If you grew up in a Chinese family or in an Asian environment, you will at some time have come across this dish. A typical and famous Hakka style dish, the soft fatty pork and salty vegetables are the perfect accompaniment for a wet wintry day. This Hakka specialty is rich of flavors, saltiness of preserved vegetables, sweetness of castor sugar and variety of soy based sauces and wonderful flavors of exotic dried seafood of shrimp, squid and a lot more.
Also known as Mui Choi Kau Yuk, Braised Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Cabbage is a fabulous marriage of pork belly richly flavored with preserved and salted mustard cabbage, dried shrimps, flavored soy sauce, garlic and rice wine. The pork belly itself is salted, pricked, deep-fried, braised and steamed. Through all these cooking processes, the spices, wine and soy sauce as well as pungent-induced-savoriness of preserved cabbage and dried shrimp infuse all three layers of skin, fat and meat. The end result, from marinating to hours of steaming is a soft and tender dish, full in flavour, full in spices and full of total careless indulgence.
The recipe varies, but here’s one I used and it worked for me !
- 250g salted mui choy (preserved salted mustard green normally in a brine)
- 250g sweet mui choy (preserved sweet mustard green normally dried)
- 500g skin on pork belly
- Dark sweet soy sauce
- 12 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 cup water/stock
- 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp Shao Shing rice wine
- Bathe the pork belly with boiling water. I used two full kettles worth to remove the scum and open the pores. Pat dry and prick the skin with a fork thoroughly making sure you don’t go through into the meat.
- Now marinate the pork in 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp rice wine and 1 tsp dark soy sauce and set aside for a few hours.
- Soak all mustard greens for at least 3 hours, rinsing and changing the water every 1 hour to get rid of the sand and salt. Drain and chop the greens into 2cm long strips.
- Heat a wok with enough oil to shall fry the pork over a medium heat. Fry the pork, skin-side down for 5-7 minutes until the skin is a deep golden brown but take care it doesn’t burn. Flip the pork over and fry the lean meat part. Cook for another 5 minutes. Fry the edges of the pork belly so it has a deep golden outside.
- Plunge the cooked pork belly into iced water to stop the cooking process and let it cool. Slice into bite size pieces and return the pork to the leftover marinade.
- When ready, again fry the pork so that all sides are browned and glazed in the marinade.
- Heat some cooking oil in the same wok. Stir-fry the chopped garlic till fragrant over medium heat. Add the dried shrimp, preserved mustard cabbage and dried cuttlefish. Season with thick sweet soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper and rice wine. Mix well and stir fry for another 5 minutes. Add a little hot water into the wok and lower the heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Note: The shrimp and cuttlefish is an option, this dish works just as well without.
- Set up a steamer and get the water on the boil.
- To assemble, arrange the pork with skin-side down in a glass heatproof container. Arrange the ingredients over the top to fill the bowl and then pour the sauce over the top to cover all the ingredients. Cover with a plate or some other method and place in the steamer. Steam the pork for 2 – 3 hours, over low heat. Check regularly to ensure their is plenty of water in the steamer and baste the top of the dish with the sauce.
- Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, drain as much of the liquid as you can from the dish into a bowl. Add some arrowroot to the drain liquid, mix well and pour back over the top and continue to steam for another 15 minutes. This will thicken up the sauce to a nice consistency without running of the plate.
- When ready to eat, up-end the pork onto a plate, garnish with coriander and serve with steamed rice.