What makes this dish is the quality of the black bean soy sauce. I choose not to overpower the lovely flavour of  this special black bean soy sauce with aromatics. There is no 5-spice powder, fennel or cinnamon. Keeping it lightly flavoured makes the difference. I know enough people who love pork belly. Hence, this is the cut of pork that I use. I have an aversion to eating animal fat so I cook with lean cuts of pork but for this dish, you have to use pork belly as it is best suited for braising. This cut of meat breaks down into tender melt in your mouth morsels with slow cooking. I have cooked this dish with pork shoulder which works quite well but everyone else except for a few much prefer pork belly so it’s pork belly that I suggest you use. You will have a lot of sauce from braising the pork and none of it will be wasted. Use it to sauce firm tofu and boiled eggs. Yum, yum, yum.

Braised Belly Pork In Black Bean Sauce Flavoured Lightly With Star Anise And Cloves

Prep: 15 minutes 
Cook: ~1 – 1 hour 15 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Moderately easy
Serves: ~3 – 5
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Up to 3 days ahead.

Ingredients

2lbs (900g) pork belly cut into 2 equal portions
1.41oz (40g) yellow/golden rock sugar*
OR
cleared coloured rock sugar*
OR

granulated sugar*
3 medium-size garlic cloves
0.52oz (15g) cleaned knob of ginger
3 segments of star anise
1 stick of clove
1/2 cup (125ml) “Ta Tung” brand Light Black Bean Soy Sauce**
1 and 1/3 cups (330ml) store bought salted chicken stock made without onions, carrots etc.***
OR
1 teaspoon chicken granules
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (add towards the end, adjusting to taste)
Enough water to almost cover the top of the pork.
*Grind rock sugar in a coffee grinder until fine before using to caramelise pork. I prefer the yellow (or golden) coloured rock sugar as it provides a slightly lighter sweetness as compared to clear coloured rock sugar. Granulated sugar will give you a sweeter tasting sauce. You can buy the rock sugar in some supermarkets (look for it along the dried food or sugar aisle) and in Asian grocery stores. I use rock sugar to flavour my Ginger Tea. Click on link to read more.
** Most soy sauce sitting on supermarket shelves are made from yellow soy beans. Whilst you can make the braised pork belly from those soy sauce, once you make braise pork with a light (not thick or dark) black bean soy sauce, you will notice a taste difference between yellow and black bean soy sauce braised pork. Where to buy? Look for it in the supermarket aisle where you would find regular soy sauce. There should be at least one brand of black bean soy sauce for sale. Some supermarkets just don’t carry it. Asian supermarkets should stock them. The brand I use is from Taiwan. If you are using regular soy sauce, please adjust the amount of salt. Some brands can be very salty. Hold back the salt until the end. You might not even need it.
*** Read the list of ingredients. It will taste very different if you use a stock made with unnecessary vegetables. I use Heinz – made in France.     

Method

1. In a deep large pot add sugar in a single layer. Caramelise sugar (without stirring) over medium high heat until sugar turns amber.

When the caramel turns this shade, add the pork. If you hold off any longer the sugar will burn.

2. Sear pork on all sides until browned and caramelised. Takes about 5 minutes.

3. There should be very little liquid left in the pot by the time pork is nicely caramelised. Sugar burns easily so do not move away from the stove.

Most of the caramel has been seared onto the exterior of the pork. There is only a little caramel left in the pot. Time to add the liquids.

4. Once pork is properly seared, with very little caramel left in the pot (refer to image directly above), add the chicken stock and all the other ingredients (remember if you are using chicken granules and salt, instead of chicken stock, do not add the salt as yet). Smash the ginger before adding that in. Top up with water if necessary to have the pork almost covered.

5. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low. Cover the pot.
6. It should take ~1 to 1 hour and 15 minutes to cook meat until it is tender. However, you need to turn the pork over half way during the cooking.
7. Test by inserting a skewer through the meat. If it goes through easily, it is ready. Keep in mind the meat will still continue to cook in residual heat. Turn off the heat and leave to cool completely before cutting.

To serve

1. Remove the pork from the sauce, slice into 0.39 inches (1 cm) thickness and overlap the slices on your serving vessel.
2. Strain the sauce to get a clear sauce and to remove excess oil. I lay a sheet of paper kitchen towel on my strainer and strain through it. I repeat this process three times if necessary to get rid of as much grease as possible.
3. Now is the time to taste the sauce and add salt if you think it is necessary. The sauce should taste a little saltier than you like it. If it is way too salty, dilute with water.
4. Pour some of the sauce over the pork slices. Transfer the remaining sauce into a sauce boat so that diners can serve themselves. Serve with steaming rice.

Tips

Do you know the sauce can be used to sauce blocks of tofu and boiled eggs?

(1) Tofu
1. Cook the uncut tofu in the microwave or briefly in boiling water. Drain.
2. Pour enough sauce to cover the tofu half way up and let it sit in the sauce for an hour or so to absorb the flavours.*
3. When you are ready to serve, slice, plate and pour more sauce over it.
4. This can be made a day ahead.

(2) Boiled eggs
1. Boil your eggs, shell and similarly let the eggs soak in the sauce until you are ready to eat.
2. Before eating, slice the eggs in half and pour the gravy around the eggs. This can be made up to 3 days ahead.*

* You could simmer the tofu/boiled and peeled eggs in the sauce for 20 minutes to develop a deeper flavour. When I do take the time to braise the tofu and eggs, I always braise them separately from the pork. Why? Braising tofu and eggs in the black bean soy sauce will change the flavour of the sauce. The sauce will take on more of the flavour of the tofu and eggs the longer it is kept braising. To avoid the ‘beany’ taste of tofu and the ‘sulphuric’ taste of overcooked eggs, keep the braising to 20 minutes.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

I have been wanting to post this recipe for a long time. I am hoping I will get less requests to bake it and instead be surprised and presented with a baked Orange Chiffon Cake (using the same recipe of course).

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