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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Five Spice Braised Pork Belly: part II


This is such a simple recipe you might think I'm not revealing all the secrets. Trust me, I am. I gave you the recipe for my super secret Five Spice powder didn't I?

I'm sorry to have kept you waiting a while. I just had another nasty bout of flu that got me totally down for the count. I was barely coherent enough to speak, let alone blog. Anyway, all is behind me now. To those of you who've been following the alarming Status Message on my Facebook, I'm fine now. And, no, I didn't have bird flu, I was just being a cry baby, sorry if I scared anyone. Now, back to the long awaited braised pork belly, shall we?

Once you've made the Five Spice powder from part I of this post, this dish is total child's play. (Even if you didn't make your own Five Spice powder you could easily substitute the store-bought stuff. Won't be as good and it will do.) Once the braise it done, you could serve it on top of rice noodle, or any other kind of noodle that you like. You can even serve it on rice. I usually make a little chili-garlic-vinegar condiment to serve on the side. It adds a nice tang to cut through the fatty goodness in the belly.

Five Spice Braised Pork Belly

3-4 pounds skin-on pork belly, if you can find the belly with the rib bones attached, use it (rinse well and pat dry)
1 medium onion, diced
2-inch long knob of ginger, peeled and but into thin slices, lengthwise
2 tbsp Five Spice powder
3 cloves of garlic
2tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (You can substitute 2tbsp regular soy sauce plus 1/2 tbsp brown sugar.)
3 tbsp fish sauce (plus more to taste)
plus a handful of cilantro leaves for garnish.


Take half the ginger slices and chop them finely. Reserve the rest for a bit later.

Use a large dutch oven large enough in diameter to lay the pork belly flat in it. Heat the pan over medium high heat, add the oil, then the diced onions. Cook until translucent, then add the chopped ginger and the Five Spice powder. Continue cooking the onions and spices, stirring vigorously, until fragrant, about two minutes.

Lay the pork belly flat, skin side down, on the pot over the onions and spices. Add enough water to completely cover the belly and then some. Add the dark soy sauce (or soy sauce+brown sugar substitute) and the fish sauce. Peel the garlic cloves, crush and then add them to the pot.

Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a boil. Skim any foamy scum from the top. Then, open the lid slightly, and let simmer over low heat for at least three hours (skim occasionally) or until the pork is falling off the bone tender.

Once the belly is ready--it should have by now shrunk a good deal--remove it from the large pot and add it to a medium saucepan and set aside, covered. You should still have a good amount of braising liquid left in the big pot. It's now time to reduce it to a thicker and more unctuous consistency. To do that, turn the heat back up to high, remove the lid, add the rest of the ginger slices, and let the liquid cook down until it's the consistency you like. (This can take ten minutes, it might take a half hour, you just have to keep watch and guesstimate yourself.) At this point, if you have a stick blender, I'd give it a whirl or two in the pot to blend everything together. If you don't have one, don't bother. In either case, strain the liquid into the medium saucepan with the cooked belly, and return the saucepan to the stove. Heat again until the pork belly is warmed through. You might want to check the seasoning again, add more fish sauce or soy sauce if it needs a bit more.

As I said earlier, you can serve this over rice or any kind of noodle you have. I usually blanch and bit of bok choy or other Asian vegetables and tuck them under the noodles. They provide a nice crunch and a fresh green flavor to the the dish. It also helps to garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro.

If you like, you can also make my chili-garlic-vinegar condiment to drizzle over the pork to help cut through the fat a bit.

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 bird-eye peppers, finely chopped
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp white sugar
Mix well and serve as a condiment with the pork belly.

Tomorrow, a slight variation of this, using chicken thighs and legs, served with yellow egg noodle.


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