Kong Bak (Braised Pork Belly/扣肉)

This dish reminds me very much of home. Braised pork belly served between slices of steamed buns were a frequent fixture of casual Sunday lunches, and I’ve found it a bit silly that pork belly buns in New York City are such a gourmet foodie item. I’ve had pork belly buns at a few places: Ippudo, Baohaus, and Jum Mum, a new bun place opened by the creators of Spot Dessert bar.

After having made this dish myself, I can now understand why people pay for it. Because making tender meat just isn’t easy. My version tastes excellent – but the texture does not melt in your mouth like Ippudo’s pork belly buns would. Did I not devour my dinner because of that? No. This contains so much nostalgia for me, and I love it. The yard-long bean and egg omelet you see is another staple in my home.

Here’s how the marinade looked like. I’m so glad I had most of the obscure ingredients: cinnamon sticks, star anise, Chinese cooking wine… I didn’t have ketchup or oyster sauce like the original recipe called for, but I used some hoisin sauce instead and I thought it was a good substitute for both the ketchup and oyster sauce taste.

The meat after being braised. Already it looks promising…

Adding the eggs was a bit of an impromptu decision – the standard would have been to boil the eggs first before marinating it, but I impulsively adding the eggs just before baking and when it was done cooking, it ended up such a beautifully coddled egg. The egg yolk was richly yellow but still a solid mass. Total mouth party.

Kong Bak (Chinese Braised Pork/扣肉包)
Adapted from Delicious Asian Food
Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients

1 kg of pork belly (approximately 1 feet long x 3 inches wide) – cut into 2 pieces for ease of blanching and frying)
3 eggs, lightly cracked so it’s still intact
Water for blanching
Oil for frying (semi-deep frying)

Marinade

5 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons white pepper powder
2 teaspoons five spice powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese Shaoxing cooking wine
3 to 5 cinnamon sticks
5 to 8 pieces of star anise
2 whole bulbs of garlic

Method

Bring water to boil in wok or pot and blanch the pork belly for approximately 30 seconds. You will notice that the meat is slightly cooked and the skin is slightly toughened. Remove from water and drain. Prick the skin with the sharp end of a knife or sharp fork.

Next, heat up oil in wok and fry the pork belly 20 seconds on each side (skin side and meat side). Remove and place on a rack for to cool and to let excess oil drip. You will notice that the meat and skin is now slightly browned and the whole piece of pork belly is slightly firm.

Cut the pork belly into 1 to 1.5cm-width slices. Place the pork belly slices and eggs in a suitable container and marinade them with the marinate above for at least 2 hours or longer. Preheat the oven to 250 F 15 minutes before cooking.

After marinating, arrange the pork belly slices in a pan and pour all the marinade over it. Add some water to the pan and cover it with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for two hours, stirring occasionally. (Be careful not to break the eggs!)

Bacon Cornbread Pancakes

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I’ve had a really random hankering for pancakes – something I never crave for – and then once I made my first ever batch with a really excellent recipe from Allrecipes, I’ve been making them in various incarnations since. Based on experience, we know that cornbread is often studded with bacon. We also know that bacon is often served alongside pancakes. Incorporating all three flavors can’t go wrong! And so I did.

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Pancakes are so gratifying because they’re so quick and easy to make. They’re also a socially acceptable way to eat dessert for breakfast, and I do not mind that at all. I edited the original recipe by replacing half of the all-purpose flour with corn flour, and using bacon fat instead of butter for the fat in the pancakes. These are definitely still sweet, with just a hint of smokiness and Southern flavor from the cornmeal. These are supremely good with maple syrup and with thick cut bacon.

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Bacon Cornbread Pancakes
Makes 7 pancakes
Adapted from Allrecipes

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons bacon fat, melted
cooking spray

1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
2. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and bacon fat into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.