Monday, February 18, 2013

Cua Pao (Gua Bao) Obsession

I never realized until today that cua pao or gua bao originated from Taiwan. It is a popular street food.

I do not know why I suddenly had a Cua Pao Obession.

Maybe because a few weeks ago, I tried the cua pao of Chocful of Nuts in Shoppesville, Greenhills. Since then, I have been on a quest for the cua pao of my childhood.

I do not know if you still remember the small Chinese stall at one of the entrances of Makati Supermarket when it was still in Makati Commercial Center? I loved their cua pao. It was very simple in taste but I could not forget it. I know it had a slice of pork belly, preserved mustard leaves and crushed peanuts inside the mantou. They prepared it right before my eyes upon order.

I researched online and asked a lot of people where to eat good cua pao.

Last Friday, I went to the Travel Expo at the SMX Convention Center. I saw the Polland stall in the food area and tried their Liempo Cua Pao.

I also went to Meylin, a lot of people said they have the best cua pao with Pata.

Then last Saturday, I went to Spring by Ha Yuan on Benavidez St., Legazpi Village. It was recommended by Sansan.

Tita Linda said, Emer's at the basement of Makati Cinema was another must-try cua pao. I also read about it in some blogs.

On the same day, I also ordered the cua pao of Hen Lin.

There was nothing wrong with all the cua paos I ate. They even tasted good.

The problem was, they were not what I was looking for.

In my obsession and desperation, I made my own at home!

First, I cooked Braised Pork Belly.

I wanted to buy the preserved mustard leaves in Farmer's but Mayette said, the stall I directed her to ran out of stock. Sansan said just to add salt and let it sit in the fridge for a few days but I could not wait that long. I added salt to the fresh mustard leaves and let it sit for a while to draw out the moisture then blanched it before dinner.

I bought a small pack of peanuts and ground it with my coffee grinder. I added white sugar but in hindsight, I should not have done that.

Sansan said the mantou bread at David's Teahouse is very good, but I was feeling sick all day long. I could hardly get up after breakfast because of my head congestion, I even felt dizzy. I was really so excited to make cua pao that I pumped myself with a lot of medications just so I could buy what I need for my experiment. I did not have a choice, I had to take steroids which is bad for me because it will raise my sugar but I could not breathe anymore. So, after a round of Decilon, Allerta, Neozep and Ava Mist, I was able to get up.

I ordered the mantou bread at Mongkok, 2 pcs./order. I just steamed the bread for 10 minutes.

I chopped the blanched mustard leaves then squeezed out the water before putting it on the bread.

Added a slice of Braised Pork Belly....

Sprinkled with the peanut/sugar mixture

and drizzled with the thickened sauce.

It was OK..... But I feel it would taste better with the preserved mustard and perhaps just crushed nuts without sugar.

I am very near my goal. If they still do not have the preserved mustard at Farmer's, then I will have to take a short trip to Chinatown in Binondo!

Wish me luck on my next Cua Pao Experiment!

P.S. I am off the wheat-free lifestyle until I am done with my obsession.



  1. You can find preserved mustard greens in the Chinese groceries in San Juan: Wei Wang and DEC on Wilson St. and Little Store on Abad Santos St. Just ask for kiam chay. Wei Wang has it in tubs just outside the store; the staff will get you a head of preserved mustard greens, wring the excess water from it, weight it, and give it to the owner so she could ring up the sale. Nathan

    1. My preserved mustard is made by rubbing the leaves with generous portions of salt and steeping them in "hugas-bigas" (the Singaporean way to preserve them) and letting them ferment in 2-4 weeks until it smells sour and tastes like sauerkraut. After that long process, wring out, wash, mince and saute and serve with the cuapao. As for the pork, I recommend you to do the master stock (garlic, leek ends, pounded ginger, cooking wine, salt, sugar,dark soy, oyster sauce and red chili flakes) make sure you pressure cooked the monster if you want a juicy fatty slice. After that you have to remove pressure and make it reduce into a sticky, juicy mess. Note for the sugar, use dark brown for that browny, caramel color. use the drippings to make sauce by combining it with sugar and hoisin thickened with a little slurry.