I’m sure many people can relate to my latest shopping trip to Chinatown. I went for just one item – lemongrass for the marshmallows I made for the FiFis – but ended up buying much more than I originally intended. Specifically, I bought fresh cherries, fried tofu, chinese broccoli, canned wheat gluten, a nice pork belly, a roast pork bun for me, and a sweet red bean bun for Claudine, who accompanied me on this trip. The pork belly ended up on the dinner table the next night. Unlike my last recipe, I wanted to braise this one. It is actually based on the Chinese cooking method called “red-cooking”, which is commonly used for pork belly. The roasted version I previously made was fine, but wow, the braising really brings out the best of the belly – the meat is much more tender, and the fat… Let’s talk about the fat for a second. As much as I loved the cracklings from before, I loved the skin this time, because instead of being crisp it was completely the opposite – supremely soft, melt in your mouth goodness. Almost too rich and definitely not something for every day, but I will surely make it again.
Chinese-Style Braised Pork Belly (serves 4)
6 cups water
1 pork belly, about 2 pounds, with skin still on
1/2 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 pieces garlic, crusheed
3 slices fresh ginger
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon five spice powder
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the pork belly and return to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to medium low – enough to keep it at a low simmer. Simmer, covered, for 3-1/2 hours, until very tender. Check occasionally to see if the pork belly is submerged. If not, do not add more water. Instead just turn it over so the exposed side gets submerged. When it is cooked, remove and keep it warm while the sauce reduces. Increase the heat and boil the sauce unil it has reduced to just about one cup of liquid. Strain the sauce, discarding the solids. Slice the pork belly, put it on a serving dish and pour the sauce over. Eat it with rice and stir-fried chinese broccoli.