Pork belly! Again! This delicious dish is also called Hmong Sweet Pork, and it is really good. Despite this, I did get a request at home: please, no more pork belly for a few months.
This dish is, in fact, sweet, which is no surprise considering the brown sugar and sweet soy sauce in the recipe.
There are many recipes online for this dish, but I based what I made here on one from the Food & Wine website. That said, I did compare it to several other recipes found online, and it does compare to them in terms of being authentic and not Americanized.
The one thing I did not add to the recipe was the quail eggs for two reasons: 1) for some reason I find them disgusting, though I like chicken eggs, and 2) I didn’t feel like going to the Asian market to get them. Now some may say that the dish is short-changed without them, but the star of the show is pork belly, not miniature eggs.
Either way, this dish is well worth the effort to make (it’s not THAT much effort, though).
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What you’ll need:
- 1T canola oil
- 2 pounds pork belly, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 12 hard-cooked quail eggs, peeled—I skipped these
- *0.25 cups sweet soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 (2-ounce) lemongrass stalk, cut crosswise into thirds
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh galangal or ginger, thinly sliced (If you don’t have this, it won’t detract from the dish’s flavor.)
*This is also called kecap manis or Indonesian soy sauce. You can find it in most Asian markets, or make your own in a pinch. I found this easy recipe for it at an Australian/ Malaysian blog called Fuss-free Cooking.
- 0.25 cups soy sauce
- 6T (0.25 cups + 2T) brown sugar (palm sugar works well, too)
How to make kecap manis:
Add the soy sauce to a small saucepan and begin heating it. While it’s heating up, add the brown sugar (or palm sugar) and stir until it’s all dissolved. Bring to a low boil and cook until the sauce thickens. You’ll want to cook it down until it’s almost like a syrup. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
What to do:
Heat the oil in large, heavy frypan over medium-high heat. Add half of the pork belly pieces and brown on all sides, if possible—maybe about 10 minutes, in total. Transfer the browned pork to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining pork, then drain and discard the oil and rendered fat.
Stir together the quail eggs (if using) and 2T soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
Return all of the browned pork to the frypan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the brown sugar and cook, continually stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the salt and remaining 2T soy sauce and cook until the pork is glazed and the sauce has darkened—about 5 minutes. Pour off the rendered fat while retaining the pork in the pan.
Add enough water to just cover the pork in the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the lemongrass and galangal pieces. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender. The original recipe says this takes an hour, but start checking for doneness after 20 minutes. After the meat is just done, stir in the quail eggs for 5 more minutes of cooking.
Remove from heat and discard the lemongrass and galangal pieces, if you want. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then skim off and remove the rendered fat. At this point, you should add any soy sauce or brown sugar to ensure it’s the salty/sweet balance you want.
Serve hot with rice or Asian noodles.