Cooking with pork belly might seem daunting, but it really isn’t. Nicely portioned slabs can be found at most Asian supermarkets and at your local butcher’s. If you don’t see any in the cooler, ask! The butcher will be happy to portion some for you. This recipe makes use of a slow cooker, but it can easily be done without it. You’d just need a heavy bottomed pan with a lid and a very low setting on your stove. With both methods it’s important to keep an eye out: don’t let the liquid evaporate too much, half the belly should be submerged at all times. This type of braised pork belly is traditionally served in Taiwan as a popular street food, on a steamed bun, with powdered peanuts, pickled mustard greens and cilantro. A slab this size will make a lovely lunch for about 4.
• 500 g pork belly
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 1 star anise
• 1 inch ginger, slices
• 1/3 cup dark soy
• 1/3 cup light soy
• 1/3 cup Shaoxing Chinese rice wine
• 1 cup water
• chili flakes (to taste)
1. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or non-stick pan. Rinse pork belly and pat dry. When the pan is hot, cook pork belly until lightly browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer pork belly to the bottom of your slow cooker, skin up.
2. In the same pan, add garlic and ginger and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until fragrant. Add star anise and chili (if using), and sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add rice wine and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add five spice powder, dark and light soy sauces, and water and bring to a boil.
3. Pour mixture over pork belly into the slow cooker. The mixture should almost reach the top of the pork belly. If it doesn’t, add a little extra water. Cover and cook on low for about 5 hours, until very tender.
4. Lift the pork belly out of the slow cooker and onto a plate. Cool completely in the fridge. Reserve the cooking liquid in a separate container. When ready to serve, slice as many slices off the belly as you need and pan fry them until nicely browned in some of the cooking liquid in a non-stick pan. Serve in a steam bun or on rice, with powdered nuts, cilantro, and pickles.