Buy a slab of pork belly. Some butchers’ pork tastes “porky” and people get turned off by eating pork. That’s because they’re selling male pork. Avoid these butchers. Usually, an Asian butcher that stays in business is selling female pork. Go there. Female pork doesn’t have that “porky” taste, a well-known fact.
Cut it into large bites, like this (bottom of image), and leave the skin on:
Place the pork in a pot WHILE COLD (The pot should not be too small, this one is slightly small, I should have used the bigger one, but definitely don’t go smaller than this). Does it really have to be cold to begin with? Maybe not, but just do it. No oil/fat is required, the pork will release plenty if you bought a sufficiently fatty piece (eg pork belly).
Turn the heat up to high. See below, it’s starting to brown, but it’s not ready. Sticking a bit to the pan is good, but scrape the pork free and mix. The “browness” will give flavour.
This is what we’re after:
The liquid is added next and washes the pan, and absorbs the flavour.
Prepare the liquid while the pork is cooking.
This is a 50:50 mixture of soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine, approx 150ml each. The wine is salted (I believe to avoid an alcohol tax, as it is not drinkable with the salt):
Add two tablespoons of brown sugar to the liquid:
The Other Flavours
Have ready the spices to add to the pot when we add the liquid. A tablespoon of black peppercorns (I had a mixture of black/white), and two “ears” of star anise (don’t add the whole star, it’s too strong):
Also, have ready 3 spring onions:
When the meat is brown enough, add the liquid. It should bubble up violently. Use a spoon to mix the meat around and wash the base of the pot so the flavours get into the liquid (it might happen anyway, but I like to mix it).
Add some boiling water to just cover the meat.
Add the spices and spring onion. Reduce heat to low and cook in the water.
It might take about an hour to 90 minutes for the liquid to reduce and form a nice sauce, and for the meat to be tender. Then it’s ready. Be careful if attempting to cook for many hours (replenishing the water prolongs how long you can braise) – the meat will lose flavour at some point. Don’t reduce the liquid too much – it will get to salty (salt from the wine). The liquid will be dark, but it doesn’t thicken much.
Better With Eggs
Boil several eggs, peel them, poke a couple of holes using a chopstick through the eggs, and add them to the pot for the last 10 minutes.
Serve in a large bowl in the centre of the table. Serve bowls of rice. Help your self from the communal bowl.