Sunday, 23 November 2008

Braised Pork Belly & Cucumber Salad

It snowed today, the first snow I've seen this winter. It was pretty horrible; grey, cold and it didn't settle. Happily enough, as it's proper rib-sticking stuff, I had some leftover braised pork belly to have, but as I've had a particularly unhealthy week I wanted something green to go with it.

I have made this Sichuan Cucumber Salad before, but once I'd peeled and chopped the cucumber up, I realised I was out of chilli bean sauce. I had a good ol' rummage around the fridge and instead came up with this recipe, which I think worked very well. It was spicy, sour and sweet at the same time.

Hot & Sour Cucumber Salad

Serves 3 as part of a main meal

1 cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthways and deseeded

1 handful of frozen peas

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced finely

2 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp Hoi Sin sauce

1/2 tsp yellow bean paste

1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper

In a wok, heat up a little vegetable oil and fry the garlic and the Sichuan pepper. Add the peas and fry on a low heat until the peas are defrosted. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Slice the cucumber into 1" pieces and salt in a sieve for 5 - 10 mins to remove the moisture. Rinse and pat dry. In a bowl, add the Hoi Sin sauce, sugar, yellow bean paste, vinegar, sesame oil and chilli. Add the pea mixture and the cucumber and toss well. Leave for a few minutes to let the flavours mingle.

Pork belly is one of my favourite cuts of meat. The fat in the meat is crucial in making it tender and tasty, although I try and keep consumption of it down as I'm not sure it's particularly good for you. Still; it's cheap and tasty, as long as it's treated properly. Long, slow cooking is the best way to keep it succulent and tender.

Chinese five spice is traditionally used when braising or roasting meat and not for quick cooking. It's a pungent combination of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon (cassia), Sichuan pepper and fennel. Many brands add salt to this mixture and it's entirely unnecessary, so I always look out for that in the ingredient list. The five spice lends a great depth to the pork. For the health conscious, cook it the day before and refridgerate it before thickening it with the cornflour and you should be able to skim some fat off. I don't bother.

Chinese Braised Pork Belly

Serves 3

600gr pork belly slices, cut into chunks. I leave the skin on, as I like the texture

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2" ginger, chopped finely

3 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

1 heaped tsp of Chinese 5 spice powder

2 tsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp of cornflour, mixed with 1 tbsp cold water

2 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

Heat some oil in a wok, and brown the pork belly chunks thoroughly. Remove with a slotted spoon, and tip out the fat, reserving about 1 tbsp. Fry the ginger and garlic, then add the pork back in. Add the 5 spice, soy sauces and enough water to just cover the pork. Simmer gently with the lid on for about an hour, if not more, and thicken with the cornflour. Serve with rice, garnished with the spring onion.


Anonymous said...

Mmmm pork belly. I'm craving this now after my virtuous vegetarian lunch!

Sam said...

Pork belly is one of my favourite cuts too, this recipe looks really tasty!

RaxRaxRax said...

sesame oil...? surely you are mistaken? ;)

GOOD choice of recipes though (subtle,Rax... subtle)!

Frequent Traveler said...

That hot and sour cucumber sounds fantastic !
I wish that I had the ingredients in my refrigerator and pantry RIGHT NOW !

TellingTales said...

Thanks for this recipe. I am going to try it out, although I don't have a wok.

TellingTales said...

Thank you for the recipe. I will try it even though I don't have a wok.