Chop PHX: Pork Belly Buns from Nobuo
The Basics: The easiest way to understand the allure of a well-prepared pork belly bun is to consider that a pork belly is elemental bacon before it has been cut into the slices we are all so familiar with. At Nobuo these pork buns are a study in balance. A thick slice of braised savory and sweet pork belly is accented by a healthy dab of hoison sauce. Those flavors are contrasted with the tangy bite of pickled mustard greens and accentuated by the freshness of a cucumber slice. The complete flavor complex is cradled in the inviting folds of a soft mantou bun. Each complete bun is two or three bites at most but each bite is an almost perfect combination of sweet, savory, tangy and salty.
Nobou sous-chef Chris Bevington explains what goes into those buns after the jump.
Sous-chef Chris Bevington on the buns: "People can relate to it, it's approachable," Bevington said of the pork belly buns which are the most popular dish offered at Nobou. He attributed this not only to the balanced taste profile but also to how they fit into Nobou's overall izakaya style eating.
Izakaya? Essentially, Japanese tapas. They are establishments where you can go to drink, carouse and eat appropriately delicious drinking foods. Izakayas typically try to bring you your food from lighter to heavier foods. So, small plate gastropubs before they were cool.
After noshing on edamame and mind-blowingly good grapefruit and hamachi spoons, you generally want something heartier to finisht the meal and top off your stomach. This is where the pork belly bun comes in. Bevington said that the pork belly itself is braised on a low heat for hours. Enough time to cook the meat and rend some of the fat but not enough to render it into bacon. Carbs, fats, and salt delivered as compact finger food.