Spicy Red-braised Pork Belly
This dish is somewhat similar to my recipe for the Chinese classic Dongpo Pork 東坡肉 , except that the braising medium is much more vigorously reduced and the aromatics used are more complex. It is said that Mao Xedong favored a dish very much like this, but I have replaced the traditional Cinnamon and Star Anise with Black Cardamom and Fennel Seed, and used a Chili Paste instead of the more common Dried Chilies.
The Recipe Card below calls for Black Cardamom. If you cannot find it, don’t worry too much. There isn’t really a substitute, and the omission won’t ruin the dish. A small Cinnamon stick could be used, but this will have a different effect and the interesting smoky notes of the Black Cardamom won’t be replicated.
To prepare the Pork Belly, you need to briefly boil it in salted water for 4 or 5 minutes until barely cooked. This will speed the braising process a little bit, but is chiefly employed to render out a little fat and also blanch the meat so that it makes your finished sauce a little ‘cleaner’.
After the meat is blanched, let it cool and then cut it into bite-sized pieces. If you look, you can see that there is just a tinge of pink still remaining in the meat.
Next, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a moderately hot pan and stir in the sugar. Stir this until the sugar is melted and begins to brown to form a Caramel.
Now add the meat. Sir-fry this to brown and add the Chili Paste followed by the Rice Wine and Soy Sauce, the Black Cardamom, Fennel Seed, Ginger, and the Dried Orange Peel. Add water to cover, let it come almost to the boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
After an hour or so, the meat and the skin will be nicely tender. At this point, remove the meat to a bowl, strain the sauce and return the pan to the stove over high heat. Let the sauce now cook down until it starts to become syrupy.
Finally, add back the pork, and the Scallion greens. Cook until all is heated through and the onion is wilted. Serve hot.
Your Recipe Card:
Spicy Red-braised Pork Belly
- 1/2 lb. Pork Belly with Skin
- 2 Tbsp. Sugar
- 1 Tbsp. Chili Paste
- 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp. Rice Wine
- 1 Tbsp. Fennel Seed
- 1 Black Cardamom Pod optional
- 2 slices Ginger
- 3 Strips Dried Orange Peel
- 1 Scallion green part only, in 3″ sections
- Blanch the Pork Belly in boiling salted water for 4 – 5 minutes, then drain. When cooled, cut the Pork into largish bite-sized chunks.
- Heat two Tablespoons of oil in the pan over moderate heat, then add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved and turned brown.
- Add the Pork, and brown in the sugar-oil medium.
- Add the Chili Paste followed by the Rice Wine and Soy Sauce, the Black Cardamom, Fennel Seed, Ginger, and the Dried Orange Peel.
- Add water to cover, let it come almost to the boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
- When the Pork is fully cooked and the skin is soft, remove it, strain the braising medium, then return it to the pot, turn the heat to high and reduce the liquid until it is a syrupy consistency.
- Add back the pork, and the Scallion greens. Cook until all is heated through and the onion is wilted. Serve hot.