Hu jiao bing (胡椒餅） is a street food that was first introduced to me when my Aunt Cynthia dubbed it her favorite snack food from Taiwan. Intrigued by the description of a baked bun filled with peppery marinated pork and tons of scallions, I really wanted to try one!
During Christmas break of 2005, my grandma took me to Taiwan as a early high school graduation gift. I had already gotten accepted into college, so the trip was a big treat that I enjoyed a lot.
I remember eating lots of good food in Taiwan that first trip, but one specific memory involving hu jiao bing stands out to me..
Puo puo (婆婆/grandma) and I were exploring the Taipei east section (zhongxiao dong lu) in search of some hu jiao bing for me to try. Someone tipped us off about a street vendor in some alley (there are lots of those..!) who made hu jiao bing. By the time we got there around dinnertime, it had started to drizzle, and the vendor’s ingredients had been exhausted. We were in line after a person who had just ordered a bunch of hu jiao bing. Seeing that the vendor’s supply of ingredients looked like it had been almost all exhausted, we asked how many hu jiao bing were left. The vendor said that there were no more, and that the customer in front had ordered the last hu jiao bing of the day. (If you don’t already know, when street vendors sell out, they dayang ( 打烊), meaning that they close shop for the day, whatever time it might be.)
Huddling under our umbrella and looking on at the marbles of hu jiao bing dough sticking to the inside of the charcoal-heated cooking pot, Puopuo and I expressed our disappointment and were about to leave. Just in time, that same customer modified the order to get 2 fewer hu jiao bing, which meant that we could get the very last 2!
We happily paid the vendor, got our hu jiao bing in little paper sleeves, returned home in the rain, and boy oh boy, were those hu jiao bing tasty! Intense white peppery burn, scallions, well seasoned meat, partially fluffy and partially crisp dough; it was just the right combination of my favorite things.
Puopuo and I still talk about that memory, and hu jiao bing remains high on my list of favorite Taiwan eats. To read about our adventures in Taiwan last year, where we visited the same mother-and-son-operated hu jiao bing place twice in 2 days, click here!
My puopuo is such a great cook that I know she wouldn’t ever need to refer to my recipe for hu jiao bing…Aunt Cynthia no longer eats meat. Regardless of both, Hsin Hsin Ah Yi and Puopuo, this post is in your honors! 🙂
By the way, the “hu jiao” aka pepper, refers to WHITE pepper, NOT BLACK pepper. Make sure you don’t use black pepper for this dish.
Hu Jiao Bing
（Literally translated as Pepper Bun, but more thoroughly translated as Peppery Pork Scallion Bun)
For the filling:
12 oz (340 grams) ground pork
1/2 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3/4 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 cups chopped scallions
For the dough:
3 cups (360 grams)all-purpose flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup – 1 cup water (see note on step #3)
3-4 Tbsp raw white sesame seeds
For the filling:
1) Mix together the filling ingredients, from the meat to the white pepper (inclusive) together. If the mixture is really hard to stir (say, if it is very fatty), add one teaspoon of water at a time so that the water can help break up the pork pieces. When the filling is well mixed up, the filling will start to form one big clump of filling, meaning that the fat has been mixed enough to help ‘glue’ everything together. Mix and mix until you see this big clump! This will take longer with leaner meat, as it doesn’t have as much fat to glue everything together. Do not add the scallions yet. Cover and refrigerate.
For the dough:
2) Add a few tablespoons of the 1 cup of water to the yeast to activate the yeast.
3) After the yeast is nice and bubbly/frothy, add almost all the remaining water (leave a few drips (~1/4 cup) behind). Add the flour and mix well. The dough will start off shaggy, but after it is mixed, there should be no flour that is not incorporated into the shaggy bits. As the flour gets hydrated, everything should easily come together into a ball of dough. If not, add some of your reserved water, a few teaspoons at a time, until it does. The dough will be be slightly stiff with some give; that’s okay. If it’s too wet (sticks to your hands), add a little more flour, a teaspoon at a time. Knead until the dough is smooth and homogeneous-5-10 minutes. These steps can obviously also be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.
4) Put the dough in a bowl, cover, and let it rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
5) Lightly punch down the dough (it will not be super puffy, but it should have risen a bit) and knead for a few minutes to make sure the dough is very smooth.
6) Divide the dough into 12-15 portions (your call; I did 15). If 15, each portion should be about 38 grams. If 12, each should be about 48 grams.
7) On a floured surface, take each mound/ball of dough and slightly stretch and tuck the corners underneath the center of the dough to reveal a smooth top. Round out the dough by cupping your hands around it and gently shaping it. You can also pretend you are wrapping filling inside the dough, and you want the folds to be on the bottom.
8) Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out each dough ball into a circular piece of dough, about 3-4 inches in diameter. Take the meat filling out from the fridge. Right now is the best time to taste for seasonings: microwave or pan-fry a little bit of the filling to see if it is salty and/or peppery enough. Adjust as needed, as your soy sauce and salt are probably not the same as my soy sauce and salt!
Filling the buns: For 15 servings, fill with 1 heaping Tbsp of meat mixture, then with 1-2 Tbsp scallions (the more, the merrier!) For 12 servings, scale up on the filling. Wrap the dough around the filling by using your dominant hand to make lots of small creases around the circumference/edges of the circle, pinching as you go around the circle. Use your non-dominant hand to rotate the filling+dough as you go along, and also feel free to use the thumb of this non-dominant hand to shove scallions into the filling. I am right handed, and I like to use my left hand to move the dough+filling in a clockwise motion. Do what works for you; the most important is that you have the filling securely wrapped in the dough.
9) Dip the smooth part of the dough ball in some water, or, use a pastry brush to gently brush the tops with water. Dip the top in white sesame seeds.
10) Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is nice and browny.
-These hu jiao bing are considerably smaller than the ones I ate in Taiwan. Feel free to adjust the amounts to make the sizes that you want, or keep them the ~3 inch diameter they are for good portion control.
-These are best eaten fresh. The more they get heated, the more yellow/brown the scallions turn. These freeze beautifully; just make sure you put them in a sturdy bag, free from freezer burn. You will need to add a few minutes to the cooking time, but not much.
-The smell of freshly ground white pepper > > > already ground white pepper, if you can get your hands on white peppercorns (try an Asian grocery store). Yes, please do use white pepper, otherwise it won’t taste right..
-Ground pork is OK, and I’m sure most people would opt for this out of convenience. But, for the best kou gan (口感）or mouth feel, hand-chop your pork. You can use pork shoulder or for a head start, you can even get pork chop (not center-cut, something fattier) and chop those up. -Your mileage may vary with the water amounts in the dough; my flour is Sir Galahad and it’s been so humid outside that it’s possible my flour has picked up some moisture?