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Braised Pork Belly Bun and my father’s lifelong diet

I don’t know how other people’s families are, but for as long as I remember, my mom has put restrictions on my dad’s diet at home. My mom is very health-conscious and seems to become increasingly so the more she ages. Also importantly, my mother is the sole cook in my household. If my dad is the bread winner, my mom is the bread maker, literally. Those two facts put together means that my mom has ultimate power in deciding everything down to the details in my dad’s diet. And he is pretty powerless to resist.

She has many rules for my dad. A few items are completely banned, out of the question, for instance pork belly, beer and fried chicken. “Too many calories, too much fat, do you want to cut your life by 10 years short”, she would claim emphatically. She would also limit the number of times she makes meat dishes down to 3-4 times per week. And half of these times it would be lean tenderloin stir fried with veggies. Moreover, on those rare occasions that my mom makes barbecue ribs or pork chops, she limits my dad to only 3-4 pieces per meal.

Sounds like a sad life culinarily? Not really. My mom is one of the best cooks around our family friend circle and she has mastered the art of making lots of vegetables taste just as good as meat. Before my dad met my mom, rumor goes that he used to eat ramen noodles five times a week and would only make a pork dish on the weekend. If you ask me, my dad is getting the better end of the deal.

braised pork belly bun2

But, despite everything, he has found ways to circumvent my mother.  For instance, when he travels on business trips, especially to China, he unleashes all carnivorous intentions and eats everything that he hasn’t eaten in the past year, like braised pork, spicy Szechuan dishes, greasy grilled fish etc. Of course the extra ten pounds that he gained during the trip were difficult to hide from my mom, and another month of eating like a monk ensues. More close to home, my dad would go out for lunch sometimes with coworkers and eat to his heart’s content. Or he would bring cookies and crackers to work and “snack” way too fast and too frequently. Long story short, my parents are constantly finding ways to outsmart each other, and it has become a running joke inside the family.

Braised pork belly bun

This week, I made a dish that is on my mom’s forbidden list (sorry mom, just this once). Pork belly has been popularized in East Asia and is cooked different ways in different regional cuisines: spicy pork belly stir fry in Szechuan, braised pork belly chunks in southern China, Korean barbecued pork belly slices. This time, I’m making a fusion Americanized version of this legendary cut of meat- roasted then braised pork belly stuffed inside a bun. I don’t know if I’ll continue my mom’s tradition of limiting unhealthy intake for my future husband, but at least for now, I am allowing myself to indulge. Bon appetit!

braised pork belly bun1

Braised Pork Belly Bun

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 slab of pork belly
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of green onion, chopped
  • ginger slices
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • kimchi (add as much as you like)
  • frozen bun or bao (can be purchased in any large Asian grocery)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Wrap pork belly in foil and place in roasting pan. Make sure there is no leak. Bake for 2 hours.

Cool pork belly completely before refrigerating overnight. Next day, slice hardened pork belly into 1/2 inch pieces.

Steam buns in a rice cooker or steamer according to instructions on the package.

In a large wok, heat up 2 tablespoon of canola oil until sizzling. Slide pork belly into wok and fry each side until golden, this will take around 2-3 minutes. Take out the pork belly and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and water. In the same wok, add ginger, green onion and garlic. Stir fry until fragrant. Add mixed sauce and then pork belly back to the wok. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.

To assemble pork belly bun, use one slice of pork belly and 1 slice of kimchi. This recipe makes ~12 buns. Enjoy!

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