Some say the best recipes come out through accidents and this is one of those.
This dish is named after the famous scholar and poet Su Shi 苏轼 (often known as Su Dong Bo 苏东坡) of the Song Dynasty. It originated in Huanggang, Hubei, China, a place where he was demoted and sent to at one point of his life, but was only made popular in Hangzhou.
He “accidentally” created this dish one day when he was cooking his favourite pork dish and his friend came to visit unexpectedly. He lowered the heat and left the kitchen to play chess with his friend. He forgot all about the pork until towards the end of the game. He then rushed to the kitchen expecting to find a pot of burnt pork, but instead the pork and gravy had a rich deep red colour, and the meat was extremely tender. Since then, the dish became a favourite of his and his guests. There are also other stories about its origin, anyhow, this dish very tasty and is simple to prepare, made with just a few simple ingredients.
The meat is blanched to get rid of the scum, then braised till tender, then finally steamed. Do not skip the steaming step as it is believed to make the meat more tender while retaining its shape and produce melt-in-your-mouth fats.
Dong Bo Rou 东坡肉
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 2 1/2 hr
Yield: serves 4-6
- 1 slab (about 1 kg) pork belly
- 5 stalks spring onion – halved
- 25 g ginger – sliced
- 2 cups (500 ml) Shaoxing wine
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce
- 60 g rock sugar
- 1 1/2 cup water
- Blanch pork belly. [Place pork into a pot, add enough water to cover. Bring to boil. Once water comes to a boil, remove from heat, drain and wash.]
- Place ginger and spring onion in the bottom of a pot.
- Place pork, skin side down on top of the bed of ginger and spring onion.
- Add in all the other ingredients.
- Bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for 2 hrs (or until tender), covered. Turn the meat around half way through.
- Remove from braising liquid and steam on high heat (skin side up) for a further 15 mins. I used the braising liquid instead of water for steaming. [I removed the meat from the bones as the whole piece was quite thick and I couldn’t close the lid.]
- Serve with braising liquid. You could reduce the liquid until thickened, but I thought the sauce was quite salty, so I thickened the sauce with cornstarch slurry (cornstarch + water) instead.