It’s agaifandish, uncomplicated and inexpensive, likely brought by Chinese immigrants to Taiwan. In northern Taiwan where pork belly is used, it is calledkhong bah png. In the south where minced (ground pork) is preferred, it is calledlu rou fan.
We’ve made both variants at home. While lu rou fan requires less work and a much shorter cooking time, I have to admit that braised pork belly is infinitely more satisfying than its minced meat counterpart.
And just what makes khong bah png more difficult to cook? Not exactly more difficult. There’s just the additional step of cutting the pork belly into strips and the extra time to marinate the meat in Shaoxing rice wine and soy sauce.
But don’t worry. Because the pork belly is cut into small pieces, marinating time is a mere half hour. You can use that time to gather and prepare all the other ingredients for the dish.
The cooking begins by browning thinly sliced shallots in oil. Don’t hurry up this process. Use medium heat so as not to burn the shallot slices. And stir every so often for even cooking. When the shallots are browned and soft, add garlic.
Now, add the marinated pork and cook, stirring, until the edges of the meat start to brown. Then, we add spices and seasonings.
Add more Shaoxing rice wine and soy sauce. Yes, I know, the pork was already marinated with those two ingredients. But we’re making a flavor base for the sauce now so we add more Shaoxing rice wine and soy sauce.
Then, drop in a cinnamon stick and a couple of star anise. Will cinnamon powder do? Yes. Use a quarter teaspoon to start with and add more, if needed, little by little during cooking.
There’s still too little liquid in the pot for the pork belly to braise in so we add water. And, to balance the saltiness of the soy sauce, we stir in sugar too. Then, we just leave the pork to simmer until tender.
When the pork is done, the heat is turned up, and shiitake and hard-boiled eggs are stirred in. The cooking continues until the sauce is thick and sticky.
Taiwanese braised pork belly
Pork and marinade
- 500 grams skin-on pork belly cut into half-inch slices then cut into half-inch strips
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms sliced
- 4 eggs hard-boiled and peeled
- Place the pork belly in a bowl, pour in the Shaoxing rice wine and soy sauce, mix well and leave to marinate for half an hour.
- In a wok or frying pan, heat the cooking oil.
- Spread the shallot slices in the hot oil and cook, stirring occasionally, just until starting to brown.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for half a minute.
- Push the shallots and garlic on one side of the pan and spread the marinated pork in the hot oil.
- Leave for half a minute then stir everything together. Cook until the pork belly is starting to brown along the edges.
- Pour in the rice wine and soy sauce.
- Add the cinnamon stick and star anise.
- Pour in two cups water and stir in the sugar.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer until the pork is tender.
- Turn up the heat to medium.
- Stir in the shiitake and hard-boiled eggs.
- Cook, uncovered, until the sauce is thick and sticky.