Chinese Braised (Pork Belly & Egg) in the Croak Pot

“Hearty one-pot dinner, Braised Pork Belly and Braised Egg (卤五花肉&卤蛋), try this simple Chinese braise dish that whets appetite! Do it simple, with your slow cooker.”

I braise often as I think this is the easiest 1-dish-meal as an express cooking for the working class, like myself. Braise or stew, they are both good cooking method that make your cooking less hassle, which you could have this robust 1-pot dinner packs in meat, mushrooms, tofu, and/ or eggs. The flavourful gravy from the braised pork dish truly whets your appetite, too. A plate of plain steamed rice or a few Chinese steamed bun is the only accompaniment you need for a complete meal.

Loved this braised dish so much, especially the egg! Mum seldom eat fat, and she took only the braised egg and refused to eat any meat, at first. I had to persuade her to take some. Finally, she tried. And guess what? She ended up eating more meat than usual, and yearned for more. She told me that the meat was so tender, and she loved the flavourful gravy to go with her rice. Of course, we completed the whole pot of braise, at last (smile).

I used pork meat to do the braising, usually, with addition of Chinese Shitake mushrooms, tofu, tau pok (tofu puff), and/ or hard-boiled eggs. And, I have a few different braising methods with some variations on ingredients used, which posted previously. This, is another recipe of my braising dish. Simple, and delicious home cooked Chinese braise. This braised meat is also perfect to cook when hosting a small gathering at home, to stretch your dollar on the food ingredients and satisfy the crowd at the same time. It’s, too, simple to cook and presentable to serve.

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Seasoning for pork belly:
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
Pinch of grounded white pepper

2 tablespoons of cooking oil (*for sautéing of pork belly)

Ingredients for braising sauce (卤水汁 “Lu Shui Zhi“):
2 cups of water (about 500ml)
3 star anise (八角)
4 dried cloves aka Syzygium aromaticum (丁香) *see right pic
1 cinnamon stick (桂皮)

2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine or *Mirin (Japanese rice wine, preferred)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
Dash of grounded white pepper

Pinch of salt (Optional)

Method
1) Slice pork belly into chunks, rinse and season with the listed condiments. Marinate overnight (if you are going to cook before going off work in the morning), or at least 1 hour on the same day. Keep it in the refrigerator before use.

2) Boil a pot of water to cook the eggs for 10 minutes, or till it turns completed solid as hard-boiled eggs. Let it cool before peeling the shell. Reserve for later. If you have time, do this in the morning. Boil the egg while sautéing the pork. Then, do the peeling after settling the pork belly in slow cooker. Otherwise, pre-boil the eggs the night before and place it in the refrigerator, if you don’t mind.

3) Heat wok with oil over medium-high fire. Pat dry marinated pork belly a little, using kitchen towel, to minimize the splashing of oil when place it into heated oil. Sauté pork belly on both sides till lightly browned. Remove from wok and drain on wire strainer.

4) Return sautéed pork belly and place into the croak pot, followed by adding of all listed ingredients of braising sauce. Then, place the croak pot into the slow cooker, cover with lid, and turn on auto/ low shift mode. Then, go peel the shell of the hard-boiled eggs now (if you did not prepare it in advance), and then, place the eggs into the croak pot to braise it together with the pork belly. Now, you can off to work. Or, braise it in slow cooker for at least 5 hours, or until pork belly turns soften and both pork and eggs are ‘colored’ brown (fully coated with the braising sauce).

5) Do a taste check. Add some salt, if more briny flavor preferred. Otherwise, ladle into a large serving bowl to serve it hot, with steamed rice or bun.

A portion of Chinese braised pork belly with a braised egg counts about 420kcal. Skip the pre-sautéing may save some calories intake. If prefer it with Shitake mushroom, choose this recipe: Braised Pork & Shitake Mushroom. As for spicy braised, choose this recipe: Braised knuckles.

Variation: Add also some tofu puff (tao pok), as desired.

Tips: Using pork belly for braising is the best option as pork belly will be very tender and full of flavor. Choose leaner belly, for less greasy choice.
*The purpose of sautéing the pork belly is to enhance the texture and flavor of the meat. Leave it, if you do not wish to do so.
* Make sure the braising sauce covers all the meat and eggs while simmering in slow cooker.
* Chinese braise is supposed to use Chinese rice wine, but I chose and preferred Mirin because it has a hint of sweetness which helps to enhance the braised. I think it makes good addition to my recipe. If you have Mirin, add it instead. Otherwise, use rice wine.

Braised Pork Knuckles with Dried Chillies in Claypot (横财就手之辣椒干卤猪手)

“Believe me, it’s the best homemade braised pork meat I have ever tried!”

This recipe was originally featured in a popular magazine. When I was flipping through the magazine, the food picture of this recipe shown on the magazine attracted me for a second look. I decided to give it a try as most of the ingredients used in this recipe were what I already had at home, or easily get it from supermarkets/ grocery shops.

Seriously, it was very delicious! I was so proud of myself for giving it a try. This recipe does not yield traditional briny-tasted braised meat with five-spice flavour. It was a hot spicy pork dish with a hint of sweet plum taste.

This dish was cooked with pig knuckles. Why knuckles? Having pig’s knuckles (猪手) dish during Chinese Lunar New Year is a distinctive way to celebration this occassion as knuckles in Chinese is called 猪手, similar pronunciation to 就手, which means convenient, handy, easily obtainable.. So, there is always this Chinese phrase, 横财就手, symbolizes to good gambling fortune, after a knuckles feast during Chinese Lunar New Year. This recipe, is surely a good festive dish for Chinese!

Besides good symbolism, it is still a wise choice to prepare the dish with knuckles in normal days, to get to eat its tender meat with chewy skin and less fat. It was extensively tender and flavoursome after the long braise. Superb! For someone who does not eat pig skin, I think it’s worth to have a bite or two of these jelly-textured skins.

I cooked this dish in a large clay pot. Not sure why, but most of the old folks advised using clay pot for long braising meat dishes. I guess, it helps to retain moisture better, in a way?! Anyway, using a clay pot to cook this braised knuckles yielded a more traditional-looking Chinese dish, and it looked kinda alluring, to me (winking smile). It’s ok, if you do not have a large enough clay pot, use slow cooker, or even wok.

I have to remind you to deseed the dried chilies, if you can’t take spicy food. With 20 dried chilies in the braise, it yields super hot flavour. So, the less chilies you have deseeded, the more spicy taste it will be.

Ingredients A:
1 pig knuckles, chopped into bite sizes
1 tablespoon of dark/ thick soy sauce
3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of white vinegar

4 eggs, hard boiled

Ingredients B:
5 thin slices of ginger
20 dried chillies, deseed some to reduce spiciness to your desired taste
8 – 10 cloves of garlic, skinned or with skin intact
1 star anise

2 tablespoons of cooking oil

Ingredients C:
3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of plum paste/ sauce
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
3 cups of water (about 750ml)
Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

For sauce thickening purpose:
¼ cup of cornstarch slurry (made of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with ¼ cup of water, amount adjustable)

Method:
1) Wash knuckles thoroughly, and marinate with seasonings A (dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar and white vinegar) for 2 – 3 hours. You may keep it in refrigerator while marinating. In the meantime, you may boil eggs. Peel egg shells when cooled, and set aside.

2) When marinating is done, heat large clay pot with 2 tablespoons of oil over high fire, stir fry ingredients B (ginger, dried chillies, star anise and garlic) until fragrant. Then, add in marinated knuckles.

3) Stir-fry knuckles until almost dried up, add seasoning C (sesame oil, oyster sauce, plum sauce, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, salt, pepper and water) and combine well. Add in hard boiled eggs. Cover pot with lid, and bring it to a boil.

4) Reduce heat to low fire, and simmer for 2 hours, or until meat become tender.

5) When it is done, stir in cornstarch slurry to thicken the gravy. Serve hot with steamed rice.

I have to thank to whoever created this recipe. It made my dinner an excellent 1-dish-meal. My family enjoyed it so much, but was a little bit too spicy for their palate (as I did not deseed any of the chilies at all).

For goodness sake, please give it a try.

A portion of braised knuckles with one hard boil egg counts about 525kcal.

Tips: Deseed half the amount or all of the dried chillies, if less spicy preferred.
* Thicken the gravy with cornstarch slurry towards the end of cooking. Use less slurry if more gravy preferred.
* If 1 portion of knuckles is not enough to feed 4 diners, or for some who don’t take knuckles, add some shoulder butt meat (about 250 grams) into the dish. Need not to increase the amount of condiments/ seasonings, just remain as it is.

Braised Seafood Mee Sua (焖海鲜面线)

“Get hooked on my seafood treats with crisped Mee Sua.”

Mee Sua, or you call it vermicelli, a Chinese noodle dish which you eat it especially during birthday to symbolise longevity. Mee sua simply means long noodle thread (面线). Usually, mee sua is made into very thin strand, and it’s brittle when cooked. The apperance of Mee Sua is normally in whitish colour, and to be sold in to a box of 5 – 6 bundles. This type of Mee Sua is good to make into soup noodle.

I did not use the usual whitish bundles in this recipe, in fact. I used the crisped (pre-fried) type. Never heard of it? I have first spotted this crisped version in the wet market, last Sunday when a lady was buying 2 packets of it at the same store. She recommended it to me over my hesitation with the noodle choices, and commented that this crisped Mee Sua gets softened quicker than crisped Ee-fu noodle, to shorten the braising time. It’s also easier to chew, especially for younger children.

The brownish crisped appearance is often mistaken with Ee-fu noodles (伊面), but Mee Sua has much thinner strand, and its taste is different from Ee-fu noodle (see Braised Ee-fu noodle recipe). Yes, I bought a packet of 4 crisped circular blocks.

Indeed, crisped Mee Sua is an excellent noodle to be used for braising. The texture of crisped Mee Sua is not so much the super thin whitish Mee Sua, and it is not brittle. Its texture and mouthfeel are resembling Italian pasta, the Angel hair, which never lose its elasticity after cooked. I loved to cook it with seafood, to make it fuller as my ‘1-dish-meal’ dinner.

Serves 3-4
Ingredients
3 circular blocks of crisped Mee Sua
1 small squid, trimmed and sliced into rings
1 Red Grouper (石斑) fish fillet, thickly sliced (*season with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and sprinkles of white pepper)
8 – 10 medium prawns, shelled with just its tail remained intact (*season with 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce).
8 – 10 vegetables wanton rolls
Handful of spinach, cut into bite size (菠菜)
1 – 1½ cup of water

4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of Japanese sweet cooking wine, Mirin (味醂)
Sprinkle of ground white pepper
Pinch of salt

3 tablespoon of cooking oil

Method
1) Heat wok with 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high fire. Add half the amount of minced garlic and fry till fragrant. Add squid rings, prawns, fish slices and vegetable wanton rolls and stir-fry for 1 minute. Sprinkle some water (about 2 tablespoons) and pinch of salt, continue to fry for another minute, or until 90% done. Remove from wok, dish up and set aside for later.

2) Using the same wok, replenish 1 tablespoon of oil and the remaining garlic, fry till fragrant and lightly browned. Add Mee Sua, and 1 cup of water. Reduce heat to lower frame, cover wok with lid to simmer for 3 – 5 minutes.

3) When crisped Mee Sua starts to soften and keep bubbling in the liquid, add light soy sauce, oyster sauce and ground pepper. Stir fry to combine. Return cooked seafood ingredients to wok, and add Mirin. Then, add spinach, stir-fry to combine the ingredients. Heat off when all ingredients are cooked as well as Mee Sua completely softened. Serve immediately. 

1 portion of braised seafood Mee Sua counts about 400kcal.

Tips: If water dries up too quickly during cooking/ braising, replenish with ½ cup – 1 cup (depends on how wet you want the noodle dish to be), if you prefer more gravy.
* Same thing, if the noodle dish appears too watery, you may wish to thicken it a little with cornstarch slurry (*see My Cooking Tips of no. 20 under Meat & Seafood)
* Do not over-cook the seafood ingredients to retain moisture with soft and chewy bites.

 

Braised Assorted Ee Fu Noodles (焖什锦伊面)

“Home-cooked Ee-Fu Noodles is irresistibly delicious”

Braised Ee-Fu Noodles is a popular noodle dish in Cantonese cuisine which you may find it almost in every Chinese restaurant in Asia (e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore, China and etc) or overseas Chinatown (I ate this at Chinatown in San Francisco), for casual dining or during special occasions like birthday celebration (especially old folk’s) as Ee-Fu Noodles symbolizes longevity. Ee-Fu Noodles usually braised with dark soy sauce, especially in Singapore and Malaysia. The taste of Ee-Fu noodles is marvelous with its aroma and interesting chewy texture in the palate!

Ee-Fu noodles aka Yi-Mien (伊面) is a kind of thin flat Chinese egg noodles made from wheat flour, normally presented in the shape of flat or rounded patty-like dried brick. They are golden brown in colour and usually sold in dry form, easily available in supermarket and Chinese grocery shops.

We like to eat braised Ee-Fu Noodles, but it’s often too salty when dined out. Perhaps they have to put much MSG to enhance the dish for their commercial purposes. Hence, I cooked my homemade braised Ee-Fu Noodles instead! No MSG, healthy, and a quick-cooked dish you may easily make as dinner during weekdays! One thing I like about home-cooking, not just for the health and balancing diet, but the freedom of putting a variety of quality ingredients! I called my recipe as ‘assorted’ Ee-Fu Noodles as assorted ingredients were added into this braised noodles (smiling).

Ingredients
4 bricks of Ee-Fu Noodles (chinese translation: 伊面)
1 cup of medium-sized prawn (about 8 – 12 tails), shelled with tail intact
1 cup of lean pork hind (about 100 gram), sliced or cut into strips
½ cup of pork liver, sliced and blanched
1 cup of whole button mushroom (about 8 pieces)
1 small carrot, thin sliced lengthwise
1 cup of green leaf vegetable, Chye Sim 菜心 (about 100 gram), trimmed
1 cube of seaweed tofu, thick sliced
4 artificial crab sticks, cut into 3 pieces each lengthwise
2 fishcake, sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce (thick soy sauce)
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
2 tablespoon of oyster sauce
Sprinkles of sugar
Sprinkles of sesame oil

2 cups of water

Optional:
1 teaspoon of Hua Diao Wine (chinese translation: 花雕酒)

Method
1) Heat up a wok with sesame oil over medium heat, add garlic and stir-fry till fragrant.

2) Put in ingredients with sequence of meat, carrot, mushrooms, seaweed tofu, crab sticks, and fish cakes. Drizzle light soy sauce, and stir-fry for 5 min. Add noodles and plenty of water.

3) When noodles start to soften, stir in oyster sauce and dark soy sauce. Combine all ingredients well. Bring down heat to low fire, simmer for 8 min, or until noodles completely tender. Covered with lid.

4) Add in prawns and vegetable. Sprinkle sugar, and drizzle Hua Diao Wine (if desired). Simmer for another 3 – 5 mins. Put in pork liver right before heat off. Serve hot.

This noodle dish counts about 550kcal. Home-cooked version is still counting lesser calorie than those selling outside as we do not add pork lard. Well, having such enriched, full flavoured and heavy bodied meal, it’s still worth loosening your waist-belt once in a while (laughing).

Anyway, try this recipe. Your taste bud will be satisfied with this delectable noodles in 20 min time!

Tips: Vary the amount of water for braising the noodles – Ee-Fu noodles require plenty of water to cook as noodles absorb water quickly. Make sure your noodles are fully covered with water, when first added into the wok before simmering. *No worries if it’s too watery towards the end of the cooking, use cornstarch slurry to thicken gravy.
* Steeping or pre-boiling of Ee-fu Noodles is not required.
* Add pork liver lastly to avoid over-cooking in order to retain its spongy texture.
*I opted for Hua Diao Wine, as adding Hua Diao Wine gives extra aromatic flavor to the dish.
*Choose to add dried Chinese shitake mushroom (soaked and sliced) instead of button mushroom, if desired.
*Add more ingredients like fish slices and squids, or lessen it, as your wish.

Braised Pork and Shitake Mushroom (卤肉焖冬菇)

“Our delicious Tuesday-night dinner”

This morning, I used my slow cooker to braise a leaned pork dish (a lower-fat version using lean meat), before I left for work. Just put in all the ingredients and seasoning, set fire to low. By the time I reached home in the evening, the aroma of braised meat filled the entire house when I opened the wooden door.

I like to use my slow cooker. It makes cooking much simpler, tastier, healthier (with lean meat) and less hassle!

Using a slow cooker to braise the meat, you won’t need to spare your precious time looking after the stove for a dish which requires long cooking time. No worries, your dish will not loose the moisture as long as set cooker to auto shift/ low, even turn it on as long as 10 hours! In fact, this recipe I have, is more like a soupy kind of braising method than the thick gravy type.

A 3.5 liter slow cooker uses 200V – 50Hz, normally.

Braising pork at home can be as delicious as selling outside. Most importantly, it’s surely healthier as you can control the food ingredients and seasoning used. I used lean meat instead of pork belly. Belly part is definately nicer, especially with the layer of fat added into the gravy, the taste can be even better… However, I prefer lean meat, still. Less cholestrol, less fat, and lean meat will take a load off your waistline and “spare tyres” (chuckling).

Calories of one decent portion of braised dish with my recipe count about 350kcal. Just to let you know, for sure cooking with pork belly parts yield tastier and more springy texture of the meat, but it’ll also double up the calorie count (smiling)!

Ingredients
400g of lean pork meat (or 3-layer belly, if desired), cut into desirable size
8 – 12 medium dried Chinese Shitake mushrooms, soaked till soften and remove stem with scissors
2 cubes of Asian dry tofu aka “Tau Gua” (chinese translation: 豆干) (Optional)
4 eggs, hard-boiled (Optional)

Seasoning
1/4 cup of light soy sauce (about 50ml)
1/4 cup of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 small rock sugar (size of table tennis)

1 slice of ginger
3 cloves of garlic, with skin intact, washed
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup of water *(use less water, or thicken it with conrnstarch slurry towards the end of cooking [before heat off], if thicker gravy preferred)

Marination (for pork meat)
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 teaspoon of Hua Diao wine (花雕酒)

Method

1) Marinate pork meat with light soy sauce and rice wine, for at least 15min (I marinated them overnight since I prepared it in the night before for next morning’s cooking).

2) Add all ingredients (i.e. marinated meat, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, tau gua, and seasoning) into the croak pot.

3) Set cooker to auto-shifted or low. Leave it till you are back from work (as long as 10 hours). The tender and juicy meat and mushrooms are all ready to serve.

4) Serve with hot steamed rice or plain bun aka “Man Tau” (馒头).

If you do not wish to cook with slow cooker, here the steps for stove cooking (pinch of minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of oil are required here):

1) Heat a pot with 1 teaspoon of oil over medium-high fire. Stir-fry the minced garlic with wooden spoon, until fragrant.

2) Add marinated pork and mushrooms, stir-fry for 3 min, or meat lightly browned.

3) Add in water, and all other seasoning.

4) Reduce heat to low, simmer for 3 hours, or until meat and mushroom are tender and well braised. Serve hot.

Some said braised meat will become even tastier and more intense flavour, if you keep and cook it again the next day, for “double braised” effect, I believed so. Perhaps, you can keep the balance (if cannot finish in a meal) in refrigerator, and reheat it for next day’s lunch box (smiling).

Tips: I used lean hind part for the meat, and Chinese flower mushroom (花菇) in this dish.
* Braising time with slow cooker is varied. It’s not necessary to braise for 10 hours long, long as long as the meat is tender and well braised. Generally, it takes approximately 4 – 5 hours.
*If you intend to cook this as 1-dish-meal, add other ingredients such as Asian dry beancurd (Tau Gua), hard-boiled egg, and button mushrooms to make this dish fuller and more varieties.
*I prefer lighter colour for the gravy. So, I reduced the amount of dark soy sauce by half.
*If you find the gravy is too watery, just thicken it with 1 teaspoon (added into 1 tablespoon of water) cornstarch made into slurry.