Soy and anise braised pork

Soy and anise braised pork bellyI know a lot of you come here for the Chinese and Malaysian recipes, and it hit me last week that I’ve not produced anything new in that line for a couple of months. This soy and anise pork has been worth the wait, though – here, belly pork is braised in a deeply fragrant and savoury sauce until it’s so tender that it positively melts in the mouth.

Star anise is a beautiful, flower-shaped spice from a Chinese evergreen; it’s an entirely different species of plant from European anise, although it has a similar flavour. It’s one of the aromatics used in five-spice powder, and has a warm, intensely fragrant taste. There’s been something of a shortage of the spice in recent years because an acid found in star anise is used in making Tamiflu, the anti-influenza drug. Happily for the cooks among you (and those with flu), drugs companies have since started to synthesise shikimic acid, so star anise is back on the shelves again. The Chinese use it as an indigestion remedy – you can try it yourself by releasing a seed from the woody star and chewing it after a meal if you feel you’ve overindulged.

This recipe capitalises on the affinity star anise has for rich meats like pork. Belly pork is one of my favourite cuts of meat (you can find some more recipes for belly pork here) – it’s flavourful, has brilliant texture, and the fat gives it a wonderful unctuous quality as it bastes itself from within. To serve four with rice and a stir-fried vegetable, you’ll need:

1 kg pork belly
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons lard or flavourless oil
5 cloves garlic
6 shallots
4 flowers of star anise
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons salt
250 ml pork or chicken stock

Using a very sharp knife or a Chinese cleaver, chop the pork into strips about 1.5 cm thick. (Do not remove the skin, which will become deliciously melting when cooked.) Mix one tablespoon of the soy sauce with the honey and five-spice powder in a bowl, and marinade the sliced pork in the mixture for an hour.

Chop the garlic and shallots very finely. Heat the lard to a high temperature in a thick-bottomed pan with a close-fitting lid, and fry the garlic, shallots, star anise and brown sugar together until they begin to turn gold. Turn the heat down to medium, add the pork to the pan with its marinade, and fry until the meat is coloured on all sides.

Pour over the chicken stock, and add the salt and the rest of the soy sauce. Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, cover and continue to simmer for two hours, turning the meat every now and then. If the sauce seems to be reducing and thickening, add a little water.

This is one of those recipes which is even better left to cool, refrigerated, and then reheated the next day.

21 Replies to “Soy and anise braised pork”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I made it yesterday for dinner tonight and it was an absolute triumph. My first encounter with cooking pork belly and one I’ll be repeating…

  2. Gastro Goddess,cooked this for visitors recently,utter triumph.Becomng obsessed with Eastern cooking and would welcome your help in sourcing Malaysian ingredients,unobtainable in France of course,les chauvinistes!Have found a site called Oriental Mart which has things like fermented lettuce but they dont seem to stock tauchu or tauchea,do you know where this might be obtainable?Also what are candlenuts?Many thanks in advance for any help you can give,my email is,a glass of vintage Champagne awaits you and Dr W should you ever happen to be in SW France.Mike

  3. Hi Mike! I’m emailing this reply to you, but also posting it under the comment you made in case it helps anyone else.

    It’s with great sadness that I have to tell you that I’ve been searching furiously, but I can’t find a Chinese food retailer that will deliver to your part of the world. (I know that the wholesale Chinese situation is so bad in certain areas of France that restaurants have to grow their own beansprouts.) I wonder if any other readers in France have any ideas?

    Candlenuts are a waxy nut which you’ll see used a lot in Malaysian cooking – they’re often found as part of a curry paste, or bobbing up and down in curries. They’ve got a very high fat content (and I believe they’re burned as candles in some cultures, hence the name). You’ve got to cook them, because they contain certain alkaloids which are mildly poisonous when raw – these are neutralised by heat. They’re in there for flavour and texture, but the good news is that if you can’t find them, you can substitute blanched almonds (three or four almonds per candlenut). As a matter of fact, my grandparents’ cook always used to say she preferred almonds; she regarded candlenuts as the poor person’s version, and used almonds almost exclusively.

  4. Thanks Liz for your help.French supermarkets as a whole are awful,your UK readers dont know how lucky they are.One exception is Grand Frais which has an amazing selection of fruit and veg,eg 5 types of pineapple and fresh tamarind.Growing ones own is the best route and here we have lots of land.As for condiments there is a stall in riberac market ,known as the English stall who will source a lotof things.Liz,I think your blog should be required reading throughout our education system,that would be a great addition to human happiness,Mike.

  5. I have just cooked this and it was sooo nice. I did add some Chilli and Ginger and it is mouth watering smelling it while it cooks. Tastes as good as it looks

  6. Had friends over tonight for a chinese themeed dinner party, and I cmae across your recipe while searching for inspiration as to what do to with some belly pork. All I can say is thanks – what an amazing dish! As well as the fragrant teste, everyone was amazed that the meat just fell apart when you put a knife to it.

    Thanks again – I will be trying this recipe in the future.

  7. This looks really tasty and that’s saying something because I am not the biggest fan of pork. But this has my mouth watering just by reading.


  8. I have fashioned their pork belly stew before and yours sounded rather similar. I love it. I really must try this recipe soon.

  9. I found this recipe last week, and wanted to come back and say “Thank You!” I made it for my son, who loves anything pork, and now he thinks I am simply an awesome chef. Thanks for giving me a great time in the kitchen with my family!

  10. Just got back from China in August and was missing the wonderful tastes of Shanghai. This is very much like pork we ate all over southern China and brings back memories. Great recipe and very authentic.

  11. Made this recipe and it was really very truly delicious. It was so tender and it does melt in your mouth. Going to make it for my mum in law and she’s looking forward to it. Really easy and tasty. Would recommend to anyone loves pork.

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