Lacquered Pork Belly
Mmmm nostalgic. Comforting. Ideal for the winter, but I wouldn’t turn it down throughout the year.
Sure, pork belly is almost always good, but there are times when people mess it up. It becomes chewy from undercooking or looses its texture like tofu when it’s overcooked. The fat and meat ratio is something to watch for and different producers produce different types of pigs with different diets.
As much as I enjoy the indulgent fat which gives a lot of flavour, I actually don’t like too much. The gelatinous texture I’m somewhat accustomed to, but when there’s too much fat – it’s just that. Too much.
Executive chef Curtis Luk of Bambudda, previously at The Parker (a vegetarian restaurant), has taken reigns on his new non-vegetarian turf. Cooking modern Chinese food seems natural to him since it’s what he grew up with and his cultural background, so I was excited to see what he would prepare for 6 Course Discourse – a culinary forum.
It was apparent quite quickly that his pork belly bite was a crowd favourite especially amongst Asian guests. It was an interpretation of Chinese-style slow braised pork belly, but “perhaps even better than mom’s” as one of the guests mentioned. And it wasn’t long until people started requesting his recipe, and Chef Luk was kind enough to share his lacquered pork belly secret.
This lacquered pork belly was served with crispy burdock and Shanghai cabbage, but he also does a version with taro, fermented red tofu and lime. Both are great examples of an updated classic featured at Bambudda, and the execution for the pork belly is similar. The other components, sides and marinades can be modified and changed, but I’m quite confident the pork belly will steal the show. The fat is well rendered, tender and creamy, and the meat is moist, flavoured and well seasoned. If you’re going to indulge in pork belly, it better be a good one, and this one is fabulous.
Lacquered Pork Belly
By Chef Curtis Luk
Pork belly, 2 lb piece
4 cups chicken stock
1.5 oz Shaoxing wine
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp light soy
2 Tbsp dark soy
2 scallions, chopped 1 inch pieces
1 inch cube ginger, sliced
3 pieces star anise
1 piece Chinese cardamom (cao guo)
- Preheat oven to 300F
- Sear the pork belly on all sides or fry it in a deep fryer at 375 F until golden brown
- In a large braising pot (with a lid) place sugar and a bit of water and cook on high heat until it is a moderate brown caramel
- Add the ginger and scallions and cook at a medium heat for another minute
- Add Shaoxing wine, reduce on high heat for approx. 30 seconds then add all of the other ingredients, except the pork
- Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer until all of the sugar is dissolved and flavours combine to make a braising liquid, about 20 minutes
- Add the pork belly to the pot with the braising liquid and cover the pot
- Transfer to the oven and cook for approximately 2 to 2.5 hours until the belly is tender
- Set pork belly aside and strain out the liquid through a sieve. Reserve liquid and throw away the spices and vegetables
- On the stovetop, reduce the braising liquid on medium heat in the pot until glaze thickens and clings to the back of a spoon
- Add the pork belly and cook slowly on low heat while basting the pork continuously
- When the pork is well glazed in colour and the sauce thick, remove and serve with steamed or stir fried bok choy and rice