Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chinese Style Braised Pork Belly or Vegetarian Braised Egg, Mushroom & Tofu

My partner loves to eat pig in all its forms. Be it a sausage, bacon, a ham joint, plain pork loin or even pork scratchings it all gets gobbled down. A favourite Sunday lunch of his when we were living in London would be roast pork with lots of pork crackling and all the trimmings; roast potatoes, stuffing, apple sauce, vegetables and gravy. Now that we have been in Asia awhile we noticed that pork belly is beloved here too but in the form of a dark, sweet and warming braised pork belly oozing unctuous fat and melting in the mouth. So as the saying goes- 'when in Rome....' I decided to give it a shot.

On making the braising liquid and having the delicious aromas of star anise, ginger & chilli wafting around the house I decided that it would be highly unjust if I did not get to sample this dish I had so lovingly prepared. I promptly made some more liquid and added whatever vegetarian ingredients I had to hand which turned out to be dried Shitake mushrooms, firm tofu and several eggs. Boy am I glad I did.

Below are the two recipes; the pork version and the vegetarian version (omit the egg and substitute large chunks of aubergine for a vegan version).

Soya sauce contains small amount of gluten and is therefore not suitable for gluten free. However Tamari, a japanese variety of soya sauce often doesn't contain wheat and is suitable for gluten free diets. Check the label to ensure it is wheat & gluten free.

You can make a double batch of the liquid which is the same for both dishes and then split it between two pans, one for each version to save time.

Chinese Style Braised Pork Belly or Vegetarian Braised Egg, Mushroom & Tofu (Serves 4 )
Gluten free, Meat, Vegetarian, Vegan,  & Dairy Free Options 

1) Ingredients for Braising  Liquid 
1 medium onion cut into thin slices
2-3 whole clove garlic
1 fresh chilli (optional)
1-2 tablespoons dark soya sauce (or Tamari for gluten free version see above)
700ml water
50-75ml Shao Xing rice wine
1 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
5 cloves
2 cardamon pods
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 inch cube ginger
small sprig coriander

2) Ingredients for Pork Belly Dish 
 500g pork Belly  (cut into 3cm x 8cm strips)
5-8 dried Chinese black mushrooms (soaked in warm water 'til soft and stalks removed)
4-5 large spring onion bulbs with green part removed
hard boiled eggs peeled
3) Ingredients for Vegetarian/Vegan Dish 
 4 hard boiled eggs peeled (or large chunks of aubergine for vegan recipe)
300g firm tofu
8 dried Chinese black mushrooms (soaked in warm water 'til soft and stalks removed)
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Very simple. Just add the braising liquid ingredients (1) in a large pan and bring to the boil and then add the ingredients (either 2 or 3) for whichever dish you want to make and simmer on a low heat. 
  • The pork belly dish will take around 1.5-2hr to cook and the meat should be soft and the fat melded into the meat. You may wish to brown the meat & skin before adding to the liquid but this is not essential.
  • The vegetarian dish will take more like 1hr of simmering.
  • Serve with some of the sauce over plain rice or mashed potato with some green vegetables   

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