One of the things I learned in China (besides it's ok for kids to defecate in public and their candy is WEIRD) is that the Chinese know how to treat pork. Not pigs, Lordy no, the animal welfare we witnessed was horrifying. Like a dirty game of 'how many clowns can you fit in a Mini' except with livestock and cages. Ugh, but let's not dwell on that.
I have mentioned before that I love to make crispy pork belly all Chinese-y style and I do. I think that there are few things more amazing than crispy crunchy skin scented with five spice BUT. This Hunanese treatment of my favourite part of pig is anything but crisp, but rather tender, melting, unctuous and so comforting. Incredibly easy to make, with just a few store cupboard ingredients and a little time it's a brilliant Sunday dinner dish. If you double the recipe, it'd be brilliant for a dinner party because it's cheap, there's no touchy timing and you can relax and chat (drink) with your guests instead of barging around all sweaty and frantic, waving oven gloves and tongs in the air.
Red Braised Pork Belly with Pak Choi In Chilli Bean Sauce
Serves 4, takes 90 mins
1 1Kg (2.2lbs) slab belly pork, skin on
4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
5 Shaoxing rice wine
5 tbsp golden caster sugar
4 whole star anise
2 pieces cinnamon bark
2" piece ginger root, thinly sliced
3 whole garlic cloves, halved
4 large dried chillies
For the Pak Choi
6 heads pak choi (AKA bok choi) washed and halved or quartered, depending on the size.
2 tbsp chilli bean paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1" ginger root, grated
2 tbsp ground nut or veg oil
2 spring onions, sliced, to garnish
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the pork belly whole for 5 minutes. Remove from the water (don't throw out the water) and set aside to cool for a minute. Meanwhile, in a wok, mix all the other ingredients. Using a sharp knife, cut the pork into large chunks, but don't cut horizontally. Add the pork to the wok, and then enough of the hot, piggy water to cover the pork, then bring the whole lot to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and have a glass of wine and play Doodle Jump on your iPhone for half an hour.
Your pork is going to cook for about an hour or so before you have to do anything else, just keep an eye on it to make sure the liquid doesn't cook too low.
After an hour, start cooking you rice (if you need it, my method is below) and do your prep for the pak (bok?) choi.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes, if the liquid in the wok is still high and thin, raise the heat to a good bubble until thick and sticky. Put into a warm bowl, cover with a pan lid to keep warm for a minute while you do the pak choi.
Over a high heat, bring the oil to a sizzle in the wok (Don't worry about washing it first) and toss in the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for 20-30 seconds before adding the chilli bean paste. Add half a cup of water and let this bubble for a minute before adding the pak choi. Cook the pak choi in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, turning periodically to ensure even cooking and distribute the flavours.
Serve the amazingly tender, sticky, mahogany-coloured pork on top of the rice with the pak choi on the side.
Bathe in the glory.