Pork Belly in Soy Sauce (Tau Yu Bak / Lou Bak)
Pork belly in soy sauce (tau yu bak / lou bak) is pure Chinese comfort food! It’s the most tender and succulent braised meat you’ll ever taste! The flavour of soy sauces, soy bean paste with shiitake mushrooms, garlic, shallots and spices is bold, complex and very addictive!
Every Chinese family has their favourite braised pork recipes, and this is one of ours! Braised pork belly in soy sauce, or tau yu bak in the Hokkien dialect, is a very simple dish to cook at home and it’s utterly delicious!
This pork belly in soy sauce is the real deal! Trust me when I say that the pork is amazingly tender-licious, and I mean literally come-apart tender!
This is if you use pork belly or very tender cuts of pork marbled with generous streaks of fat. The gentle braising process also tenderises the pork skin, turning it translucent and gelatinous, and deliciously soft.
And yes, this dish is perfect as a make-ahead meal if you’re wondering! The flavours from the meats, fats, and sauces come together beautifully and taste even more delicious a day or two after.
About pork belly in soy sauce
The Chinese can have so many variations of this dish, so it’s hard to say with certainty what an authentic dish of braised pork in soy sauce should be like.
Many Chinese homecooks hold onto trusted, cherished recipes passed on to them from the great cooks in their families.
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My inspiration were my memories of how my parents cooked this dish when I was growing up. Mom and Dad didn’t really stick to a particular recipe, it was more a pragmatic approach of what was available in our pantry.
Sometimes, there would be boiled eggs, which inspired this version of braised pork belly with eggs in soya sauce. At other times, we’d see tau kwa (a dense bean curd) or tau pok (a fried bean curd with a spongy center), and even fried yam slices.
More often, we’d have pork belly braised with shiitake mushrooms and potatoes. This is a hearty and wholesome version with such delightful textures, I just know you’ll enjoy!
The shiitake mushrooms and their juices add a rich, earthy and savoury flavour to the braising sauce, whilst the braised potatoes soak up all that umami goodness! I hope this will be a favourite for you and your family too!
What makes an unforgettable dish of pork belly in soy sauce?
For me, a worthy dish of braised pork belly in soy sauce really stands out when its:
- Tender and succulent – pork belly is recommended because the fatty layers guarantee an utterly tender and succulent texture after braising. You should be able to tease apart the pork easily, with very little effort.
- Intensely flavourful – the flavour is rich, bold and complex with the barest hint of spices.
- Generous with gravy – need I say more? This is the super addictive, umami sauce you’ll end up with after reducing the braising liquid. Trust me, you’ll want to dunk the meat in it, and spoon loads of it over your rice or noodles! There just won’t ever be enough, believe me!
Quick tips on pork cuts and soy sauces
Cuts of pork meat
Of course, I recommend pork belly! It’s the best for sauce braised dishes like this one. But if you’re not keen on fattier meats, you can substitute with other tender cuts like pork shoulder or baby back ribs.
The key is to have some fat marbled in the meat so that you can enjoy a tender and succulent texture, as is intended for such a dish.
Types of soy sauces to use
I highly recommend using good quality soy sauces because you’ll be rewarded with the most amazing flavours!
The recipe requires both light as well as dark soy sauce. Dark soy sauces can be a little confusing if you don’t often cook with it, because there are so many varieties available.
You’ll commonly find dark soy sauce labelled as superior dark soy sauce (or premium, top grade, top quality, etc.), sweet soy sauce, thick caramel sauce, thick dark soy sauce, and more.
Use standard dark soy sauce, or for the best flavour, premium dark soy sauce or superior dark soy sauce, not the thick or sweet ones.
I really hope this braised pork belly dish gives you and whoever you’re preparing a meal for great enjoyment and satisfaction! Do give it a go, and I hope you’ll find what an easy make-ahead meal it can be!
Here are more braised dishes you may like:
- Nonya-Style Braised Pork in Fermented Soy Bean Sauce (Babi Pongteh)
- Wok-Fried Char Siew (Char Siew Pork)
- Chicken in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Ayam Masak Merah)
- Pork in Tamarind Sauce (Babi Assam)
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
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- 900 g pork belly, skin left on
- 4 tbsp light soya sauce
- 4 tbsp dark soya sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- 3 potatoes, peeled, quartered
- 12 dried Chinese black or shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water till softened, stems removed, soaking water reserved
- 15 shallots, peeled, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cinnamon bark, 5-cm (2-inch) length
- 2 star anise
- 1 ½ tbsp salted soy beans or soy bean paste, tau cheo
- 3 – 4 cups water, including water reserved from soaking mushrooms
- Cut pork belly into 2 cm x 5 cm (1 in x 2 in) thick slices. Sprinkle light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar and pepper. Mix well to coat the pork slices evenly and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Blend the shallots and garlic in a food processor to a fine paste. Add a little oil to grease the blades, if necessary.
- In a wok or skillet, heat up cooking oil over low-medium heat, and stir-fry the garlic-shallot paste for 2 minutes. Add cinnamon bark and star anise and stir-fry for a few seconds. Add the salted soy beans or soy bean paste, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms (without the soaking water) and stir-fry for 1 minute.
- Drain the pork slices in a sieve, reserving the marinade sauces. Increase the heat to high, add the pork slices and stir-fry until it starts to change colour, about 3 to 4 minutes. Return the marinade sauces to the wok or skillet, and add enough water (including the mushroom soaking water) to just cover the pork. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cover. Let simmer until the pork is tender, about 45 mins to 1 hour.
- When the pork is tender, add the potatoes and more water if needed. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally to evenly cook the potatoes. Continue to simmer until the pork is very soft, another 15 to 20 minutes.
- Towards the end of cooking, add more water if you like a gravy with a thinner consistency. For a more intense and bold flavour, allow the sauce to reduce until slightly thickened, but not thick or dry.