Happy Chinese New Year! Over the weekend, I had the privilege of hosting a small dinner with family and friends, giving me a great excuse to whip up something Chinese.
Though I have significant Chinese heritage, I’m not very experienced in traditional Asian cooking techniques. Don’t get me wrong: I love eating Chinese… for me it’s right up there with sleep-ins, massages and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. But I must admit I’ve always found cooking Chinese cuisine a little intimidating. Yes, that’s right… (an Australian bred) Chinese-Filipino woman scared of Chinese cooking.
So to rise above my crazy fear and embrace my Chinese roots, I decided to cook some sticky braised pork belly. The belly is a popular cut of pork that is a bit of a hero in Chinese cooking (tasty, cheap, and oh-so-indulgent). This particular recipe also calls for the pork to be cooked slowly in an aromatic master stock flavoured with traditional Chinese dry spices and fresh herbs.
The use of a master stock is a traditional Chinese cooking method where the stock is intended to be used over-and-over again, flavouring each subsequent dish with an increasingly concentrated aromatic infusion.
The sticky braised pork belly was a success, and now I hope this master stock will provide me with many more future returns =)
Sticky Braised Pork Belly
Chinese Master Stock
- 3L water
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
- 3 cm piece of ginger, sliced
- 3-4 shallot roots
- The roots from a bunch of coriander
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 200ml light soy sauce
- 375ml shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
- 60g palm sugar
- 1 kg pork belly
Sticky Braising Sauce
- 1 cup strained master stock
- ¼ cup light soy sauce
- 100g brown sugar
- 1 tsp five spice
- 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
- 1 shallot, white and green sliced finely on the diagonal
- 2 tbsp finely sliced fresh coriander leaves
- 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
The day before
- Place the master stock ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Taste stock for balance of flavours and adjust as required (it should be pleasantly salty with a hint of sweet). Submerge the pork belly in the master stock and gently simmer for an hour and a half, until tender but not falling apart.
- Remove the pork belly and set aside to cool.
To braise the pork belly
- Slice the cooled pork belly into generous cubes.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the cup of master stock, soy sauce, brown sugar and five spice over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add the rice wine vinegar and fish sauce, and then add the cubes of pork belly. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat. Simmer the pork for 20 minutes, until the sauce is thick and gelatinous.
- Arrange the pork with some cubes on their side displaying their succulent layers, others with the juicy fat facing up. Place the hard-boiled around the pork, and then spoon the sticky sauce over the shiny pork and eggs. Sprinkle with the shallots, coriander and sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice and simple steamed greens.
Note When the an opportunity arises to re-use the master stock, replenish with 500ml cold water, fresh garlic, ginger, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and shallots and coriander roots. To store, allow it to completely cool, before straining through a fine sieve. It can be then be refrigerated or stored longer by placing it in the deep freeze.