Today’s recipe is something of an experiment and you may want to read the notes carefully. The Chinese classic ‘Dong Po Pork’ is one of my all-time favourite dishes in Asian cuisine but, as unctuous and decadent as it is, it tends to contain a lot of sugar, which is something I try to avoid these days. Accordingly, I wanted to try something along the same lines but not so diabetic unfriendly. It is still basically pork-belly red-cooked in soy, but I have played around with the flavourings and needed to make an adjustment or two to the technique…
- 1lb Pork Belly slab with rind;
- 6 cloves Garlic, peeled and slightly crushed;
- 3 large slices of fresh Ginger;
- 1 Tbsp. White Peppercorns;
- 2 pods Black Cardamom;
- 2 slices dried Galanga;
- 3 dried Red Chilli Peppers;
- 4 small dried Scallop (Conpoy);
- 1/3 cup Soy;
- 1 ½ cups Water;
- 1 cup Rice Wine or Sherry;
- 4 Tbsp. Vinegar;
NOTE: The amounts for the liquid ingredients are not what I used but rather what I recalculated as being better for the recipe (as I will explain further on).
This is the slab of pork belly I am using. As for Dong Po Pork, you need to cut it into squarish chunks. The edge strip will not be used for this recipe (indeed, I used it to make myself breakfast on the day I began this dish).
The actual preparation is quite simple. All you need do is put the pork chunks skin-side down in a large pot and add the remaining ingredients. This though, is where I need to explain a change I had to make…
I initially began with a full cup of soy, having in mind my own dong Po Pork and Three-cup Chicken recipes. However, it wasn’t until later that I realized that the result would be so salty. In very sweet preparations, the high sugar content offsets the saltiness to a surprising degree. Accordingly, I had to dilute my sauce with water during cooking and I have changed my ingredient list to reflect a better mix.
Also… one effect of the high liquid amount and low sugar (which I did anticipate), is that it is not practical to reduce the full volume to a sauce as in Don Po Pork, rather, some thickener is required.
To cook the pork, put the pot on a very low heat and simmer very gently for between one to two hours until the skin is nice and tender. At that point, you can turn the chunks over and cook a little longer. As you can see, the liquid reduces quite a bit.
After cooking, remove the pork to a platter and strain the sauce. I put both the pork and the sauce into the fridge for a while to chill and later skimmed off the accumulated fat. It was just after doing this that I added water to make up the volume to just a little over the volume I had started with.
Here are the finished pork pieces which, if I do say so, are very nicely cooked indeed. Due to time considerations, rather than continue on directly, I kept these in the fridge along with the sauce for the next day.
As I mentioned, reducing this sauce to a sufficiently thick consistency would not produce a good result and so I thickened it with a cornstarch slurry (in the amounts of about 1 healthy teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of sauce). Once done, it was an easy task to just pop the pork back in the sauce for re-heating.
I served a few chunks with a ring of steamed broccoli as you can see in the first photograph. The result, I have to say, while a bit better than I expected, is still nowhere near as nice as a proper Dong Po Pork. A bit of tweaking might improve things but, really, it is the sweetness of the traditional dish that really makes the unctuous pork really shine. Still, it was an interesting experiment on the whole.
Oh … as for the pork belly trimmings, I made a small breakfast by frying small sections along with a little onion. I then stirred in two beaten eggs and a chopped Chinese Salted Duck Egg. Along with just a splash of hot sauce, this dish was really good….