Recipe: Babi Pongteh (Peranakan Pork Belly Stew) - Gastronomic Ruminations

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As my visit to my aunt and uncle in San Francisco draws to a close, I thought I would cook a stew for them with the flavours of home as a souvenir before I leave. Feeling like a veritable fish out of water especially since I couldn't summon sufficient courage to drive on a different side of the road even though I came prepped with my International Driving Permit, I selected an easy dish to make so I wouldn't have to spend too much time browsing the aisles while on a grocery run with aunt. I decided to make a Peranakan (Straits Chinese cuisine a.k.a. Nonya) stew that I had made recently with easily accessible ingredients and that would keep well.

Babi Pongteh

Babi Pongteh (Peranakan Pork Belly Stew) - Serves 4
Recipe adapted from "Nonya Favourites" by Lee Geok Boi

Ingredients:

600 g Pork Belly (with skin on)

1 1/4 tbsp Oil

100 g (3.5 oz) Sliced Shallots

1 tbsp Fermented Soya Beans (dou jiang), rinsed and finely mashed

200 g (7 0z) Shiitake Mushrooms (stems cut off )

6 cm (2 1/2 inch) Cinnamon Quill

1 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce

1 tbsp Sugar

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Ground White Pepper

1 litre (4 cups) Water

4 Green Chillies, coarsely sliced

Method:

1) To cut the pork belly into neat cubes, lay flat onto a tray and leave it in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden. Cut into 3 cm (1 1/4 inch) cubes.

2) I like to blanch the pork belly cubes in boiling water so it retains the shape when cooking and also helps to remove some of the excess fat.

3) Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently sauté the sliced shallots and garlic until translucent. Add the mashed soya beans and cook for a further minute.

4) Add the pork belly cubes, mushrooms, cinnamon, dark soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and water. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender.

5) Better served the next day or at the barest minimum, after setting aside for a several hours to allow the flavours to develop.

6) Serve with steamed rice or crusty Baguettes and green chillies.