Illustration by Meegan Lim.
This recipe is adapted from Fuschia Dunlop's version in Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook—the recipe I consulted when I wanted to master this dish. These days I make this a lot looser, following the curiosity of my palate and the ingredients available to me. Dunlop recommends many variations, including adding bean curd puffs or water chestnuts. An invitation to make it your own. —Tracy Wan
500 g pork belly
1 1/2-inch knob ginger, sliced; divided
1 cup root beer
1 tsp sugar
2 tsps vegetable oil
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 pod star anise
4 red chilies, dried
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
scallions, sliced for serving
In a pot, add pork belly, one-third of the sliced ginger and just enough water to cover the meat. Parboil uncovered for 5 min. Remove, let cool, then cut into bite-sized chunks. Discard ginger.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, simmer root beer until it’s reduced by two-thirds and a syrupy texture. Let cool for a few minutes, then add sugar and vegetable oil. Heat again over medium and stir until the sugar dissolves and everything caramelizes into a rich brown hue.
Add the parboiled pork and Shaoxing wine, carefully. Stir to cover all of the pork morsels with caramelized sauce.
Add water to the pan—again, just enough to cover the pork. Add remaining ginger along with star anise, chiles and cinnamon stick. Bring everything to a boil, then turn down the heat and let pork simmer, partially covered, for 1 hr, maybe a little more—until a chopstick pierces the lean protein bits easily.
Towards the end of your cooking time, add in soy sauces, then raise the heat to reduce. Don’t walk away from the stove! When the sauce is thickened and glossy, it’s ready. Serve with a sprinkle of scallions.