Braised Pork Belly

I've been wanting to try my hand at Peranakan cuisine for the longest time. The Korean halfling Hubs is also half-Baba and babi pongteh is one of his favourite foods, so I've been scouring the internet researching Peranakan recipes. Since babi pongteh is possibly one of the least complicated of all the typically time-consuming and notoriously intricate Peranakan recipes, I thought it'll be a good starting point for my virgin foray into Peranakan cooking.

So anyway, I followed some recipe extracted from some famous cookbook but somehow, I ended up with something that tasted more like a crossbreed of tau yu bak and babi pongteh. It's still really yummy (the Hubs devoured it all, so you know it's got his stamp of approval at least) so I'm just gonna call this my recipe for a generic Braised Pork Belly. Akan datang for the actual babi pongteh recipe (coming up as soon as I can wrangle someone's family heritage one).

Ingredients (feeds 4):
500gm pork belly, picked off all hair from the skin-side (use a tweezer), blanched in scalding water (to rid the heavy "porky" taste), sliced to 1"-thick cubes, and marinated in thick black soy for at least 4 hours (I marinated this overnight for about 12 hours for a full-on flavour)
3 shallots, sliced finely
7 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 tbsp tau cheo (fermented soya bean paste)
1 tbsp light soy
2 tbsp thick black soy
40gm gula melaka
2 russets, cut to 1" cubes
2 tbsp oil (1 part sesame and 1 part canola)
2 cups water

1) Fry shallots in sesame-and-frying oils until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2) Add garlic and fry till fragrant, about 1 minute.

3) Lower heat and add 2.5 tbsp tau cheo, letting it toast for a minute to release its fragrance.

4) Add 2 tbsp thick soy and 1 tbsp light soy and toss quickly with the rest of the aromatics.

5) Turn up heat a little and add pork and fry for 2 minutes. Careful not to let this burn.

6) Add 1 cup water.

7) Turn up heat to high, add gula melaka cube and stir to let it melt in the broth.

8) Add another cup of water to cover the top of the pork and bring to a rolling boil before lowering to a slow simmer for at least 1.5 hours for that melt-in-your-mouth texture, checking every half hourly to top up the water if necessary. Add potatoes to cook through during the last 15-20 minutes. Longer if you prefer mushier potatoes.

9) Serve with white rice, the sauce is too good not to be paired with rice.

Variations: Add about 10 shitakes or Chinese black mushrooms, or 100gm sea cucumber for texture.

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