Pork belly is the new star trend today. If I see pork belly on their menu, I know their chef is a creative one who ain’t afraid of trying something new. Prior to this, the only pork belly you see is at a Chinese restaurant – the infamous roasted pork belly with its crackling skin, but that’s not what I’m making today (maybe some other day).
Pork belly is tough! Not just tough cooking it but tough meat, tough skin, and tough fat. You really got to give it time for its fat to melt and for its meat to tenderize so the whole darn thing can just melt in your mouth when you eat it. People gives out the funniest sound when they taste that heavenly texture – like orgasm I don’t know lol. It takes about 2 to 3 hours for this whole process to happen. This is my American Chinese braised pork belly recipe.
So what’s the deal with no soy sauce? Doesn’t all Chinese braising recipe has some sort of soy sauce in it? Yes, hence I called mine American Chinese lol. If you read my previous post, I’m on a special eating mission, no soy product means no soy sauce. People who are allergic to soy products can eat this. My soy sauce substitute for this recipe was the following: vegetarian beef bouillon (no MSG)(or beef broth) + balsamic vinegar + salt + sake (or some sort of cooking wine). It actually mimics soy sauce quite well: the beef flavor mimics the aroma, the balsamic vinegar mimics the color and glazing quality, salt for its saltiness, and sake for it’s alcohol content in soy sauce. (Here’s some random recipe I found online for soy sauce substitute if anyone’s curious http://allrecipes.com/recipe/soy-sauce-substitute/)
Rock sugar is another common ingredient in Chinese braising liquid, but I used maple syrup and palm sugar. If you want to stay with natural sweeteners that doesn’t make your insulin have crazy flux and you can afford it, use maple syrup (lots).
Pork skin – lots of recipe will tell you to cut off the thick pork skin on top but I personally love the chewy texture of it. If you braised it long enough, it would be very malleable and yummy. And c’mon, I”m Chinese afterall, we waste no parts!
AMERICAN CHINESE BRAISED PORK BELLY RECIPE
So I basically adapted it from a combination of these two recipes in term of spices and amount, but I used a soy sauce substitute instead.
1-3 lbs of thick pork belly strips (in Asian market) (I only cooked 1 thick strip which is about 1 lb – serves 2 person, but the braising liquid is plenty for up to 3 lbs), remove bone, chop into 1 inch chunk pieces.
2-3 whole eggs (optional)
4 cups cold water (if you’re using liquid broth, replace all water with broth or do 1/2 of each and skip the bouillons.)
2 cubes of (vegetarian) beef bouillon + 1 tbsp salt (use 1 cube if you’re using bouillon with MSG in it and ditch the additional salt)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup japanese mirin (if don’t have mirin, omit it)
1/2 cup sake
1 piece of 1 inch round palm sugar (rock sugar=3 large pieces of rock sugar) – sweeten to your taste, remember that as the broth boils down, the sweetness becomes concentrated.
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp thyme (optional) (for some Mediterranean flavor)
1 tsp rosemary (optional)
2 packets black tea (optional) (inspired from Chinese Tea Egg, which is the exact same liquid but with tea added for a nice aroma)
1. Wash pork belly and dry. Chop into 1 inch chunks for braising (don’t cut it smaller or else it might melt into the liquid)
2. Optional step: If you want to, pan fry the pork belly for 1 minutes on each side before putting it into the braising liquid (I did not).
3. Put all the braising liquid ingredients into a dutch oven or wok and boil.
3. Once the liquid comes to a boil, place the pork belly into the liquid and turn the heat to low (2-3). Simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Turn the heat up to to medium (5-6) so it’s slowly bubbling. Braise for another 45 minutes. Put in uncooked eggs.
5. This is the time to adjust last minute seasoning. Need more salt, more sweetener, more white pepper, more five spices? Take the eggs out and crack it around on the counter and put it back into the braising liquid (If you don’t care about egg patterns and is more worry about egg shells in your food, then peel egg shell completely.)
6. Turn the heat up to medium (7) and braise for another 40-45 minutes when the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze that just covers right above the meat.
7. Poke a piece of meat with a fork. If it pokes in easily and falls off tenderly then it’s ready. Better yet, chew a piece to find out. If not tender enough, add some water and braise a little longer.
8. Optional step: If you prefer serving smaller pieces of pork belly, remove them from liquid and slice them. Half the egg for serving if you added eggs.
9. Serve with white rice and top/glaze with braising liquids. Garnish with cilantro or fried shallots(Taiwanese style)
You really are killing 2 birds with two stones here. You’re making braised pork belly and tea eggs. 😀