Monday, October 1, 2012

Braised Pork Belly In Sweet Sauce

Hubby and I attempted to make this dish, after catching an episode of 8TV's 'Hot Chef Getaways Season 2', where the chefs and the TV programme host would go to different parts of the country and visit homes of different families, who would introduce a variety of dishes and local family favourites.

In one episode, the aunty had introduced braised pork belly (it's not char siew), and the ingredients and steps were pretty simple. So we both figured, let's give it a shot. After catching the repeat episode on Tonton, we decided to find one weekend to try making the dish. Problem was, the episode did not state the ingredients portions, so I had to roughly estimate (agak-agak lah).

Ingredients
600 grams 3 layer pork belly
2 tbps cooking oil
1 tbps garlic (finely minced)
1 tbps onions/shallots (finely minced) > we made a boo-boo and forgot this ingredient
5 slices galangal (blue ginger)
2 tbps rock sugar
2 tbps dark (caramel) soy sauce 
1 1/2 tbps oyster sauce
1 tps 5 spice powder 
Water (to submerge the pork during braising)
A dash of white pepper
Hard boiled eggs (optional)

Blanch the pork in hot water for a few minutes, to get rid of the musky smell. Pat dry and set aside. Heat up a wok and coat it with oil, add the garlic and onions, and stir fry until aromatic. In our first attempt, we forgot to get the onions/shallots, so our first try was without this ingredient. 

Add the rock sugar, 5 spice powder, pepper, oyster sauce and dark soy sauce, and allow the rock sugar to caramelize. Next, add the water and bring to boil. Place the blanched pork belly into the wok and bring to boil on high heat for 15 minutes. We made a mistake by not pouring enough water to submerge the pork completely (only covered half), so half way during the cooking process, I had to readjust the water level a little. Note to self: Next attempt, ensure water covers pork completely.

Braising the pork belly in medium-low heat.
See how the sauce thickens and you get a lovely shiny coat.
Bring to boil at high heat for 15 minutes, then adjust to medium-low heat, and simmer for another 30mins, and  on the last minutes, bring the heat back to high for another 10-5 minutes. This simmering step is according to the TV programme. However, during our first attempt, we had to adjust because we had miscalculated the water level, and also because the gravy had thickened after 30 minutes of slow simmering. As cooking is a lot of trial and error, I suggest you tweak accordingly.

One step which I will omit the next time I make this dish: *DO NOT PUT HARD BOILED EGGS TO  BRAISE WITH PORK. I don't know how the aunty did it without the hard boiled eggs turning hard while braising. Also, I don't know what happened nor can I explain it, but when I shut the flames after the sauce thickened, one of the hard boiled eggs exploded and popped out from the wok, landing on the kitchen counter with a splat. Talk about a kitchen mess :/

*Updated: Learnt a new trick to ensure the hard boiled egg doesn't harden up during the braising process. Leave the eggs in their shells, just crack the shell a bit, kinda like the herbal egg method.

The final outcome...
Here's the final outcome and verdict. The sauce consistency and flavour was quite ok, sweet and flavourful (goes well with white flower buns, noms), so I guess my estimation for the sugar, dark soy sauce and oyster sauce is passable. As for the meat texture, I think it's because we didn't submerge the pork completely during the first round of simmering, so the meat wasn't as tender as we had anticipated. Also, because this is 3 layer pork, the skin wasn't as tender too, a little springy (Q-Q).

We will definitely attempt this recipe again over the weekend, to try to perfect it. Must remember to submerge the pork completely in water, and slowly braise it until tender.

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