Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pork Belly in Master Sauce with Hardboiled Eggs

Pork Belly has been a trendy cut of meat the last few years. It has showed up in all kinds of restaurants and has been cooked in many ways. It's really just uncured bacon and is a very versatile cut of meat. For me, there is really only one way to eat Pork Belly and that is to braise it in a sauce of Soy Sauce, Rice Wine, sugar, ginger and green onions. One of the benefits of cooking this dish is that it also makes an unctuous Master Sauce that can be used to braise other meats in later. And for Chinese New Year celebrations in my family, Pork Belly is a required dish. My favorite way to serve it is with hardboiled eggs that soak up the sauce, but it is also really good with bow-tie tofu cooked in it. Some people object to how fatty the meat is, but in the winter, you need that extra fat to keep yourself warm and there are many studies proving that lard is actually very good for you. I'm a believer as this is something I crave every winter, but I don't eat a lot of it at a time as it is very rich. It's also one of the most popular dishes at my annual Chinese New Year's Lucky Foods party. For that, I serve it with the eggs cut in half. This dish is satisfying in a way that I can't describe and when the chunks of pork belly and a hard boiled egg is ladled over a bowl of rice, I am happy!

Pork Belly in Master Sauce with Hardboiled Eggs

1 lb piece of pork belly

8 cups water

1 cup Soy Sauce or Tamari

1 cup Shaoshing rice wine

1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (depending on the saltiness of Soy Sauce)
3 - 4 green onions cut in thirds (roots and dry tips cut off)
4 fresh ginger slices (about ¼ inch each – no need to peel)
6 eggs, medium boiled (cook about 7 -8 minutes) cooled and peeled
2 Tablespoons of Cornstarch and enough water to make a slurry

Place Pork Belly in pot with the water and seasonings. Bring to a boil and return to a simmer and cook for 3 hours. Remove pork belly and cut into 1” chunks. Pour off half of the braising liquid and reserve for future use (best if you freeze it). Return the pork belly pieces to the remaining braising liquid and bring back to a boil. Then take the boiled eggs and slice 5 vertical slits around the egg just to the yolk (don’t go too deep!). Add eggs to the braising liquid and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and stir gently to thicken sauce. Serve with steamed rice.

Note: The Master Sauce that you reserve can be used to braise chicken thighs or you can use chicken in place of the pork, which is then called Red Cooked Chicken or you can use chunks of a leaner pork and then that is called Red Cooked Pork. My favorite though is to take a pound of chicken gizzards and cook them until tender. They end up being like a kind of chewy jerky and I love them! To make any of the Red-Cooked dishes, dilute the sauce with an equal amount of water.

Five Element Analysis

Pork, Eggs and Soy Sauce all belong to the Water Element so this dish is clearly very Watery and therefore good for your kidneys. The Rice Wine brings in a bit of Fire and the sugar adds some Earth. The Metal Element is represented by the ginger and green onions and the white rice. Only the Wood Element is missing so be sure to serve this dish with some green vegetables like sauteed spinach or pea vine leaves.

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