It was many years ago when I first encountered what is called siao pao (show pow). I immediately fell in love with these. They are basically steamed buns filled with a meat mixture. It is the bun portion that I fell in love with however. The texture is unlike any other bun. It is soft, spongy, and just a pleasure to eat. It was not long ago when I was at one of the local oriental grocery stores, browsing through their frozen section and looking at all of their siao pao, when something caught my eye. It was a package with oriental writing on the front, with a picture of these buns that looked like a foldable tortilla. They were called “Frozen Gwa Pao”. I had no clue, but visually I knew I was sold and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.
I was excited to say the least. It was if I had found something I had been looking for, for so long. I was even excited for my family as they were going to experience a whole new meal. A whole new take on one of their favorite meals; tacos.
So as I often do when I do not have a busy weekend schedule, I prepare my smoker and prepare some meat to be smoked. Typically a pork shoulder, pork belly, ribs, steaks, sausage, or fish, this one weekend, it was simply a pork shoulder. See I get this idea that when I am done smoking a shoulder that we will eat it over the course of the following few days, and we typically do. So after injecting my four pound pork shoulder that was generously seasoned with salt and pepper, I placed it on my smoker, cracked a beer, and enjoyed the next 30 minutes or so before I placed a few large chunks of soaked cherry wood onto the coals. About 30 minutes later, my smoking drum was being overwhelmed with the the smoke from the cherry wood. The result I was looking for. Roughly 5 hours later, I fed some more hot coals into the smoker, wrapped by shoulder in foil, and proceeded to cook it another 4 hours. When I pulled the shoulder off of the smoker, I let it come to room temperature, then placed in the refrigerator.
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, ‘What? You did not serve it that day?!’. Nope, I did not. We were going to feast it the following day, after I placed in the slow cooker for another four hours! I have been doing this now for some time. Smoke large pieces of meat, like shoulders, all day, then the following day placing it in a slow cooker. The result is something extraordinary. The end result is a pork should that has great smoke rings throughout the meat, not overdone by the smoke, and fall apart tender, this one is hard to beat.
Lets get started as we already have the main ingredient done, but the surprise still to come!
- 4lb pork shoulder, smoked and pulled
- 2 cups of green cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1/4 cup of onion, minced
- 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
- splash of cider vinegar
- pinch of sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Your favorite barbecue sauce
- Taiwanese Gwa Pao, steamed
Make your simple slaw. If you want to buy store bought, go ahead, but making your own is just too simple. Place your cabbage, carrot, salt and pepper, and mayonnaise into a bowl. Add the vinegar and sugar. Mix well and set aside.
The next step is to take your frozen gwa pao out from the freezer and steam them according to the package. This give you an opportunity to use your steamer as well. If you do not have one, I recommend a bamboo steamer from an oriental grocery store. You have three tiers of steaming, and it is great for making dim sum, plus they are really affordable.!
While the buns are steaming, I take a couple of handfuls of the succulent pulled pork, and add it to a preheated skillet with a bit of oil. I like to lightly crisp up some of the pulled pork, plus my family goes nuts over it. Take your steamed buns out of the steamer and place in a covered vessel, like a tortilla warmer. The goal is to keep them warm.
When we all sat down at the table, the kids did not know what was going on. They asked what was for dinner, and I said tacos. Tacos? They did not see any tortillas, nor cheese, or sliced avocado, cilantro, or onion for that matter. You could see their confusion.
After explaining my idea of a new taco, they were curious, and began piling the pulled pork into the lovely steamed bun. Coleslaw and barbecue sauce were there for the taking, but my kids kept it simple, as they do their tacos. Meat and bun. They loved them! My wife was excited about them as well and gobbled them up, as I did. I made mine with the works, using coleslaw and a beer barbecue sauce.
The result was an experience like no other. It was like we were eating dim sum, and these great tacos were on the menu that the non-asian cook in the back of the kitchen decided to whip up. They were amazing and I still think of them a lot. So go ahead and visit a local oriental grocery store, and take your time to browse around, because it is when you encounter something like the gwa pao, that will allow you to ultimately create something wonderful. Enjoy!