4 green onions, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Pork bun (to make 10 buns)


Instructions

  1. Place pork belly in a 5.5-quart dutch oven and add cold water to cover the pork by 1 inch (2 cm). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn to medium low heat and boil for 10 minutes. Skim the broth with a fine mesh strainer to get rid of the foam.
  2. Add chili peppers, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, green onion, and Shaoxing wine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn to lowest heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  3. Add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and salt into the pot and stir to mix well. Continue to simmer, covered, for an additional 1 hour.  Skim off the oil from the top by using a fine mesh strainer.
  4. Uncover, and continue to simmer for another hour or so, until the broth is reduced to about one fourth and has thickened slightly. Keep an eye on the pork during the last 30 minutes, because the broth can reduce very fast at the end and burn the bottom. You should have at least 1 cup of broth in the pot after reducing, in order to assemble the pork buns.

Assemble

  1. Option 1 the modified style – Transfer one piece of pork belly onto a cutting board and slice it into bite-size pieces. Use a spoon to stuff the pork mixture, cilantro, and peppers into the bun. Drizzle a spoonful of broth onto the pork and add Sriracha sauce (if needed). Serve immediately.
  2. Option 2 authentic street food style – Transfer one piece of pork belly onto a cutting board, cut it coarsely into small chunks. Place a handful of cilantro and a handful of peppers on top of the pork. Use a knife to chop and mix everything together. Use a spoon to stuff the pork mixture into the bun, drizzle a spoonful broth onto the pork and add a few drops of homemade chili oil. Serve immediately.

Notes

(1) Try to select pork belly that contains 70% to 80% of lean meat, so the finished meat will have a good lean-fat ratio and will be tender without tasting greasy.

(2) Anaheim pepper is a great choice because it is not overly spicy but is more flavorful than bell peppers. If you want to add spiciness, you can mix in some jalapeno peppers as well. I used a mix of sweet peppers and jalapenos for the color and the spicy taste.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 of the 10 buns
  • Calories: 360cal
  • Sugar: 2.8g
  • Sodium: 441mg
  • Fat: 5.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 34.6g
  • Fiber: 1.7g
  • Protein: 40.5g
  • Cholesterol: 99mg

The recipe was published by Aug. 25, 2014 and was updated on Mar. 29, 2018.

Chinese pork belly bun (Rou Jia Mo, 肉夹馍) - Melt-in-your-mouth braised pork belly stuffed with peppers and cilantro in a fluffy flatbread. They are so irresistible! {Gluten-Free adaptable} #pork #burger #chinese #asian #recipes

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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my Austin, Texas kitchen.

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18 thoughts on “Chinese Pork Belly Bun (Rou Jia Mo, 肉夹馍)

    1. Maggie Post author

      Yep, you’re right about the nice fragrant from the braised pork and it makes me hungry! The buns take some time to make, but the fresh ones tasted so much better than the supermarket ones. 🙂

      Reply
  1. Thomas

    I cooked a one-pound batch of this stuff and have been working my way through it over the past week. Every time I have some, I have to eat at least three sandwiches. I seriously can’t stop at just one or two. It is literally addictive.

    The recipe yields two pretty nice by-products, I noticed. The fat that floats to the top of the broth is awesome for fried rice and the broth itself (there was a lot left over) can be easily turned into a sauce that goes great with vegetables or noodles. Yum!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Thanks for the tip of using the pork fat! Sometimes I think it’s too fatty and just threw them away… what a waste!
      Yes, the broth part is very delicious and you can boil / stir fry other things with it. Next time I will use those fat and broth to fry rice noodles. Should be so delicious! 🙂

      Reply
  2. veronica

    Thank you very much Maggie!I had been looking these recipe, exactly like yours. I lost my auntie last year, and only her could cooked these. Thank you once again

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Veronica, I’m sorry to hear about your aunt. Thanks for leaving a comment and I’m so happy to hear you like my recipes! If you are looking for a Chinese recipe, drop me a message anytime and I’ll try to develop it for you 🙂
      Have a great weekend!

      Reply
  3. David

    Hi, Maggie. i just went on a shopping adventure at the Asian market and picked up some pork belly. Do you think this recipe would work as a filling for the sticky rice cakes since I’m gluten free? Thanks for your continued advice while I explore Asian cooking.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi David, I believe it works in the sticky rice cake. But I personally would suggest to served them on the steamed rice or boiled rice noodles. After braising the pork belly, you will get very a delicious broth. We normally use the wheat bread to soak up some broth. Plus you will want to add some veggies (chopped peppers in this case), to balance the pork fat, so the whole thing won’t be too heavy. The flavor will be different if you only wrap the pork inside of the rice cake. For a gluten free dish, you can simply top the pork belly, broth, and chopped veggies on a bowl of rice or rice noodle soup (blend the braising broth into the water you used to cook the noodles to make the soup). It should be very delicious 🙂

      Reply
  4. Natalie Martinez

    Thank you, Maggie! I lived in Xi’an for 4 years, and have been seriously homesick for the food of Shaanxi province lately. The only restaurant that I can find that serves it is in NY (and I’m in CA!). This was my favorite Xianese dish, so thank you so much for taking the time to develop the recipe. Big hug!!!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Natalie, I’m so glad you like this dish! It’s one of my favorite street food and it’s super famous in Beijing as well. I haven’t found a place serving this dish in Texas yet. So yes, it’s great that we can cook it in our own kitchens 🙂
      Happy cooking and let me know how it turns out!

      Reply
  5. J-Mom

    I used different meat cuts because I couldn’t get pork belly but this was divine! My husband and I both stuffed ourselves silly because it was so hard to stop eating. After finishing the buns, my husband was still picking on the pork. Thank you for the recipe.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I’m so glad to hear you tried the recipe and enjoyed it! It is a famous street food in China that I hope more people would like to try out. Hope you have a great day and happy cooking 🙂

      Reply