Kong! Bak! Pau! – Pork Belly with Steamed Buns

Friday, 20 November 2009

PhotobucketThe monsoon season this year has started earlier than usual. It's been pouring by the bucketload practically every day for the past couple of weeks. And the weatherman predicts rain daily for the next 10 days! Wunderbar! Nice! Provided I'm not caught in traffic which jams up because of the rain, I really love this weather. It's a great change from the usual heat and humidity in sunny, tropical Singapore. I don't do it now but when I was a kid, I loved playing football with my brothers in the rain. Sliding and splashing around in a wet, muddy field was so much more fun than kicking a ball when the ground was dry and hard. Definitely worth the good scolding for getting our clothes muddy! In the rain, even walking home from school was fun 'cause we could stomp through puddles of water. Of course, that dirtied our white canvas Bata school shoes and got us another good scolding. Mind you, the fun didn't end when the rain stopped. After a heavy downpour, the lungfish in the pond next to our house escaped with the overflowing water, so we had to rescue them. These were fish which had lungs and could breathe air. Weird, eh? They could survive on land for quite a long time and were always wriggling vigorously on the ground when we found them. Unfortunately – or fortunately, from their perspective – they weren't very palatable, so we just chucked them back in the pond. The rainy season also brought lots of tadpoles in water puddles, which we caught and placed in glass bottles. It was fascinating watching them grow legs and eventually turn into tiny little toads.

PhotobucketThat was then, this is now. Older, sedate and aware of lightning risks, I don't run around in the rain any more. I love curling up with my cats (that's Princess Mel in the photo) for a snooze when a heavy downpour cools the hot, humid air. Or sitting next to an open window with a cup of tea, feeling the rain on my face. Back when we were catching fish with lungs, we had a corrugated zinc veranda which made a real ruckus when it rained. And the wave pattern in the zinc roof created a water curtain with strings of rain. It was very relaxing listening to the thundering rain and watching the shimmering strings of water. No such sound and visual effect now, I'm afraid.

There's one thing rainy weather always does to me no matter how old or young I am. It makes me really hungry! So hungry it's a good time to eat a piping hot stew. Not just any stew but a pork belly stew which might be too rich and filling when the weather is hot. Some call it Lor Bak (滷肉), others call it Kong Bak(扣肉). Or Dong Po Rou (東坡肉) or Tau Yu Bak (豆油肉). All these are pork belly braised Chinese style but the ingredients vary depending on personal preferences. I love the one I make because it has lots of vinegar to cut through the richness of the pork. And onions, garlic and ginger slowly cooked and caramelized in a dark, thick sauce. They are unrecognizable by the time the stew's done but these black blobs of stuff are, trust me, more delicious than the pork. I enjoy the stew with either rice or Chinese steamed buns, and every single bite is worth the extra time on the treadmill come payback time. Before I pay back, however, I wash everything down with a cup of strong Chinese tea and have a good snooze. Can't exercise right after I eat, right? Later lah.

Check these out:
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Tamarind Pork
(Babi Assam)

Spareribs with
Dried Tangerine
with Fermented
Black Beans
Drunken Chicken and
Soft-Boiled Eggs

(Recipe for 4 persons)

1 piece pork belly (400 g), blanched and rinsed
⅓ cup Zhenjiang vinegar (镇江醋)
⅓ cup water
¼ cup Shaoxing wine
80 g rock sugar
2 tsp dark soya sauce
2 tsp light soya sauce
1 small piece dried tangerine peel, washed
4 big shallots, peeled and washed
4 big cloves garlic, peeled and washed
4 big slices ginger, cut bite size

Place everything in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer gently on low heat till pork is tender and sauce is thickened, about 1½ hours. Increase heat for the last 15 minutes if necessary so that sauce is reduced when pork is done.

Cut pork into 16 slices when cool enough to handle. Plate, together with onions, garlic and ginger. Skim oil from sauce and drizzle over pork. Serve with steamed rice, or as a filling for steamed mantou (馒头).


petunialee said...

I love your blog. The style of writing is a pleasure to read and of course... there are recipes to boot.

KT said...

Oooh, thanks very much, Petunia. I love your stories about Milo. More, please, with photos! I have a (very) soft spot for animal tales. Stole a photo from your blog, by the way. Hope you don't mind?

petunialee said...

Steal away!!

Anonymous said...

Hi KT,

Can I check is your zhenjiang vinegar "镇江香醋"?



KT said...

Hi again

Yes, it's 镇江香醋, one of China's four best vinegars.

Anonymous said...

Thankssss KT! Yeah I have that at home can try out your recipe tomorrow! :) yum yum

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