Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Succulent Pork Belly With Soy And Star Anise

"East Meets West", this week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC). This week we are to cook one of Diana Henry's dishes with a global influence. I was looking through her cookbook, "Food From Plenty", as was surprised to find this Chinese recipe of braised pork. According to her, "A pot of eastern deliciousness that is irresistibly more-rish. It also takes very little effort. Mushrooms make a good addition if you want to extend the dish with vegetables. You can obviously tailor this to suit your palate; not everyone is a big fan of star anise, for example, but stick to eastern flavours." 

Where does '"East Meets West" fits in this dish? Eastern ingredients ; star anise, rice wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce. And for West....well, I'm picturing this pot is braising in Henry's western kitchen! Just realized when I was writing this post, that this is not a western dish with eastern influence, but a full eastern dish instead! 

Succulent Pork Belly with Soy and Star Anise

I cook this dish with some little changes. I've added mushrooms as Henry suggested, and also because we love mushrooms in braised meat dishes such as this. Dry shiitake mushrooms are soaked till soften, discard the stems and cut the caps into half if the mushrooms are big, leave them whole if they are small. 

Confusion comes in when it comes to soy sauce! Henry's recipe calls for 120ml of dark soy sauce. I have never used so much of dark soy sauce in a dish. Generally there are two types of soy sauce, which are dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. I was wondering whether she really meant light soy sauce, as dark soy sauce is not as salty as light soy sauce, and there's no salt used at all in her dish. Dark soy sauce is thicker and darker, with caramel or cornstarch added, and frequently used in marinades and sauces to add more flavour and colour. It is very much less salty than light soy sauce. Furthermore, in her recipe instructions, the pork is removed at the end of cooking time, and the braising sauce is further boiled until thickened but she advised that don't take it so far that it is unpalatably salty (but there's nothing in her ingredients that suggest anything salty!). I've decided to use light soy sauce, as it is one of the main ingredients I always used for Chinese braised meat dishes. And I do not use salt for my dishes either. (I really think she meant light soy sauce in the recipe and not dark soy sauce!)

I have only used about 1 tsp of sugar, as I prefer salty braised dishes to sweet. And have used only a teaspoon of vinegar too, as I do not like too much of vinegar in dishes like this. Taste as you cook, adjust to your preference. I have skipped the last part of thickening the braising sauce, as we like to have more gravy to eat with rice.

A tasty and nice dish. Fragrant from the star anise and the pork belly is really tender soft. Mushrooms always adds a wonderful flavour to braised dishes like this, and gets deliciously soft when braised for a couple of hours. Nice dish to eat with white rice, and a green stir-fried veggie on the side.

Succulent Pork Belly With Soy And Star Anise
(adapted from "Food From Plenty", Diana Henry)
Serves 6-8
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) pork belly, bones removed, rind left on
120ml (4fl oz) dark soy sauce (I use light soy sauce)
I use about 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
75ml (2-1/2fl oz) Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
25ml (spare 1fl oz) rice vinegar
2-1/2 tbsp soft light brown sugar (I use 1 tsp)
5cm (2in) square of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced
3 star anise
10 dried shiitake mushrooms (my addition, soaked until softened, discard stems, cut caps into half)
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
12 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
  1. Cut the pork belly into chunks about 5cm (2in) square. Put these in a saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat so that the water is simmering and cook the pork for 5 minutes. Skim the surface of any scum that rises.
  2. Strain the pork (discard the cooking water), rinse the pan and return the pork. Add about 1.4 litres (2-1/2 pints) water (or light chicken stock if you have it), plus all the other ingredients (using only half the spring onions), Bring this up to the boil, then immediately reduce to a gentle simmer, cover tightly with a lid and leave to cook very gently for about 2 hours, or until the pork is completely tender. Make sure it doesn't boil dry and add more water if needed.
  3. Scoop the pork out of the cooking liquor with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the cooking liquor by boiling it until you have a good, intensified flavour (but don't take it so far that it is unpalatably salty). Return the pork to the liquid and heat through. Serve in bowls over noodles, or with boiled rice, with the rest of the spring onions sprinkled over the top. Some kind of stir-fried greens - cabbage or bok choi - are good served on the side, too.

I'm linking this post with I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week "East Meets West"

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  1. One of my childhood favourites! This is mouthwatering!

  2. Hi Joyce this looks delicious , Thanks for sharing , Pinning :)

  3. succulent, rich, deep, hearty, my goodness I could go on and on. IT looks to die for

  4. Oooo been a while since I cooked this as am trying to cut down on pork belly. But we loveeee this! So yummy with lots of rice. Looks good!

  5. Joyce, the words "succulent" and "pork belly" drove me over here straight away! I suppose this dish is a variation of our "tau eu bak", something which I can never get tired of. Bring over the ricepot and sambal belacan hah..hah...

  6. Hi Joyce,
    I used more dark soy sauce for my braised pork dish. This pot of yours looked very yummy-licious !

  7. Joyce , I think if you followed the recipe , the color of the dish would be too dark :D Your scrumptious dish reminds me of my braised pork belly sans the star anise .

  8. Hi Joyce,
    I find it's always best to go with your instinct as you have done in this recipe. Food is quickly becoming borderless which I'm not quite sure I agree with. What happens is I guess a "fusion" but it is important to remember some dishes and ingredients are traditionally required, as they should be.

    Of course your Pork Belly looks enticing. I love the scent of star anise. I actually found some tucked in the back of my pantry yesterday, lol...I'd be serving this deliciousness over rice:)

    Thank you so much for sharing, Joyce...

  9. It does sound delicious! I would have thought 120ml light soy sauce would make it very salty though - it's quite a lot! I'd probably do half and half, dark for colour and light for seasoning.

  10. That looks really delicious, Joyce! The flavours are similar to the chicken dish I made so I know it tastes fabulous too!

  11. I really love star anise and the wonderful flavor it adds to a recipe. This looks like such a succulent and palate (and belly) pleasing dish! ;-)

  12. Everything you make always looks delicious, Joyce! This makes me want to source out a pork belly (very hard to find in my area) and cook this dish. I bet it was succulent and pleasing!

    P.S. Thanks for sharing your recipe for Diana's Asian Pork Balls with Chilli Dipping Sauce. They looked sensational when you made them so I chose them for my recipe this week and we devoured them!

  13. Yes, I am sure it is dark soy sauce. Chinese use dark soy sauce to make this dish, some chef even not using any water, but just add the whole bottle of dark soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is sweeter if compare to light soy sauce. But it is salty too. And Chinese like the color of dark soy sauce in this dish. My mother cooks this often and my whole family like it very much. Try to add some tofu and carrot, it is good. And cook pig legs with this recipe, it turns out great too. :)

  14. Eastern dish? Western dish? I don't mind where it comes from, this just looks downright delicious and the kind of dish that I would love to just dive into.

    Actually, whilst on the surface this appears to be a straight out Eastern dish, when I read your post, and all your little tips and hints in the hands of someone who knows Eastern flavours and techniques inside out, it becomes quite clear that the original recipe is actually a bit of a Westernised version of an Eastern dish. So this fits the brief perfectly in my view. Great choice.