This very aromatic braised pork dish has many intersecting flavors. Salty, sweet, sour, spicy… Like many Chinese dishes, you can’t quite decide which is the dominant flavor but you know that the dish just won’t taste right unless all the flavors are there. It is so easy to make too. Just put everything in a pot and simmer for an hour or two. Browning the meat at the start of cooking is optional. You can add tofu and mushrooms if you like (I like!) or serve the meat with nothing but its sauce.
All the ingredients for seasoning are listed but no amounts are specified as it is best to allow each cook to find the balance that he or she finds the most pleasant.
Recipe: Braised pork with tofu and mushrooms
- 3/4 k. of pork belly or shoulder, cut into two-inch cubes
- soy sauce
- cracked black pepper
- 4 tbsps. of peanut oil
- Chinese cooking wine
- Chinese black vinegar
- hoisin sauce
- 2 bird’s eye chilis, finely chopped
- a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled but no need to cut
- 4 whole cloves of garlic, no need to peel
- 2 shallots, no need to peel
- 1 star anise
- cubes of fried firm tofu, as much as you like
- sliced caps of shiitake mushrooms, as much as you like
- sesame seed oil
- slices scallions, to serve
- Place the pork in a bowl. Add a splash or soy sauce and a sprinkle of sugar and black pepper. Mix well. Do not stress too much over whether the amount of soy sauce and sugar is enough at this point. Your just creating the first layer of flavors and everything can be adjusted during the braising process.
- Heat the peanut oil in a thick bottomed pan. Ideally, the pan should be wide enough to accommodate all the pork pieces in a single layer. When the oil is hot, add the pork cubes and brown lightly on all sides. You can skip this step but browning the meat does give the pork better texture.
- Pour in two to three generous splashes of cooking wine, cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Pour in about a quarter cup of soy sauce (you can add more later, of needed) and a splash of black vinegar. Add the hoisin sauce, chilis, ginger, garlic, shallots and start anise. Pour in about a cup of broth (water will do but broth will make a much flavorful sauce), cover tightly then simmer until the pork is done and only a few tablespoonfuls of the sauce remains. Depending on the quality of the pork and how tender you like your meat, this can take anywhere from an hour to two hours.
- Check the meat every 20 minutes or so. If it looks like it’ll need more liquid, add more broth (or water), no more than half a cup at a time. Check the seasonings as well. Add more soy sauce (or salt if you don’t want the dish to turn too dark), black vinegar and sugar, as needed.
- When the pork is almost ready, fish out the ginger, garlic, shallots and start anise. Add the tofu and mushrooms and simmer for another ten minutes.
- Drizzle with sesame seed oil and top with sliced scallions before serving.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 180 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4