Easy Caramelised Pork Belly. My Taiwan Inspiration
This is the easiest way to cook Pork Belly. It has no crispy crackling but it does have the soft unctuous texture that everyone loves about Pork Belly. It also has a sweet caramel exterior and it’s simplicity is what makes it THE most delicious Pork you will eat.
If you are freaked out about cooking Pork and you don’t have an oven with mega blitz temperature like me, then this is for you.
I ate several Pork dishes like this a couple of weeks ago when I was in Taiwan as a guest of the Taiwan Tourist bureau. I got to try all kinds of food and was really surprised about some of the places we visited. After eating some this Pork belly, I am convinced that cooking Pork isn’t all about having a chunk of crackling…..it’s about this recipe and this type of flavour. I love the pull apart softness and it’s so so easy to achieve. I got home and had a play around and I can tell you that this both easy and so very good, you just need to give yourself time to cook it.
This is the dish that inspired me, right here below.
Fusion Cuisine in Taiwan
The first time I ate Pork belly cooked the slow soft way, was at a tiny restaurant in Luadong Township in the North East Province of Yilan (eelan). We visited a small restaurant in an unexpected place, down a lane-way in a rather unexceptional farm house, the yard filled with fermenting beans and a lazy dog. This is what is known as a fusion restaurant and there is no menu. The food is created from what is grown in the area or is at the market, menus changing with the season and as ingredients are produced. There were 10 courses for around $550.00 TW / $25 AUS.
There are lots of these in Taiwan, this one was called Guest City and you could get here from town by catching a taxi.
So you think making everything on the menu is only happening in your part of the world?. Well it’s happening in Taiwan, in fact it has probably been happening here a whole lot longer.
The proprietor and chef here, Chen Kuo-chang, was once a Veterinary Surgeon, but his love of healthy eating and artisan ingredients has seen him running this restaurant for the past 10 years. Just like a lot of chefs in this area he makes his own soy sauce, cured meats and vinegars but this creative chef even makes the crockery and pottery you eat from. It is unpretentious balanced Taiwanese fusion food that is just that, a fusion of Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese elements.
Meet the Chef – My Taiwan Inspiration
A gentle looking man dressed in a simple cotton outfit came to the dining room to introduce himself and the food, he like the surroundings is rustic. The food is placed before us course after delicate course, each small portion with home made vinegar, broth or dried and cured ingredient, each food follows another for a specific reason. We start with a cup of Organic Lotus Tea and a soft Peanut Custard with tiny Asparagus Spears. Vegetables feature quite heavily as you would expect, but I have a weak spot for the third course, soft braised Pork Belly. It has been steamed, then braised for 2 hours in organic home made soy sauce with dried bamboo sheets and served with organic locally grown rice, the fruity plum vinegar that is served after, cleans and refreshes. It’s served in a small cup and is drunk. This happens in lots of restaurants and it really is a nice digestive. The courses that follow are a beautiful mixture of seasonal ingredients that will feature in a number of restaurants in this area. Mixed perfect mushrooms, clean broths with Winter melon and in this case aged dried Turnip, a really delicate and rare ingredient here are to follow. A warm egg custard steamed in a hand made pottery cup and topped with bacon jam is soothing. All quite an experience for a person that has been up all night travelling and has been in the country only 5 hours.
Prawns with Bean Curd
Pork Broth with local mushrooms, aged dried Turnip and Broccoli
Egg custard with bacon jam
Now this is how to make the most delicious Pork Belly
- 1 Kg Pork Belly
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 1 bottle 640 ml Shaox shing Wine ( Chinese cooking wine from asian grocers)
- 1 inch piece sliced up ginger
- 3 cloves garlic ½'d
- ½ bunch coriander roots rough chopped ( cleaned very well)
- 3 star anise
- 1 piece of cassia bark
- 4 whole stalks green onions ( shallots) washed
- The whole rind of a mandarin / orange or tangerine ( fruit set aside for another thing-eat it!)
- The Pork pieces cooked previously. Drained on kitchen paper, dried
- 4 Tablespoon oil
- 250 gm palm sugar ( light coloured and from Asian grocers)
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 cup drained Master stock ( the drained stock the Pork is cooked in )
- 1 cup sliced Snow peas
- 1 cup sliced drained washed Bamboo shoots ( Asian Grocery Stores have these. The taste is quite distinct)
- 1 chilli and ½ cup sliced green onions *optional
- Wipe the pork then cut into 6-8 chunks.
- Prepare the ( Master) stock in a large pot by adding the chicken stock, wine, ginger, garlic, star anise, bark, roots, green onion, and peel. Put the pork into the Masterstock and bring up to the boil. Turn right down and simmer for up to 2 hours. Test the meat with a fork after 1½ hours. It should be very soft. and tender. Simmer for a further 30 minutes if needed.
- Take the pork out of the liquid and put into the fridge to cool for several hours or overnight.
- When you are ready prepare rice and set aside
- Prepare the julienne snow peas and wash and drain a small tine of sliced Bamboo and set aside
- Put a skillet or none stick frypan big enough to hold all the meat and the vegetables on high. ( You can use a wok too)
- Add the oil and then begin to add the Pork a piece at a time so the heat stays high. Turn the pieces onto all sides browning and caramelising.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the palm sugar and the stock and let the sugar melt and disappear. Add the fish sauce and a sprinkle of salt then stir well trying not to break up the Pork
- The taste should be sweet and salty and there should be sauce but it wont be too runny. This is the time to add more fish sauce or salt if you like.
- Add the sliced bamboo, snowpeas and the chilli if using. Let the pan simmer for 3 or so minutes ( you can add the lid) and just till the snow peas are warmed .
- Sprinkle with green onion and coriander leaves before serving.
Have you seen my story about Picking tea in Taiwan? Read it here
Fermenting Soy Beans for Soy sauce
A simple kitchen at Guest City in Taiwan
You can read more about this trip to Taiwan on Sally Hammond’s Website Here