Updated Recipe: Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly - using a slow cooker

I won first prize at my work "Masterchef competition" today with my braised pork belly dish! In recognition of Harmony Day, my work social committee organised a "Flavours of the World" lunch. We were invited to bring a cultural dish to share and I thought I'd introduce my colleagues to delicious Taiwanese food. All dishes were entered into the competition, with prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

I was asked for the recipe of the winning dish and while I already have a blog post on the traditional way of making it as per my mum's instructions, I've since changed the way I cook this dish.

Given that not everyone has the kind of rice cooker I have, I thought I'd give it a go with the slow cooker and it worked just as well!

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Braised pork belly (using a slow cooker)

Main Ingredients 900g pork belly 1 cup of soy sauce 2 tbsp rice wine 350g of rock sugar (you can buy this in most Asian grocery stores) 6 eggs

Spice Mix 1 tsp five spice powder 1 tsp dried ginger powder 1 tsp dried garlic powder

Optional ingredients 3 cloves of garlic (or as much as you want) chopped spring onion sprinkle of chopped peanuts (for garnish) coriander (for garnish)

Method

  1. Hard boil the eggs.
  2. Place the rock sugar in the slow cooker.
  3. Meanwhile, cut up the pork belly into large pieces (about 4 cm long). Rub the spice mix and the rice wine all over the pork belly pieces. Place in the slow cooker on top of the rock sugar.
  4. Drain and peel the hard boiled eggs. Place the eggs in the slow cooker, amongst the pork. (If you are using garlic, you can put it in at this stage). Pour the soy sauce into the slow cooker, over all the ingredients.
  5. Set the slow cooker to High for approximately 2 hours (I do this to save time, but you can put it on Low for a longer period of time). Then turn to Low for another 2 hours (or until the meat is fork tender).
  6. Occasionally turn pork belly pieces and eggs to marinate all parts. Be very gentle or the eggs will get damaged! (If you are using spring onion, you can add it in the last hour).
  7. Serve with steamed rice, (garnish with chopped peanuts and coriander) and enjoy!

Recipe: Taiwanese tomato platter with ginger and soy dipping sauce

Lately, I've been watching a Taiwanese variety TV show called 食尚玩家 (Super Taste), which is basically a show that introduces its viewers to great food places, usually in Taiwan, but sometimes overseas as well. In one of the episodes, the hosts went to a place that served a refreshing-looking salad. It was basically a platter of tomato wedges with a ginger and soy dipping sauce. It probably sounds like a bit of an odd combination - fresh tomato and a sweet soy sauce with a hint of ginger. But I'd had the dish before and I knew it tasted fantastic!

With the weather so hot in Canberra lately (39 degrees today!) I really felt like having something light for dinner, and this tomato salad looked perfect!! I adapted my recipe from this one.

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The tricky part to this salad is getting the dipping sauce just right. Of course, what's "just right" will be different for everyone. So the below recipe is what I think is "just right". You may need to adjust the quantities slightly if you prefer a more sour or tangier or sweeter dipping sauce :) Another way to serve this dish would be to include julienned carrot and cucumber with the tomato and drizzle the sauce over the salad as a dressing!

Taiwanese tomato platter with ginger and soy dipping sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 large tomatoes or a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes (best if they are firm and a bit under ripe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of soy paste (you can find this in Asian grocery stores, I used the Kimlan brand)

Wash the tomatoes and cut the large tomatoes into small wedges (cut cherry tomatoes in half if using). Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well.

Enjoy!

Would you try this dish? Let me know in the comments below if you made this dish and whether you liked it (or not)!

Taiwanese braised pork belly

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I was feeling a little cheffy the other day, and thought I'd record my first attempt at cooking my mum's braised pork belly dish. This is a very traditional Taiwanese dish - and a simple recipe, but the results were mouthwatering (as a few friends and colleagues can now attest!)

Firstly, cut up and boil the pork belly.

Meanwhile, hard boil some eggs.

Then start assembling the ingredients in your rice cooker pot: pork belly, boiled eggs, chopped shallots*, garlic, rock sugar and soy sauce.

Put the rice cooker on and let it work its magic!

When the rice cooker ticks off, turn the pork belly gently to make sure it is completely coated with all of the marinade. You may need to put the rice cooker on two or three more times, depending on your taste.

*I found out later from Mum that I was supposed to put the shallots in at the very end to retain the fresh green colour.

And there you have it! Such a simple Taiwanese braised pork belly dish!

I hope you enjoyed my very first cooking post! :)

**Edit**

Here is the full recipe. The amount and ratio of ingredients really depends on your taste. I kind of made up the amounts because I never really measure when I'm cooking!

Braised pork belly

Ingredients 1.5 cups of soy sauce 300g of rock sugar 5 cloves of garlic 1 bunch spring onion/shallots 1kg pork belly Eggs

Cut up the pork belly into large pieces. Put pieces into a pot of boiling water. Skim off any scum that appears.

Boil pork for about 15-20 minutes, or until pork is firm. Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs.

Drain pork pieces and reserve liquid to use as a base for another dish (soup or whatever). Drain and peel the hard boiled eggs.

Transfer the pork pieces and the peeled eggs to the rice cooker. Add soy sauce and rock sugar. Turn on rice cooker. Once the cycle is finished, gently turn pork belly pieces and eggs to marinade all parts. It will probably need another cycle (or two) on the rice cooker. Add the spring onion before the last cycle.

Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!

Fun Ma Cafe

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I am not normally a religious person, but I might be inclined to believe in a higher power after discovering Taiwanese cuisine in Canberra. Ever since I moved here, I have searched high and low for the nostalgic dishes from the mother country. With no luck, I began wishing someone would open up a Taiwanese restaurant in Canberra. I was beginning to give up hope when I stumbled across one last week on my way back from the dentist! Fun Ma Cafe, describes itself as 'Canberra's first Taiwanese cuisine' on their Facebook page, and is only around the corner from my work! Hurrah!

On discovering the cafe, I was overwhelmed by the menu. Mind you, it wasn't because the menu was particularly extensive, it was because all the items were so familiar to me that I couldn't choose what to order! The dishes that jumped out at me were the pork chop with rice, the Taiwanese style chicken nuggets with rice, Taiwanese style beef noodle soup, unagi with rice and the three cup chicken with rice.

After much consideration, I finally decided on the pork chop with rice (below) for my first visit. It would give me a good indication on how "Taiwanese" this cafe really was.

I wasn't disappointed. The pork chop was well seasoned with spices and had a good crunch everytime I took a bite. I loved that they put some stewed (pork?) mince on the rice to give it that extra flavour. The stewed egg was also delicious and reminded me of Taiwan.

The salt and pepper chicken nuggets (above) were also seasoned well. I would say that the nuggets don't compare to the ones in Taiwan, but it's nice to have the option there.

The meals come with a black tea or wintermelon tea. I tried their pearl milk tea but unfortunately the drink didn't have a very strong flavour and the pearls didn't have the right "chewiness".

I absolutely love having three cup chicken (三杯雞), which is a popular dish in Taiwan. The three cups refer to the three cups of sauces that the chicken is simmered in.   As soon as the dish was place in front of me, the familiar aromas of ginger combined with garlic and basil floated up at me and invoked nostalgic memories of Taiwan. There were large pieces of braised garlic and ginger in the dish that were packed full of flavour! I would definitely say this was my favourite dish so far.

I have one of their business cards and noticed a few dishes that I didn't see on the menu: omelette rice, braised pork belly, grass jelly dessert...I hope they remedy this soon!

While the cafe lets in a lot of natural light and has a nice view outside, I think if they played some Taiwanese music in the background, it would bring a lot to the atmosphere of the cafe.

Watch this space for more reviews - I don't think I'll be able to stay away from this cafe!

Fun Ma Cafe on Urbanspoon

Taiwan showcase - Ice cream spring roll

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I have been taking photos of food for years. I can’t remember when I started. Therefore, I have a huge collection of food memories to share. And because my fondest food memories were during my trips to Taiwan, I’ve decided to begin a showcase of Taiwanese food.

This is something I always have to get whenever I see it – the ice cream spring roll. The one below is from the Tonghua Night Market in Taipei City. 

This particular vendor makes the best ones I’ve ever had.

For the uninitiated, the ice cream spring roll (or spring roll ice cream, as it says on the sign) consists of peanut brittle shavings, some coriander (optional), and three scoops of ice cream wrapped up in a popiah "skin". For a demonstration, here is a youtube video of the process.

You can even customise your ice cream spring roll! The vendor will ask you if you want ice cream (in pineapple, taro and peanut flavours), if so, which flavours (all the same, one of each etc). They will also ask if you want coriander. I prefer mine with one of each flavour of ice cream, plus coriander.

It's an unusual dessert burrito, of sorts. The crispy texture of the peanut brittle shavings contrasts with the soft, smoothness of the ice cream (which is more like gelato, less creamy, punchier flavours and very refreshing) and then the coriander takes it to a whole new level. It's truly an intriguing taste sensation and is definitely one of my all-time favourite Taiwanese night market foods!Would you try it if you had the opportunity?? Leave a comment and let me know! Or if you've tried ice cream spring roll before, where did you get it from?