Pig’s head bao with chilli tamarind dressing

Pig’s head bao with chilli tamarind dressing

12 buns
Earl Carter

We have chef David Thompson to thank for the chilli tamarind sauce recipe, which is now indispensable in our kitchen. Braised and sliced pork jowl or belly is a worthy (and simpler) replacement for the pig’s head.


Quantity Ingredient
75g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
160g fresh breadcrumbs
125ml grapeseed oil
24 thin slices cucumber
1/4 cup picked coriander leaves

Pressed pig’s head

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon ground chinese five-spice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pig’s head
or 1kg piece pork belly
1 red asian shallot, finely diced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, white part only
2 tablespoons coriander, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce

Chilli tamarind dressing

Quantity Ingredient
1 fresh long red chilli
6 dried long red chillies, soaked and seeded
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
6 red asian shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 coriander roots, cleaned of all dirt and roughly chopped
3 scud or bird’s eye chillies, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tamarind puree
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice


Quantity Ingredient
450g ‘rooster’ brand steamed buns cake flour
115g caster sugar
250ml milk
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil


  1. To make the pressed pig’s head, combine the five-spice and salt and sprinkle this mixture over the pig’s head. Place on a rack in a baking dish and leave overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Place a saucepan fitted with a steamer on the stove and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Place the pig’s head in the steamer and cook for 3 hours. Remove from the steamer and, when the head is cool enough to handle, remove as much of the meat, skin and fat as possible, apart from the eyes. The head should yield approximately 1 kg meat.
  3. Thinly slice the ear. Peel the tongue and roughly chop it along with the rest of the flesh.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the meat well with the remaining ingredients. Taste to check the seasoning.
  5. Line a 20 x 10 cm deep tray with plastic wrap. Press the prepared head meat into the tray. Cover with plastic wrap and cover with another tray the same size. Chill in the refrigerator until very firm. Once set, cut the meat into 2.5 cm squares.
  6. To make the chilli tamarind dressing, heat a chargrill pan until hot. Place the fresh chillies on the grill, turning them until nicely charred. Next grill the dried chillies. Seed the fresh chillies and roughly chop them with the dried chillies. Set aside.
  7. In a medium saucepan over medium–low heat, gently warm the grapeseed oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 3–4 minutes until aromatic and wilted. Add the chilli and cook until aromatic. Transfer the shallots and chillies to a blender along with the coriander, scud chillies, tamarind, sugar, fish sauce, 2 tablespoons water and the lime juice. Blend the sauce until completely smooth. Set aside.
  8. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate shallow bowls. Dip the pork squares first in the flour, then in the beaten egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere.
  9. To make the buns, in a bowl combine the steamed buns cake flour and sugar. Using your hand, mix the flour and sugar while slowly adding the milk and oil to form a dough. Knead the dough for 3–4 minutes on a work surface until it is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place the dough balls on a tray and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough balls into 10 cm rounds. As you make them, place the buns on a tray lined with baking paper and leave them in the refrigerator until all the dumplings are finished. Place them in a bamboo steamer basket lined with baking paper and set aside.
  10. Heat the grapeseed oil in a frying pan over medium–low heat. Fry the crumbed pork until golden on all sides.
  11. Bring some water in a saucepan large enough to fit the bamboo steamer to the boil. While the pork is cooking, steam the buns for 4–5 minutes or until soft in the centre.
  12. To finish, open the buns and place ½ teaspoon of tamarind dressing onto each one, followed by a piece of fried pork, 2 slices of cucumber, ½ teaspoon more of tamarind dressing and some coriander.
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