Keto-Friendly Braised Pork-Belly

Keto-Friendly Braised Pork-Belly

This dish is a re-interpretation of the classic Chinese dish Dong Po Pork. That famous preparation is deliciously unctuous and the sauce is a delightfully sweet reduction of the braising medium. Here, the Pork Belly is made Keto-friendly by omitting sugar entirely and replacing the missing sweetness with the pungency of a Western Chinese blend of spices. It changes the character of the original, of course, but it makes a terrific and tasty alternative for diabetics, or those on a low-carb diet.

Ingredient Notes

You will see that the ingredient list in the recipe card below calls for cornstarch for thickening. In the classic Dong Po Pork, reducing the braising medium produces a thick, sweet sauce that is almost a glaze. That will not work well here so if you want to thicken the cooking liquid, and this is not absolutely required, you can do so with a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch made into a paste with water) at a ration of one tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of sauce you wish to thicken.

Dried Galanga (a.k.a. Galangal) is a spice that is not widely used in China except in the Western regions. You can substitute fresh (although this is harder to source), and if you can’t find it, the dish won’t be ruined if it is omitted.

The Conpoy called for adds a rich, umami depth to the braising medium. If you are not terribly familiar with this, you may wish to look at my post on How to Prepare and Use Dried Scallops.

The Method for Making Keto-Friendly Braised Pork-Belly

A Pork Belly Slab Trimmed and Cut into Chunks for Braising
A Pork Belly Slab Trimmed and Cut into Chunks for Braising

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).

Pork Belly Chunks in a Red-Cooking Medium
Pork Belly Chunks in a Red-Cooking Medium

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 except the cornstarch.

Pork Belly after Braising in a Spicy Soy-based Medium
Pork Belly after Braising in a Spicy Soy-based Medium

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.

Skimming Fat from a Red-Cooking Medium
Skimming Fat from a Red-Cooking Medium

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.

Cooled Braised Pork Belly Chunks
Cooled Braised Pork Belly Chunks

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.

Finishing Keto-Friendly Braised Pork-Belly
Finishing Keto-Friendly Braised Pork-Belly

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.

Pork Belly Trimmings fried with Salted Duck Egg
Pork Belly Trimmings fried with Salted Duck Egg

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 too….

Your Recipe Card:

Keto-Friendly Braised Pork-Belly

This Keto-Friendly Braised Pork-Belly is a low-sugar variation on the classic Dong Po Pork. A richer spice blend is used in lieu of the missing sweetness.
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Black Cardamom, Galanga, Garlic, Ginger, Pork Belly, Rice Wine, Soy Sauce
Author: John Thompson

Ingredients

  • 1 lb 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;
  • Cornstarch for thickening.

Instructions

  • Trim the Pork-Belly slab and cut it into 2-inch squares, preserving the rind.
  • Put the Pork in a pot with all the ingredients except the cornstarch and add water to cover. Simmer at low heat for two hours or so until the pork rind is tender.
  • Remove the Pork from the pot and strain the braising medium, skimming off any excess fat.
  • Finally, restore the sauce to its original volume with water and reheat in a pot, thickening it, if desired, with a cornstarch slurry made with one tablespoon of starch for each cup of sauce.
  • Add the pork back into the sauce to reheat, then serve.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!