Who needs bacon when pork belly can be cut to sizable chunks, with its fat rendered to gelatinous layers in between tender meat all stained with a savory, soy sauce–based broth? This Taiwanese preparation is often found as an addition to a large, multicourse meal, as it’s too rich and potently flavored without plenty of contrasting sides. Still, it is a highlight of the table whenever served. The liberal use of the humble, tough cut of pork belly may be Hakka-inspired, yet it is red-braised in the fashion associated most closely with Hunanese home-style cooking. All told, a true Taiwanese specialty.
Makes 4 to 6 small servings
1 pound pork belly
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
2 whole scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 to 6 thick discs peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup rice wine
2 cups water
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
Remove any bone and cut the pork belly into thick pieces about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat. Arrange the pork belly pieces in a single layer in the pan so that each piece has direct contact with the bottom of the pan. Cook without turning until just lightly browned on one side, about 30 seconds. Flip the pieces over and brown on the opposite sides for just 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the pan and set aside.
To the same pan, add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and stir until just sizzling and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, until bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice wine and bring just to a boil, stirring to incorporate the sugar. Add the water, light and dark soy sauces, and the five-spice powder and return to a boil. Return the pork belly pieces to the pan. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for until the pork is very tender and red stained, at least 1 hour, preferably 2 to 3 hours.