Braised pork belly or Dong Po Rou (东坡肉) is an iconic traditional Chinese braised pork belly recipe of Hangzhou (杭州), created by Su Dong Po, a famous scholar, writer, poet, calligrapher, gastronome, and court official of the Song dynasty. Over the centuries, this dish has become very popular, and once you taste it, you’ll know why!
Legend has it that Dong Po Rou was created by accident. There are many versions of folklore tales about how Su Dong Po created this dish. According to one most gastronomically related tale, Su Dong Po was once the official at West Lake who had successfully prevented a massive flood. He organized a banquet to celebrate the event and ordered the chef to prepare stew pork and wine for the public who came to his house to congratulate him. The chef misunderstood that the wine was supposed to add into the braised pork belly instead of serving the guests. Fortunately, the dish that he thought had been ruined turned out to be a pleasant surprise, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the guests.
The prolonged stewing with wine breaks down the fat to make the braised pork belly flavorsome, succulent and give it the tender “melt-in-the-mouth” texture. It is so tender that it can easily be separated into small pieces with chopsticks. Chinese braised pork belly (Dong po rou) was thus born and eventually became the notable signature Chinese dish famous around the world.
Although the braised pork belly has plenty of fat (think of bacon before being cured and sliced), the lengthily stewing over low heat results in fats sans much of its greasiness. The flavors of the accompanying spring onions and ginger help to balance the greasiness of the pork, which is so tender that it can literally melt in the mouth.
Braise pork belly (Dong Po Rou) is surprisingly simple to prepare because it only involves six ingredients. You need a few hours of stewing before you can taste the fantastic evening combination of flavor and texture of the meat, which is definitely worth the wait.
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Braised pork belly recipes – Chinese style (Dong Po Rou)
- 1 piece (about 600g) of pork belly
- 40g of spring onions, cut to 4cm length
- 30g of sliced ginger
- 300ml of water
- 35g of rock sugar
- 5 tablespoons (75g) of premium grade light soy sauce
- 150ml of Shaoxing wine
- Cut the pork into 4cm squares. Heat up the wok, put the pork skin side down to dry fry the skin until it becomes slightly brown. Remove.
- Place the pork in a pot of hot water and blanch for three minutes. Remove.
- Lay the spring onions in a crosshatch pattern at the bottom of a medium sized clay pot to form a thick even layer. The spring onions should cover the entire bottom of the pot. Lay the ginger slices evenly over the spring onion.
- Tie the pork pieces with a kitchen string.
- Arrange the pork pieces skin down on top of the spring onions.
- Add the remaining ingredients in B into the clay pot.
- Bring it to a boil with the lid on. When the liquid in the pot starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 90 minutes without stirring it.
- Turn the pork pieces skin-side up in the pot. Cover and simmer for another 90 minutes.
- Transfer the pork pieces to a plate. Remove the strings.
- Drizzle the sauce over the pork. Serve.
9 Tips to prepare the perfect braised pork belly (Dong Po Rou)
- Brown the skin to create flavor. Use the blade of the knife to remove any hair and impurities on the surface of the skin. Heat up the wok, put the pork skin side down to dry fry the skin until it becomes slightly brown. Dry frying is a way to create extra flavor, much like deep frying is for golden browning. Since the pork belly has plenty of fat, deep frying would leave it too only. Dry frying is a better approach.
- Blanch the pork in water. This is an effective method to remove the gamey taste of the pork.
- Cut the pork to 4cm square or smaller. If the pieces of pork are too big, the interior of the pork pieces will not be tender and absorb the flavor of the simmering liquid.
- Tie with strings. Tie the pork pieces with kitchen string to prevent them from falling apart during the long stewing process.
- Improve the flavor with aromatics. The aromatics form the foundation for the pork to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. The pork will fully absorb the flavor of the spring onions and ginger during the long hours of stewing.
- Always use premium quality soy sauce. The quality of soy sauce is very important since there are only six ingredients used in this recipe.
- Turn the pork pieces over once. This is important as the liquid of the stew may not fully cover the pork. Turn the pork pieces over once to ensure even cooking.
- Use rock sugar. Rock sugar has a very clean taste. But you can substitute it with white sugar if rock sugar is not available.
- Use low heat to simmer on. Light soy sauce can become bitter if it is simmered over high heat and will leave an unpleasant taste in the pork.
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