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


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)


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


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!)

Maple Rosemary Glazed Cashews

This is a super easy recipe for those days when you have an urge to make something but don’t necessarily want to spend all day slaving away in the kitchen. I whipped these up from raw, unsalted cashews very quickly, and I suspect that you can add whatever seasoning that catches your fancy. However, maple syrup and rosemary is a pretty winning flavor combination and you wouldn’t be disappointed to stick true to this recipe.

Maple Rosemary Glazed Cashews
Makes 8 ounces
From A Food Centric Life


6 tablespoons (90 ml) pure maple syrup
4 (about 120 grams) tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
4 teaspoons (about 25 grams) packed golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
½ teaspoon (a few big pinches) sharp paprika
1/4 ground chipotle powder or cayenne pepper, use more if you like things spicy (optional)
1 pound (454 grams) raw whole cashews (unsalted, un-roasted)
1 tablespoon (28 grams) kosher or sea salt


Heat the oven to 350 degrees (177 C). Cover a rimmed baking with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Note – what I have discovered works best is the Reynolds Release non-stick foil, even better than just spraying regular foil.
In a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, rosemary, brown sugar, oil, and spice until smooth. Add cashews and mix to coat thoroughly.
Pour the nuts onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt. Start with the two teaspoons. Add more only if needed. Bake for 18-20 minutes or just until you begin to smell them and they are golden brown. Your timing will depend on your ovens. The nuts will crisp and harden as the cool.When they cool they will stick together. Carefully break them apart to package.

Package in an airtight container. They will keep for up to two weeks at room temperature.

Cocoa-Rubbed Pork Loin with Bacon Whiskey Gravy

Bacon. Whiskey. Chocolate. Based on my latest kitchen endeavors, I’ve found that these three ingredients are universally appealing to just about everyone, and especially when used together. I used to be a clear liquor sort of girl that scrunched her nose in the face of brown liquor, but then I started watching How I Met Your Mother and decided that Robin was the kind of girl I wanted to be and the rest is history. Simon suggested this dish to me, and I was like, fuck yeah! Let’s do this!

I trawled the Internet and found this Food Network recipe, but decided to use pork instead of beef. The pork ended up tender and juicy because it was baked instead of pan-fried like the steak would have been. We also substituted cognac for whiskey because that’s all there was available, and cognac, being a spirit distilled from wine, gave the gravy a more delicate flavor than whiskey would have. The gravy is really, really tasty, and the copious amounts of heavy cream and bacon makes it better. It’s not a terribly complicated recipe, and it’s certainly restaurant-worthy. Try it!

Cocoa-Rubbed Pork Loin with Bacon Whiskey Gravy
Adapted from Food Network
Makes 6 servings

For the pork:

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
2 1-pound boneless pork loin
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cubed

For the gravy:

4 strips bacon, diced
1 leek (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whiskey (I used cognac)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves (I omitted this)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Make the pork loin: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the cocoa powder, both paprikas, brown sugar, cayenne and 2 teaspoons salt; rub on the pork loin and bring to room temperature, 30 minutes. Distribute butter on pork loin and bake in a pan for 30-40 minutes.

Make the gravy: Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add the leek to the drippings and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the whiskey, then return to medium heat; if the alcohol ignites, let the flames die out. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture is reduced by one-quarter, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the gravy coats a spoon, about 7 minutes. Stir in the butter, reserved bacon and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

When pork loin is done, transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Season with salt. Slice and serve with the gravy.

Bacon Bourbon Cornbread

I have been baking, but the dearth in posts lately is because I haven’t baked anything worthy of a blog post. I was inspired to make some bacon cornbread recently, but it turned out too dry and bland for my liking. I was determined to make some kick-ass bacon cornbread, and I’m so glad this current version held up. I found a recipe on Allrecipes that has stood the test of user reviews, and decided to use it as my base for the cornbread.

This cornbread is moist and fluffy with a slight gritty texture from the cornmeal, and nuanced enough with flavors of applesmoked bacon and oaky bourbon to be eaten on its own. You’re also greeted with the occasional bit of crispy bacon as you chew each muffin down.

I made a few substitutions that I believe really elevated the original recipe. Firstly, I used bacon fat instead of vegetable oil, which adds an extra layer of smokiness to the cornbread. I’ve been saving all the bacon fat from my various bacon baking experiments, and it definitely came in handy. I also used water instead of milk because I didn’t have milk, but I am of the understanding that milk’s function in most cake recipes is just to add moisture so I felt comfortable subbing it out. I also made this in a muffin pan instead of a cake pan, which meant more crisp, browned edges. Greasing the muffin pan in bacon fat also added a savory crunch to the outside of it. The best alteration was probably the addition of whiskey. I had half a cup of bacon-infused bourbon (recipe) sitting around, and decided to throw it into the mix. I had thought the original batter looked a bit dry, and I’m glad the bourbon didn’t make the cornbread soggy.

Bacon Whiskey Cornbread
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup yellow cornmeal (finely ground)
1 cup milk or water (I used water)
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, lightly beat
1/2 cup of bacon-infused bourbon or just plain bourbon
1/3 cup bacon fat or vegetable oil (I highly recommend using bacon fat)
3 slices of bacon cooked till crispy, then cut into small pieces, slightly larger than 1/4 inch squares

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin tins with bacon fat.
2. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal and milk (or water) and let sit for 15 minutes. Combine with flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, bourbon and bacon fat. Stir in bacon bits.
3. Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then cool completely on cooling rack.

Sticky Blackberry Barbecued Pork Ribs

It’s summertime, and all manners of berries and stone fruit are flooding the supermarket shelves. Growing up I was never very fond of berries. Living in tropical Singapore, the only berries that made it to local grocery stores were usually sour and very expensive, and I never developed a taste for them. Come New York City, however, they were usually cheap and abundant (and so full of fiber and antioxidants!) that I never fail to keep some berries around in the summertime.

These blackberry ribs are kind of genius. The blackberry glaze imparts sticky sweetness along with some heat from the red pepper flakes and paprika, while the slow cooking ensures that the ribs are juicy and tender. The recipe is easy enough to do; it just takes a little bit of planning and preparation before you can actually sink your teeth into them. I didn’t have a food processor to chop up the berries, so I mashed it up with a fork as best as I can and ended up with a slightly chunky glaze.

Sticky Blackberry Barbequed Pork Ribs
From The Wall Street Journal
Serves 4


2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 2-2½ pounds each)

2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika

1¼ cups honey

¾ pound (about 2½ cups) blackberries

½ cup blackberry preserves

¼ cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons bourbon (or whiskey)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes

What To Do

1. Flip one rib rack over and insert the tip of a butter knife under tough membrane that covers back of rack. Wiggle knife to loosen membrane. Grab membrane with a paper towel and pull it off. Repeat with remaining rack.

2. At least 1 hour before cooking, mix 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Season ribs very generously on all sides with spice mixture. Let ribs come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, set up a grill to cook with indirect heat: For a charcoal grill, light charcoal using a chimney starter. When coals have started to ash over on top, pour them all onto one side of lower grate. This creates a hot zone and a cooler zone. If using a gas grill, light burners on one side of grill, leaving others off to create a hot zone and a cooler zone. Or preheat an oven to 350 degrees to cook ribs indoors.

4. Place ribs meaty-side up on cooler side of the grill and close lid. (Make sure vents are partly open.) Or put ribs in a roasting pan and place in oven. Cook ribs 1 hour. If using a charcoal grill, light more charcoal briquettes in chimney starter and pour on top of coals to replenish the fire. Flip ribs meaty-side down. Cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, make blackberry glaze: In a blender, purée honey, blackberries, preserves, maple syrup, bourbon, vinegar, red-pepper flakes and remaining salt and pepper. Scrape into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until reduced and syrupy.

6. Flip ribs meaty-side up, brush generously with glaze and close the lid. Cook 1 minute. Brush meaty side with glaze again. Move ribs to hot side of grill and flip over. Brush underside of racks with glaze. Close lid. Cook 1 minute or until glazed and caramelized on both sides. If cooking inside, brush ribs with glaze and place under broiler until glazed and caramelized, 1-2 minutes. Season generously with salt and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Bacon Bourbon Jam

I use bourbon like how a Chinese cook uses soy sauce – a dash of it never hurts. Indeed, bourbon is such a integral condiment in my dessert-baking repertoire that I’ve decided just to keep a handle of bourbon around. Why not, right? This bacon bourbon jam is another incarnation of my recent bacon obsession. I even went out to buy a baguette for the express purpose of taking a picture for this post.

And my, this spreadable bacon is quite heavenly. It’s a complex melding of flavors and textures – sweet and savory, sticky and crunchy, smokey and woody. I used apple-smoked bacon ends and pieces from Trader Joe’s – a much more cost-effective way since the bacon is going to be chopped up, anyway. It reminds a little bit like Bee Cheng Hiang’s bakkwa, a kind of Chinese pork jerky.

Bacon Bourbon Jam
Adapted from The Delicious Life
Makes a little over 1.5 cups

1 lb bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar and it was fine)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
½ cup brewed coffee
4 tablespoons bourbon

In a large pot, cook bacon until just starting to brown and crisp at edges. Remove cooked bacon to paper towel-lined plate to cool and drain off grease. Pat with additional paper towels. When cool, cut bacon into 1-inch pieces.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from pot. Turn heat down to medium low. Add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent. Add vinegar, brown sugar, bourbon, and coffee. Bring to a boil. Add cooked chopped bacon.

If You Are Cooking on Stovetop:

Turn down heat to the lowest setting and allow to simmer for about 1½ hours, stirring every few minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and what is left is syrupy. Do not leave the pot unattended because 1) that’s just not safe no matter what and 2) there is a lot of sugar from the onions and well, the sugar, so it can burn easily.

If You Are Using a Crockpot/Slow Cooker:

Pour the contents of the pot into the crockpot. Cook on high for about 3 hours.

After Cooking:

Transfer the cooked bacon jam to a food processor. Pulse until you get the consistency of chunky jam. Alternatively, you can just chop it manually with a knife until it reaches your desired consistency.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

Ham, Brie and Apple Sandwich

This is not a dessert recipe but apart from my sweet tooth, I have a great weakness for cured meats. I am especially partial to cured meats between two slices of bread. I think ham, apple and brie is an amazing trio. Brie is arguably my favorite cheese, and ham is my second-most favorite type of deli meat, the first being prosciutto. A tart apple adds crunch. What ups the ante, however, is mustard and fig jam.

Here’s how the humble ham sandwich has evolved for me. As a child, I used to eat ham and processed cheese sandwiches a lot. They were a quick and easy snack that I could make for myself. As I grew older, I’d toast the bread and the cheese, so it’d get all melty and gooey. Next, I’d use brie instead of processed cheese. Slather on fig jam onto a slice. Then I encountered The Grey Dog‘s version of the ham/brie sandwich and I was blown away. They added apple slices and applied a raspberry/mustard spread. It was a wonderful meld of savory, sweet, tart, and spicy, not to mention the creamy texture of the brie along with the crunch of the apple and the crisp, toasted bread.

The following recipe is my tribute to The Grey Dog’s apple/brie sandwich. To amazing sandwiches.

Ham, Brie and Apple Sandwich

Two slices of your favorite bread, ideally a whole wheat one or a really hearty loaf
As much brie as you want
Fig jam
Thinly sliced ham
Thinly sliced apple (I used Golden Delicious; I thought Granny Smiths would be too tart for my own tastes)

Toast (or not) the bread. Slather on fig jam on one slice and mustard on another. Apply the brie on one side. Layer the ham on top of it. Cover with the other slice of bread. Done!