Spiced Pork Belly Stew is a very popular dish in Taiwan that is almost always on the menu at Taiwanese restaurants and also cooked regularly in most Taiwanese homes. The “spice” in this recipe is star anise and Chinese five-spice powder (comprising of cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, fennel seeds and some more star anise). There is one red chilli pepper in there but overall, it’s referring to a Chinese-style spice flavours rather than the “hot spiciness” kind of spice.
My mother-in-law is from Taiwan and she is the best home cook I know (no, I’m not just writing this to suck up to her, she really is that amazing). Lucky for Mr. H to have grown up around fantastic food such as this stew, but it certainly is a lot for me to live up to anytime I try to cook Chinese at home.
As much as I would love get all of my mother-in-law’s recipes, unfortunately for me, she’s an intuitive cook and doesn’t follow recipes. So when I ask how a dish is done, it often goes something like this:
Mom: Yeah, I used some X, Y and Z.
Me: Oh, how much of each?
Mom: Oh you don’t need too much, just enough.
Me: Oh…um…then what do you do?
Mom: It’s really easy, you just need to cook it until it’s done.
Oh my cute mother-in-law! Actually my mom is like that too so maybe it’s just a common feature amongst Chinese moms. When I was little and she tried to get me to marinate meat for her. “Put in just a little cornstarch”, I put in a pinch, “no no, more”, another pinch, “no no, more”, this went on until she realized it was easier to just do it herself. And this is how life went on in Chinese kitchens.
I might have given up asking, but I certainly will not give up trying (mean face on)!
Let me tell you, this spiced pork belly stew just made.my.day. Why? Well, yes the meat melted in my mouth. And yes, it was extremely flavourful, savoury, perfectly spiced, and every fiber of the meat was packed with flavour. But it made my day the moment Mr. H told me this was just as good as his mom’s. In case you missed it, his mom, the amazing home cook; and him, the lucky man who grew up tasting fantastic Chinese food day after day. I still can’t wipe off that silly smile I have while writing this.
I admit, it’s not the prettiest dish, but hey, taste over looks!
Are you more of an intuitive cook or a by-the-book kinda cook?
Adapted from 600道人氣家常菜聖經
Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 2 Hour 30 Minutes | Yields: 4 Servings
- In a claypot (or a regular pot), add ginger, scallions, star anise, wine, soy sauce, sugar, five-spice powder, chili and water, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and blanche pork belly briefly, about 2-3 minutes, drain and pat dry with paper towel.
- Add pork belly to claypot, bring to a boil again. Once it is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and braise, covered, for 1.5 hours. Finally, remove cover, turn heat up to high and cook for 30 more minutes, until sauce has reduced by 90%. If you have time, skim off some of the fat floating on top while it’s simmering.
Note: This recipe is gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce.