Sweet Soy Pork With Mushrooms And Star Anise
Recipe and image from ‘Heavenly Fragrance’ by Carol Selva Rajah, published by Periplus Editions (2007). Carol Selva Rajah is a Malaysian food consultant, author and presenter, and a proud ambassador for the Malaysia Kitchen Australia program, which aims to promote Malaysian cooking and the diverse Malaysian restaurants across Australia.
This caramelized pork dish which is known in Malaysia as Tou Yew Bak was a specialty of my Cantonese amah who understood that the flavour and aroma that went hand in hand to create it. Over the years I’ve improved it by adding black bean sauce and chilli and caramelizing the port so that it becomes a dish with an amazing complexity of flavour – Carol Selva Rajah.
SERVES: 6-8 PREPARATION TIME: 45 mins + marination time COOKING TIME: 1 hr 10 mins
1 tablespoon oil
6 cloves garlic, bruised
1 lb (500 g) pork belly, skin removed and discarded, cubed
1 lb (500 g) pork ribs or 10 oz (300 g) pork shoulder, sliced into pieces
3 star anise pods, roughly ground in a mortar
½ teaspoon Sichuan pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons chilli black bean sauce
2 tablespoons Samal Oelek Chili Paste (you should be able to find it at any decent supermarket or Asian grocery store), or other sweet chilli paste
½ cup (125 ml) cup sweet caramelized soy sauce, or kecap manis
3 cups (730 ml) water
2 teaspoons shaved palm sugar or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (100 ml) sweet Chinese black vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
8 dried black Chinese mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft, drained and stir-fried in 2 teaspoons of oil for 2-3 minutes
Salt, to taste
Crispy Fried Garlic, to garnish
Green onion curls (see note), to garnish
Sweet Cucumber Pickles
½ cup (125 ml) vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced
Crispy Fried Garlic
2 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Prepare the Crispy Fried Garlic first by heating the oil in a skillet and sautéing the garlic over medium heat until golden and crispy, about 1 minute. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Alternatively, cover the garlic with 1 tablespoon of oil in a heatproof dish and microwave for another minute.
Prepare the Sweet Cucumber Pickles by combining the vinegar and sugar in a bowl and stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cucumber slices and mix well. Allow to marinate for 2 hours and drain the Pickles just before serving.
Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the garlic over high heat until golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add both types of pork, the star anise and Sichuan pepper (if using) and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the chili black bean sauce, Sambal Oelek and black soy sauce and toss well to coat the port with the sauce.
Pour in the water and bring the ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer covered until the port is very tender, about 20-30 minutes. Season with the sugar, vinegar and rice wine, and stir in the mushrooms. Half cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, until the pork is tender and the sauce is thick but not completely dried up. Increase the heat to medium, season with salt to taste and stir-fry the pork to coat it evenly with the sauce. Remove from the heat.
Transfer the pork to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the Crispy Fried Garlic. Garnish with green onion curls and serve immediately with steamed rice and the Sweet Cucumber Pickles on the side.
Note: To make green onion curls, trim off the bulb of each green onion at the point where the stem begins to turn green. Slice the leaves into 4-in (10-cm) lengths. Using a sharp knife, slice each length into very thin strips lengthwise. Soak the strips in a bowl of iced water and refrigerate until they curl up.