Braised Pork Belly in Soy Bean Paste
Tender braised pork belly served up with a thick soy bean paste spiced with cinnamon and star anise. It speaks of comfort food. Use meat cuts like pork belly and pork shoulder for the most tender texture!
Braised pork often features in a lot of my favourite meaty dishes that I cook at home for the family. I love this version of braised pork in soy bean paste because it’s very delicious, super easy and requires little effort.
You see, I grew up on my mother’s cooking that often involved hours of braising with exciting combinations of sauces, condiments and spices.
As a kid, I never minded helping Mom watch the braising liquids, stirring the pot, and hovering about in our hot, steamy kitchen. To me, it was just as fun as play time!
And it’s how my cooking as an adult, was most influenced.
About braised pork in soy bean paste
I know it looks rather unexciting and dull, but I’ve got to say that this dish is all about getting the most tender-textured and succulent pork.
In fact, when done right, the pork becomes as tender as pulled pork, and comes apart effortlessly.
And in the process of getting there, the braising liquid is reduced to a thick, robust and flavourful sauce. All you need is a generous drizzle of this thick gravy over the meat and rice or noodles, and you’ll be impressed.
Ingredients for braised pork in soy bean paste
What I love about this dish is the relatively short list of ingredients. If you’re having a day when you can’t think of putting in too much effort, this dish is just the perfect choice.
The ingredients are not only easy to source but the chances are, you already have these in your pantry if you’ve been doing some Chinese or Asian cooking.
- pork belly
- spring onions
- star anise
- light soy sauce
- dark soy sauce
- Chinese wine
- salted soy bean paste
What is soy bean paste
If you’ve never cooked with soy bean paste before, be sure to choose one that says salted or fermented soy bean paste (tau cheo).
There are also jars of salted soy beans sold in Asian supermarkets or grocery stores.
These aren’t in a paste form, but the flavour is the same and you can simply mash these beans until paste-like.
Soy bean paste is not to be confused with fermented red bean curd or other types of soy bean products.
Cooking braised pork in 3 easy steps
Stir fry the aromatics
- In a Dutch oven or skillet, stir fry ginger, garlic, and spring onion in hot oil until they release their fragrance.
- Add cinnamon bark and star anise, and stir-fry for a few seconds. Next, add water and bring to a boil.
Braise the meat together with seasonings
- Tip in the seasonings and put in the pork belly.
- Once the liquid comes to a boil again, reduce the heat until the mixture is at a steady simmer. Braise for a good 2 hours or so, until the pork is tender through, or as tender as you’d like it.
- If the liquid reduces too quickly before the pork is tender enough, add a bit more water and as often as needed, and continue braising until it reaches the tenderness you want.
- Dish out the pork and set aside.
Cook the sauce
- Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan set over medium heat. If there isn’t much liquid left, add some water and bring to a gentle boil.
- Sweeten with sugar and maltose (or honey), to your taste, to balance the saltiness of the soy bean paste. Thicken with corn starch slurry until it has the consistency of a thick glaze.
How to serve this dish
Slice the braised pork into 1-cm thickness (or thinner, if you prefer) and arrange on a serving plate. Spoon the thick sauce all over the slices. Garnish with chopped spring onion, cilantro or parsley. Serve immediately.
Which dishes pair well with braised pork?
I love having any kind of braised pork served over steamed rice with some sliced cucumbers on the side.
Because you really get to taste the authentic flavour and juicy texture of the meat, and even more delicious with this amazing sauce drizzled over.
Left-overs can be sliced thinly and easily used up in your favourite fried rice or noodle recipes, or veggie stir-fries, so nothing goes to waste!
But if you want to turn this into a rounded dinner meal for the family, this dish will go well with a veggie dish like Chinese-style fried bitter gourd omelette and a classic Chinese soup, watercress soup with pork ribs and honey dates.
I do hope you’ll try this out! Until next time – xx Celia
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- 600 g pork belly or meaty spare ribs, cut into 2 slabs
- 2 li water or more as needed
- 5 ginger slices
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and lightly bruised
- 1 spring onion chopped into sections
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 star anise
Seasonings for the sauce:
- 1½ tbsp salted soy bean paste
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 5 tbsp Chinese wine
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp sugar or more as needed
- 2 tbsp maltose or honey
For the slurry
- 1 tbsp corn flour
- 1 tbsp water
- Some chopped spring onion or cilantro
Cook the pork
- In a Dutch oven or skillet, heat up 1 – 2 tbsps oil over high heat. Once hot, stir fry ginger, garlic, and spring onion for 15 – 20 seconds until they release their fragrance.
- Add cinnamon bark and star anise, and stir-fry for a few more seconds. Add water and bring to a boil.
- Tip in the seasonings and gently put in the pork belly. Bring to a boil again.
- Then reduce heat until the liquid is at a steady simmer. Braise for 2 – 2.5 hours, or until the pork is as tender as you'd like it. Note: If the liquid reduces too quickly before the pork is tender enough, add a bit more water as needed, and continue braising until the meat reaches the tenderness you want.
- Dish out the pork and set aside to cool.
Cook the sauce
- Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan (discard the solids). If there isn't much liquid left, add 2 – 3 tbsps water and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Sweeten with sugar and maltose (or honey), to your taste, to balance the saltiness of the soy bean paste.
- Thicken with corn starch slurry until it has the consistency of a thick glaze. Note: If you added more water to the sauce, you may need to prepare extra slurry for thickening it.
Garnish and serve
- Slice the braised pork into 2-cm thickness (or thinner, if you prefer). Arrange on a serving plate. Spoon the thick sauce all over and garnish with chopped spring onion or cilantro. Serve immediately.