I was recently captivated by a book that was a wonderful, mouthwatering combination of food and travel. "On the Noodle Road", written by Jen Lin-Liu, attempted to trace the origin of the noodle through various countries, it was flavored with musings on womens roles in the different countries she visits, and incorporated the parallel adventure of her marriage. In fact, I found myself not so intent on discovering the origin of the noodle, but whether her marriage would remain intact.
Jen is someone I would like to cook with, take a cooking class from and sit and eat noodles with, all kinds of noodles, all over the world - I love her passion for food, and I felt very inspired to savor all the delicious sounding cuisine, while immersed in the various cultures she mentions.
Even though the recipes in the book were adapted for American kitchens, I still found the noodle techniques a little intimidating - but I couldn't wait to try this pork belly recipe - and it was every bit as flavorful and delicious as I imagined it would be.
CHEF ZHANGS PORK BELLY SAUCE
1 pound pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup soy sauce
1 quart water
1 leek, cut into 1-inch pieces (white part only)
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 star anise
2 bay leaves
1 tabelspoon powdered chicken bouillon
2 whole dried red chili peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fill pan (or wok) halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the pork, return to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Place the pan over high heat until it is dry again, then add the vegetable oil and sugar. Stir vigorously until the mixture begins to caramelize. When it is reddish brown, add the blanched pork, stir to coat with the sugar, then add 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce. Stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the water, the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, the leeks, ginger, star anise, bay leaves, bouillon, red chili peppers, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, until the sauce is thick (I left it bubbling on the stove for about 4 hours). Discard the bay leaves.
Recipe adapted from On the Noodle Road, Jen Lin-Liu