Braised Pork Belly with Mash and Brussels Sprouts

by Xinyu on 13th Sep, 2012

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"So what should we cook for dinner?" I asked, while tearing into the roti prata on my plate.
"Dunno leh, you want chicken? Pork? They got duck at one of the stalls too."

Ai Qi was busy with her breakfast as well, smearing a gob of chicken curry kuah over the flaky pastry.

"Hmm." I stared into the distance, chewing. From our plastic orange table by the side of the road, we could see bustle of the neighbourhood going about their Sunday morning business; aunties pushing red metal shopping carts to the market, an old ah pek slowly sipping his kopi orh, boys in singlets sweaty after a morning run queuing up to buy breakfast to regain some of those lost calories.

"Maybe pork. The pork looked good, and its from Indonesia one, not Australian air-pork that doesn't have the pork taste at all. Wouldn't mind cooking duck some other day though."

Ai Qi nodded in between mouthfuls of delicious, oily prata. "Maybe we can try making my dad's braised duck. So... pork, how about pork belly? How you want to cook it?"

"Western lor..." I replied, distilling entire disparate culinary traditions into a single cardinal direction. "I'm thinking of braising it, then frying, like how Thomas Keller does the crispy braised chicken thighs. Flavours of thyme, onion... something salty but slightly sweet or acidic. What sides you think could go with it?"

"Umm... potatoes? Maybe mashed potatoes." Ai Qi scrunched up her nose and brows in sudden thought. "Oh I know, we do a mix of potatoes and sweet potatoes, not so boring. As for the vegetables, we see what there is at the market lor?"

"Sure," I said, finishing the last of my prata and staring absent-mindedly at the toy dispenser machine next to our table. One dollar for an imitation Angry Birds toy in a plastic ball... did they cost so much when I was a kid? "Okay, and if there isn't anything suitable, maybe you could buy back some brussels sprouts from the supermarket when you're done with your Pilates class later. I just read a recipe for brussels sprouts, did you know that the way we always cut it in half before cooking actually greatly improves the flavour?"

"Yah I'd imagine so because the cut side can get caramlized and cooked fully. Okay, sounds like a plan!"

And that's how we decided what to cook for dinner over breakfast.

Braised Pork Belly with Balsamic Vinegar and Thyme

pork belly , onions , thyme , allspice , brandy , chicken stock , brown sugar , balsamic vinegar , salt , pepper
pork belly
['pork belly']
chicken stock
['chicken stock']
brown sugar
['brown sugar']
balsamic vinegar
['balsamic vinegar']

Chop onions into chunks.

Add a bit of oil to a saucepan and heat. Sear pork belly on all sides, then remove. Add onions and thyme and fry for a bit. Deglaze the pan with brandy (or whatever alcohol you wish), and add the chicken stock and a bit of balsamic vinegar and allspice to get a braising liquid. Add the pork belly back into the pan and braise till soft. [We used our pressure cooker for this part, and cooked at high pressure for 15 minutes.]

Remove pork belly and put aside. Strain braising liquid to get rid of the thyme and onions. Reduce the liquid to sauce-like consistency, adding a bit of butter to thicken if necessary. Consider adding more balsamic vinegar to get a more tart sauce.

Add some oil to a frying pan, and fry each side of the pork belly to crisp it. Serve with sauce.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

potatoes , sweet potatoes , butter , salt , pepper , cayenne pepper
sweet potatoes
['sweet potatoes']
cayenne pepper
['cayenne pepper']

Steam potatoes and sweet potatoes till soft. Peel away the skin and mash with butter till smooth. Add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

brussels sprouts , a lot of garlic , salt , pepper
brussels sprouts
['brussels sprouts']
a lot of garlic

Halve brussels sprouts and coarsely chop garlic.

Add some oil to a frying pan; try to use a bit more than you think you need. Fry garlic till fragrant, then add brussels sprouts cut side down. Lower the heat and let it cook for a few minutes, then put into a 180°C oven to finish. Sprouts should start to turn slightly brown and garlic should be brown and crispy.

Red Bean Bun (Tao Sar Bun) Jiao Zi (Dumplings)