hangzhou pork

About a year after the arrival of our half-pig and six months from the most recent beef delivery, we’ve still got a decent supply of meat on hand. But the cuts are less and less familiar as we go. No surprise, I suppose. We’ve got ten pounds of pork belly, for example, that I’d intended to cure, nitrates and all. Didn’t happen, and here we are now with pork belly that’s old old old.

So I scouted alternative ways with the cut, looking specifically for preparations that may not depend so particularly on fresh, pliant pork. Brined and roasted the way Fergus Henderson does it was one thought, but this old Hangzhou preparation intrigued me more — it seemed like exactly thing to melt down long-frozen meat (and fat) into one tasty, rich dish.

The number of different takes on the recipe, from cooks all over the world, made me think I could probably take my liberties. I used Eileen Fei-Lo’s recipe as a base, adding just a little bit of star anise and a cinnamon stick to cook down with the meat. It comes out rich enough that a thin slab is all you need, so rich that you’ll want to eat it with plain steamed rice and plain steamed vegetables; a few weeks back I used kale raab from the garden.

Braised Pork Belly with Star Anise

1½ lbs pork belly / 8 chive stems or 1 foot lengths of kitchen twine / 2 cups chicken broth / 2 cups water / 3 tbls shao xing wine or sherry / 2 tbls brown sugar / 1 inch slice ginger root / 1 stick cinnamon / 1 star anise / 2 tbls dark soy sauce / 1 clove garlic, bruised

Cut pork belly into 4-inch x 1-inch squares. Tie each piece like a present using chive stems, to keep layers from falling apart during cooking. Place belly packages, broth, water, wine or sherry, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and star anise in a medium sized pot. Bring liquid to a boil then add soy sauce. Turn heat down to low and cook at a simmer for 3 hours. Add garlic and cook until pork is tender and fat melts to the touch, about 1 hour more. Carefully remove pork packages and reserve. Skim fat if you desire. Bring liquid to a boil and cook at a steady heat until liquid is somewhat thickened. Return pork to the pot to warm through, then serve over plain rice.