Wednesday 2 June 2010

Steamed Pork Belly With Lily Buds

It looks like a great hunk of gloop, doesn't it?

A packet of dried lily buds has been sat in my cupboard for months, waiting for me to do something with it. After an appeal for help, a friend sent me a scan of a recipe book he picked up in Malaysia that consists only of pork belly recipes, and using 50gr of the strands meant I could get rid of at least half a packet. 

I've used this method of cooking pork belly before. It's lengthy and involves multiple stages of cooking, but the end dish results in tender meat, silky fat and subtle flavours. It's not for the faint of heart; deep frying a piece of pork belly usually results in a fair amount of hot oil being spat all over the kitchen. Squeals can be heard emanating from my terrified but salivating mouth.After an initial boiling to rid the meat of impurities and scum, it is then dried and slid into a wok of bubbling oil until it takes on a gorgeous caramel colour.

Next, it is packed snugly into a bowl with various aromatics, to be set into a steamer to gently stew away until it becomes a dish that can be pulled apart by a deft hand with chopsticks - or in my case, tugged apart messily with a knife and fork.

The deep frying intensifies the porky flavour of the skin, while steaming makes sure that the skin goes from slightly tough and crisp to gelatinous and yielding in the mouth. Most European recipes prize the crisp crackling on pork belly, but Chinese recipes are not so rigid. Pig skin sliding down around the plate and eventually down the throat is just as satisfying as a fragile shatter beneath the teeth. The lily buds lend a floral Chinese herbal note - the kind you get when you catch a whiff of Chinese herbal medicine shops - to the dish, with a subtle meaty aniseed flavour from the star anise. I couldn't resist messing around with the recipe a bit; I added dried mushrooms, soy sauce and preserved vegetable for some added savoury tones.

Scooped up with some rice and served with stir fried pak choy, this dish was moreish but stayed light, without the richness of the belly weighing too heavily. It's not much of a looker though.

Steamed Pork Belly With Lily Buds

Serves 4

1kg pork belly, skin on and scored
4 star anise
4 spring onions
1 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetable
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
50gr dried lily buds
70ml Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
70ml chicken stock
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cornflour
300ml vegetable oil

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Reserve a bowlful and soak the lily buds and shiitake mushrooms in this. Place the pork belly carefully into the saucepan and simmer on a medium heat for half an hour. Meanwhile, rinse the preserved vegetable and chop the spring onions roughly.

Drain the pork belly and pat dry. Rub with the dark soy sauce. VERY carefully, deep fry the pork belly skin side down only until golden in colour. You might want to wear long sleeves for this. Remove and soak in cold water for 30 mins.

Place the pork belly skin side down in a large bowl. Drain the mushrooms, lily buds and preserved vegetable - pick the mushrooms out and place on top of the belly. Add the spring onions and nestle the star anise within.Top with the preserved vegetable and pour over the rice wine, sesame oil, soy sauce and chicken stock. Place in the steamer and steam for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and arrange the rehydrated lily buds on top and steam for a further 1 hour and 10 minutes.

When this has finished, carefully remove the bowl from the steamer. Scrape the lily buds and mushrooms from the top and arrange on a dish. Carefully lift the meat out of the bowl and place on top of the lily buds, skin side up. Decant the liquid into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Loosen the cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water amd stir into the saucepan. Simmer until thickened and glossy and pour over the pork belly to serve.

NB. Along with the Tianjin preserved vegetable which looks like this, you can get the dried lily buds in Chinese supermarkets.


BribedwithFood said...

Like I care if it's not a looker - I WANT!
Where, pray, can one get lilly buds, though?

Ollie said...

Steaming hunk of gloop, but GOOD steaming hunk of gloop.

Helen (Fuss Free Flavours) said...

Oh yum, anything porky with star anise and soy is prefection for me.

I am not brave about deep frying especially with a gas hob. I need to conquer this fear.

Chris Pople said...

It was, in fact, fricking awesome. Moist and juicy right to the center.

Dave said...

Yup doesn't look good but I bet it tastes awesome

Kerri said...

Ooh, I've never seen lily buds before, they sound good. I do have a bag of honeysuckle flowers in the cupboard that I bought at a Chinese supermarket and haven't done anything with, I wonder if they might work in a similar way.

I love the sound of a whole book dedicated to pork belly too.

LexEat! said...

I really want to say "oh my f*^%ing god". I am incapable of actual coherent thought after reading about that deliciousness.

Helen said...

I just can't describe how much I want to eat this. I will look for the buds in the place in Peckham. have you seen them there? Oh my God I want it. I want the deep fried belly. I want it and then I want MY serving of salted butter caramel ice cream that is in your freezer waiting for me.

tehbus said...

Who needs crackling anyway (OMG, did I just say that??). Quite a stunning use of pork and absolutely delicious. Glad to be have been part of this.

The Grubworm said...

When it comes to pork belly, beauty is, quite definitely, more than skin deep. I like your multiple method cooking of the pork. And applaud your bravery in deep frying the whole thing. Wow.

The resulting dish looks well worth it - i can almost smell the deep savoury scent rising form those pics.

Hollow Legs said...

Bribed with food: I suppose not all dishes have to look stunning! Sorry - I've added a note now, you can get them in Chinese supermarkets. I got mine in New Loon Moon, Gerrard St.

Ollie: It was gloopily good.

Helen: Star anise and meat is such a perfect match, isn't it?

Chris: Really pleased you liked it :)

Dave: Thanks.

Kerri: Honeysuckle flowers aren't something I've come across; do let me know how it turns out.

LexEat: Go on, let it all out :)

Helen: I haven't seen 'em at our local Chinese supermarket but then I haven't specifically looked for them. I can pick you up a pack if you like next time I walk through Chinatown. The ice cream is STILL waiting for you...

Tehbus: Well who indeed! (heresy, heresy) Glad you enjoyed it.

Grubworm: It does take a lot of bravery! But worth the effort.

Fillyerboots said...

It is a thing of beauty. Want.

Luiz Hara said...

Wow, fantastic recipe - love pork belly (my favourite cut of meat), and the addition of star anise must have added to the sweetness of the pork, very clever. You ought to invite me for dinner one of these days!

Luiz @ The London Foodie

annielee said...

Lily buds are the buds of the common day lily. You can use them fresh or dry them yourself. Pick the buds, place on newspaper in a dark, dry room, turning every couple of days until dry. May take a couple weeks. Then you can store them in glass jars.

Graphic Foodie said...

Looks aren't everything. Yum!

Hollow Legs said...

Fillyerboots - a thing of ugly beauty, perhaps!

London Foodie - Ah, if I had a dining table I'd have far more dinner parties!

Annielee - that's very interesting, thanks.

Graphic Foodie - well indeed!

veron said...

This sounds delicious! Bookmarking this recipe!

Anonymous said...

Huh... to you it may look like a great hunk of gloop, but to me it looks jaw droppingly good :))
Great post....

Anonymous said...

To you it may look like a great hunk of gloop, but to me it looks jaw droppingly good :))
Great post!