Red-cooked pork belly

I’ve made a recipe similar to this red-cooked pork belly before, so I’ll give you a tip: make this one instead.  While I loved the soupy-version from The River Cottage Meat Book, it lacked the texture and the intensity that this version has.  This version, adapted from both the RCMB and from a post on the wonderful blog, the Red Cook, is flavored with anise, ginger, and orange.  The belly meat is caramelized and the surrounding sauce turns syrupy and thick, perfect for coating fluffy white rice.

Now, there’s about a gahzillion versions of red-cooked pork belly and I’m in no way claiming any authority.  As an Asian-style cook, I’m amateur at best, and being that I’ve never had red-cooked pork belly at a Chinese restaurant (why, oh why do we not see this on Chinese menus in America), I don’t have much to base my recipe off of.  But it’s mouth-wateringly delicious and that’s enough for me (and you, I hope.)

The most important difference between my first pork belly recipe and this one is caramelization.  Because of the layer of fat on the pork belly, it tastes best after a quick rendering on high heat, browning the the top of the fat and all the sides, and then adding the flavorings, especially the orange peel, to quickly caramelize too, before adding any liquid.  Then as soon as you put in the liquid, the rendered fat and browned up bits will incorporate and begin to thicken and create the sauce.  With the heat lowered, you allow the pork to cook and everything to meld together for a few hours, the liquid reducing a little.  I add a bit of cornstarch, mixed first with water to create a slurry, to the liquid when it’s close to done, to thicken it up more (and because I love the taste of cornstarch-thickened sauces.)

It just so happens that I returned to the Red Cook’s blog today and saw this post, where Kian revisited his first red-cooked pork belly recipe and came to the conclusion that it’s better to boil the pork belly before beginning the recipe.  While I did this on my first pork belly try, I didn’t this time and now I’m banging my head against the wall—wondering how good it could have been with this step (could it have been better? My head might explode.)  Do whatever you like, it will still be great without the par-boiling, but I’m surely going on Kian’s word next time and adding the extra step.  The rest of my recipe, however, will remain untouched; I don’t think my head could handle anything more delicious.

Red-cooked Pork Belly

adapted from River Cottage Meat Book and The Red Cook

2 lb. pork belly meat cut into two inch cubes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 bunch scallions, coarsely chopped
3 whole star anise
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
peel from 1/2 orange
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
water to almost cover

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with tablespoon water, to make a slurry

scallions and cilantro for garnish
white rice

In a 4-6 quart dutch oven or pot, melt sugar into oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until sugar turns a deep brown color. Put the pork belly pieces in the pot and brown them on all sides, caramelizing, about 10 minutes.

Add the star anise, ginger, orange peel. Cook for another 2 minutes and then add dark soy sauce, wine and water into the pot. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat. Cook for about 1 hour . Remove the cover and cook for another hour. Add cornstarch slurry and turn up the heat to medium. Cook the meat for another 10 minutes until the sauce reduces to a smooth consistency.

Serve with white rice and scallions and cilantro for garnish. Try and save some for leftovers, mixed together in a Tupperware. The rice will be to die for.

25 thoughts on “Red-cooked pork belly”

  1. I have to try this I haven’t found too much to do with belly but I have about 5lbs of it in the freezer. This looks like a winner.

      1. Wow Robin, that other recipe sounds great too, thanks. I have found it difficult to find real tried and true belly recipes on the interweb, so I appreciate your tips.

  2. Everyone seems to have jumped on the River Cottage bandwagon. I just love everything about it though – kinda rustic and what good life should be.

    1. It’s a wonderful bandwagon to be on. I was hooked last year when I made his recipe for beef tongue.

      (Which reminds me, Jim, we’ve got to make tongue again soon!)

  3. With 5 pounds of pork belly you can make bacon in your oven, in your smoker is better, but in the oven is good too. However I’m going to try this some time soon. I’ve a lot of pork belly.

    Followed the trail of ground pepper from Hank at Hunter Gather

    1. Someday I’ll make my own bacon, but we just happen to have really great sources for bacon out here. Though we are going in on a pig this summer and will have a lot of belly to work with… (I may be clamoring to you for advice then, especially on dry-curing ham, if you don’t mind.)

      I just recently found Hank’s site and I’m totally floored by it. Great stuff. And you too, by the looks of it. I’m looking forward to getting into your posts.

  4. I know of Red Cook as he is offline friends with my dear Kim (Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet). Would definitely trust what he says, though I can’t imagine you were much worse off for not parboiling. Looks delicious.

    1. I don’t think so either, but next time I won’t be missing the step, Red Cook seemed to really approve of it (and I’m a sucker for food experiments.)

  5. Sounds delicious, can’t wait to make this.

    Ginger is in the recipe but not the ingredients…how much should we use?

      1. Okay, I just made this and it was spectacular. The soy/star anise/ginger sauce coupled with the fat-meat-fat mouth feel of the pork belly is unreal. Definitely a splurge meal that is worth every fat calorie.

        I did parboil it as you suggested but I’m not sure what difference that makes. Ingredients wise, only change for next time might be subbing broth for water to up the flavor…otherwise, no need to mess with perfection.

        Thanks again for posting your recipe.

  6. oh yum. i can actually see how sweet/fatty/yum that must be. what benefit (besides it cooking a bit more first) does the pre-boil do for the PB?

  7. Wonderful stuff, I certainly love the pork belly, and have actually never had it cooked this way. Love the River Cottage Meat Book.

    1. We get pork belly from our butchers. We just ask them to save us some fresh belly when they get it in for making bacon. You can also find it in most Asian markets.

  8. There’s a restaurant here in Nashville that offered a coca cola braised pork belly for a short time last year- it was AMAZING. Obviously the caramelization was key but your recipe has definitely piqued my interest in trying this at home. It looks delicious!

  9. I wasn’t able to find pork belly until I went to a meat market, our local supermarket didn’t carry it. When I finally hunted it down, it was definitely worth the chase! This dish is so tender– we loved it. Kudos.

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