Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hakka Garlic Braised Pork Belly (香蒜焖腩肉)

This is another Hakka dish that will make me eat two bowls of rice with just the sauce. This is somehow similar, but different from the usual Tau Yeu Bak (豆油肉) or Lor Bak Png (卤肉饭) commonly seen in Hokkien, Teowchew and Taiwanese Families. This is simpler. Only 9 ingredients, but packed with flavors.

The Hakka people have marked cuisine and style of Chinese cooking which is little known outside the Hakka home. Often concentrates on the texture of food, the hallmark of Hakka cuisines. My grandma always says, braised pork belly must be soft enough, but the skin still retain its chew. Pork belly must be reasonably big chunks, but still, it should be maintained at bite size. This sounds complicated to me when I was younger. But when I grew older, I started to understand my grandma's logic.

Do use good quality soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Pay a little more for premium sauce or you may ruin the whole dish. It's your choice.

(Source: My late Grandma Mdm. Chong, with modification)
  • 600g Pork Belly, with skin (五花肉, 连皮)
  • 4 pcs Arrowhead, diced (慈姑/牙姑) - Optional
  • 3 tbsp Pork Lard with Lard Bits (猪油 + 猪油渣)
  • 30 cloves Garlic, cut into half (蒜头)
  • 500ml Water (水)
  • 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce (蚝油)
  • 1½ tbsp Soy Sauce (酱油)
  • 1 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce (黑酱油)
  • 20g Rock Sugar (冰糖)
  • 1 Sprig Spring Onions (青葱) - Optional

The basic for this recipe is simple. The main ingredients is Pork Belly, Garlic, and condiments. To make this dish more attractive, I added Arrowhead (I love this!), and some Spring Onions to give color contrast. Hence, Arrowhead and Spring Onions is optional for this dish.

Preparation is simple. Cut pork belly into bite size, and for garlic, leave it whole. Cut arrowhead into diced size.

  • Heat up 3 tbsp Pork Lard with Lard Bits. When you can smell the pork lard aroma, add in garlic cloves until garlic looked slightly yellow and aroma comes out. 
  • Add in pork belly pieces, increase the heat slightly, fry for awhile. Add Arrowhead, stir fry the pork set its shape and almost cooked.
  • Add in rock sugar, add water, oyster sauce, soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Stir well and bring to a boil. (Tips : Once it is boiled, you may go ahead to transfer the dish to a claypot for further simmering. I did that. But this step is optional)
  • Covered, lower heat and simmer for approximately 40mins until the pork pieces are tender and the flavor has been absorbed, or until the gravy is almost absorbed. Add spring onions, give it a quick stir and its ready to dish up.
  • For tastier result, cook this dish a day in advance. (Read on)
Here's the picture tutorial on cooking process. 

Braised pork feature in Hakka delicacy highlight very much about it's texture in Hakka palate. The meat must be well caramelized which depends very much on cooking technique. The dish must be fragrant, well braised, but the meat still retain its good firm bite. It should't overcook and the pork shouldn't fall apart. Do taste the meat before dish up.   

Pork must cut into larger pieces as it will shrink during cooking process. We use 500ml water for braising process. So, set fire on as low as possible. Otherwise you will have no more sauce at the end. So, do your heat control well.

I would not recommend you to eat this dish right after you cooked it. Overnight would be the mist ideal plan. But if you insist, I'd urge you to cook it in the morning or afternoon. Leave it there, covered, let the flavors infused all over. Heat up under low low fire and serve hot for dinner. Yumms!!!

I would also suggest you to take a look at my another two Hakka Style Braised Pork Belly dishes

Happy cooking!!!!

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