Thursday 10 March 2016

Pork Belly with Taro (Yam) / Wu Tau Kau Yoke 芋頭扣肉

This comfort food has its origins from the Hakkas from China. It has that trademark upside-down presentation that is popular in Hakka dishes. By braising the dish in an upside-down manner for hours, the gravy and flavour are soaked completely by the meat and yam giving you that most scrumptious bite. It is no wonder why it is such a popular household dish.

Honestly speaking, this dish is not much of a looker. Any established chefs would have been appalled at its blackened mashed-up appearance. I would rather call this rustic. But once you have tasted these succulent layers of melt-in-your-mouth proteins, the mere uninspiring appearance would be enough make you salivating. I am not kidding.

Another thing that makes this dish is the use of its unique Chinese condiments. If you haven't already heard of fermented beancurd, well, now is a good time to start. Red fermented beancurd incorporates red yeast rice in the brining process of making this beancurd (for more information, click here). This red fermented beancurd contributed to the wonderful fragrant, and at the same time, provides an excellent taste. If you feel nauseous after your first tasting of this beancurd, it is perfectly normal. It is an acquired taste. Did I mention fermented bean paste (tauchu) as well? Oh yes, another unique Chinese condiment. The combination of red fermented beancurd (nam yue), fermented bean paste and five-spice powder makes this dish.

Before I even begin, let me just make clear this to you:

1. It is a pretty tedious process from start to finish and it requires many steps from treating the pork belly, to the taro and subsequently braising it. Do allocate about 5 hours from start to finish. You might want to consider doing more of this to be frozen for later consumption.

2. It is essential that you get the powdery/floury taro. The taro should be cut into equal thickness so that it could be cooked evenly. The slices should not be cut too thin to prevent it from breaking apart.

Pork Belly with Taro (Yam) / Wu Tau Kau Yoke 芋頭扣肉

800 g taro/yam
800 g pork belly
Oil for frying and sauteeing
2 cups water

Pork marinade
2 1-inch cube red fermented beancurd, mashed
1 1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tauchu

2 1-inch cube red fermented beancurd, mashed
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp Shao Xing wine
6 shallots
6 garlic
2 cups water

Cooking Instruction

Prepare Pork belly (for step-by-step picture on how to treat the pork. click on my Mui Choy Kau Yoke post)

1. Blanch pork in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to remove odour and impurities.
2. Prick the skin with a meat tenderiser to loosen the skin. You could also use a fork or skewer.
3. Dry meat with kitchen towel and rub some dark soy sauce on the skin. Leave aside to dry for a while.
4. Heat oil in wok. When oil is almost smoky hot, put pork in, skin side down. Be careful of oil spatter.
5. Once the skin is nicely crisped, remove the pork and soak in cold water to soften skin and remove oil.
6. Remove and slice pork to about 1/2 inch thick (or lesser).
7. Marinade pork with the marinade ingredients for at least 2 hours (I did mine overnight).

Prepare Taro

1. Remove taro skin and slice taro to about 1/2 inch thick. The taro should have a similar size and width length to the pork belly. Wash and dry.

2. Heat oil in wok. Fry taro until golden brown (you could skip this step if you want mushy taro). Set aside.

Prepare the sauce

1. Heat up about 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok. Add in garlic and shallots. Saute until fragrant.

2. Add in mashed red fermented beancurd, seasoning, marinade water from pork and water. Bring to a boil. Taste sauce and adjust taste accordingly if required. The sauce should taste heavier than normal as it would get diluted once it is braised together with the rest of the ingredients. Also prepare more sauce than necessary as the taro would absorb a lot of liquid.

Note: you could also add some cornstarch to thicken the sauce

Assemble and steam

1. Pack taro and pork belly alternately into a bowl, skin side down. Pour in sauce. The sauce should fill up at least 1/2 of the bowl. Once it is packed, cover with aluminium foil or cling wrap.

2. Bring water to boil and steam the dish for about 3 hours in the lowest heat or until the pork belly becomes really tender. The longer you steam, the tastier it gets as the belly becomes melt-in-the mouth and the flavour develops fully.

3. Serve hot with rice.

Also check out my Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens (Mui Choy Kau Yoke) here:

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