Sunday, March 15, 2009

梅菜扣肉 - Deconstructed

When it comes to cooking, I've always thought that if it ain't broken - don't fix it. But sometimes curiosity gets the better of me and I start wondering if I can put a successful twist on a classic recipe.

This was the case with my take on the much loved 梅菜扣肉 - a typically Cantonese claypot stewed dish of pork belly with salt pickled chinese vegetables. I've always found this dish comforting and the depth of the sauce that comes from slow simmering of the pickled vegetables - simply alluring.

What I have done here is add an additional layer of texture by firstly slowly simmering and thus infusing the pork belly with pickled vegetables. I then crispen its skin under a hot grill to form a crackling as you would with roast pork. The result? Deliciously crispy skin encasing melt in your mouth pork belly accompanied by that much loved classic sauce. I guess even if it ain't broken, you should still always try to have fun.


1.5 kg lean pork belly (ask your butcher to leave the skin on
5 cloves garlic (leave skins on)
5 shallots
2 slices ginger
4 medium sized stalks of pickled vegetables (I like to used half of the salt pickled version and the other half of the sugar pickled variation)
3 Tablespoons of rock sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablepoons light soy
2 tablespoons dark soy
3 stalks spring onions bunched up in kitchen string

1. Firsly soak the pickled vegetables in water. Rinse out and do this a few times until water runs clear. Remove thick stalks and discard and finely chop remaining vegetables.
2. Tie pork belly with kitchen string (to retain its shape while cooking) and place in large stock pot with garlic, shallots, ginger and wate. Slowly simmer this for 50 minutes and discard water.
3. Add remaining seasonings to pot and fill with water again - on a constant low temperature, simmer again for approximately 75 minutes. Leave pork belly to cool and marinate in sauce.
4. Remove pork belly from sauce and set aside. Poke skin with fork and rub with salt. Leave for 15 minutes and pat dry moisture from skin.
5. Place pork belly under a medium hot grill until a crispy crust forms. While waiting, reduce the sauce and season to taste. Remove pork and cut into large bite sized pieces. Plate by spooning reduced sauce with pickled vegetables onto a heated plate and placing pork belly on top.


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