Friday, September 16, 2011

Szechuan Braised Pork Belly

This is one of my favourite dishes – Szechuan Braised Pork Belly!!! If cooked properly, the meat ends up very soft and tender and the fats just melt in your mouth. Pork belly (also known as pork rashers) has always been one of my favourite cuts of pork. Although it has a higher level of fat content, cooking it in a more healthy way (for instance, braising) and only eating it once in a while – allows my loved ones and I to still enjoy this delicious type of meat.

This dish has a slightly spicy taste and for those who prefer to have it more spicy, you could add additional fresh red chillies and ginger to the recipe. For those who do not like spicy food, you could leave out the chillies from the recipe without sacrificing its yummy taste. That said, I personally think the fresh red chillies gives this dish a distinctive and authentic Szechuan flavour to it.

Here are my few tips to ensure that the meat for this dish is succulent and tender.

Firstly, marinate the meat overnight. Marinating the pork for a longer period tenderises the meat and makes the meat more flavoursome.

Secondly, browning the meat over high heat first before braising it over low heat for about 2 hours (or for a longer time if more meat is used) is highly recommended. Please take note that if the heat used while braising is too high, the pork belly will break into pieces and will also result in the toughening up its texture.

Thirdly, the amount of water to add into the pot before braising the meat is very important. Too much liquid might dilute the savoury taste of the dish and too little liquid could cause the meat to turn out too dry and tough.

I have written out the recipe on this dish for those who like to give it a try. This dish is best eaten with a hot steaming bowl of plain jasmine rice as it complements the strong flavours of the meat, and its gravy.

Recipe for Szechuan Braised Pork Belly (serves 2 persons):


Oil for cooking
Pork Belly (about 600g)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper powder
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
4 tablespoons of shaoxin cooking wine
4 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
4 tablespoons of light Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 – 2 tablespoons of grated ginger
Spring onions (use only the bottom or whitish part, cut into 3cm sticks)
1 red chilli (sliced)
About 200ml of water (or enough to cover the surface level of the pork in the wok)


1. Marinate about 600g of pork belly pieces with salt, pepper, sesame oil, 2 tablespoons of shaoxing wine, 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce in a large bowl.

2. Mix the pork belly pieces with the seasoning using your hands and while doing that, gently press the pork with your fingertips (like massaging actions).

3. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave the marinated pork belly in the fridge overnight or for about 24 hours.

4. Heat up a non-stick cooking pot or wok over high heat. Grease the wok well with cooking oil. Add the pork belly pieces into the wok and brown them. Dish them up onto a plate once they turned browned and aromatic (do not overcook the pork belly at this stage).

5. Heat up the same wok over a medium heat this time and add the grafted ginger and spring onions. Cook them for a short while till they turn fragrant. Add the chilli slices and cook for another minute before adding the browned pork belly pieces back into the wok.

6. Add the remaining shaoxing wine, dark and light soy sauce, sugar and water into the wok (make sure that the water level covers up to the surface of the meat only).

7. Bring to a boil and quickly lower the heat to low heat. Braise the pork belly pieces for about 2 hours over low heat.

8. Throughout the cooking process, check to make sure that the liquid in the pot does not dries up. The liquid should be reduced and thicken to a dark coloured sauce or gravy at the end of the cooking. If the liquid is reduced too much, lower the heat and add a bit of water to the work. You should also turn over the pork belly pieces a few times while cooking to ensure that the meat is cooking evenly in the liquid and does not end up dried up.

9. After 2 hours, turn the heat off from the stove. Serve the pork belly pieces with fresh red chillies and chopped spring onions.