My confinement month officially ended last weekend, but throughout the month, I’ve been eating fantastically well here at home, thanks to my dad. The Gravy Baby arrived a week earlier than expected, so the hubby and I scrounged around for food for the first few days after we came home from the hospital and before my dad arrived. Although we managed okay, we’re definitely lollygagging around like fat cats now, especially whenever my dad makes this braised pork belly and chestnut dish. Syrupy, decadent, and full of pork fat goodness is the only way to describe it.
A slice of pork belly on a man tou (steamed bread), topped with cilantro, sweet relish, and a little au jus. Oh, my.
My dad’s braising technique hails from Shanghainese cuisine, the food of our family’s motherland. Called hong shao, or “red cooking,” it’s a method that employs marinating meat in five spice and soy sauce overnight. The meat is slowly cooked in a Dutch oven and the sugars in the soy sauce caramelize and deepen, forming a crusty outer layer and silky, tender meat within.
There’s lots of ways to enjoy hong shao meat, but in pork belly style, the best way is to sandwich it between a man tou, or steamed bread, and top it with cilantro. My dad also serves sweet relish on the side for garnish, which adds just a little bit of tartness and acidity. The chestnuts are an added soft and slightly sandy textural bonus.
I’d like to think that eating copious pork belly hong shao sandwiches is good for me because it’s good for The Gravy Baby, but let’s be honest: it’s just straight up delicious. There’s no reason to mince words about that.
For more information on hong shao technique, click here.
- 1.5 pounds pork belly, with skin
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1½ tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon juice from pressed fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 4½ cups water
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 tablspoons fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 4 tablspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 cup dried chestnuts
- Rinse the pork belly under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Slice the pork belly into two large square pieces and place in non-reactive baking dish or bowl.
- In a small bowl, mix together five spice, ginger juice and dark soy sauce and pour over meat.
- Refrigerate overnight (or at least 2-3 hours).
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and sear he marinated pork belly until lightly browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
- In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, bring water and the rest of the ingredients to a boil except for the chestnuts. Lower heat and add the seared meat, ensuring here is enough liquid to cover the pork (add enough water to cover if there isn't).
- Cover and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes or until tender, adding the chestnuts about 45 minutes in and adding water as necessary.
- Once the meat is tender, take 2 tablespoons of the cooking water and add 1 tablespoon of corn starch to a small bowl and mix together to create a slurry. Add the slurry back to the pot to thicken the sauce.
- Serve with man tou steamed bread (available for purchase at Asian grocery food stores in the frozen food aisle) or over rice.