Saturday, February 18, 2012

Twice-cooked Braised Pork Belly (Kong Bak)

My mum was here just a few months ago and I was thinking that finally, I could ask her to show me how to make Kong Bak, one of my favourite versions of braised pork belly. She did make it once when she was here, but I was not home at the time, and so I wasn't involved in the cooking process. I asked her for the recipe, and as you would know it, she couldn't tell me the exact measurements (her measurements are usually "just a little bit", "eyeball it" or "quite a lot"). So, after she left, I decided to have a go at making this dish.

It turned out quite close to how my mum made it, although I had a feeling that something might be missing. Mum's magic touch perhaps? In any case, it was delicious, with the hint of honey, caramel and chinese five-spice in the sweet and sticky sauce, and that wonderful layer of pork belly skin that had been deep-fried and braised to yield a lovely soft and chewy texture. I served it with steamed jasmine rice, although you can also choose to sandwich it in a steamed bun (see here for bun recipe) which is my favourite way of eating it! Here is the recipe, and I hope you enjoy this popular Malaysian home-style dish as much as we do!

Braised Pork Belly (Kong Bak)


1 kg pork belly (preferably with 1/3 fat and 2/3 lean meat)
1/2 tbsp thick caramel (soy) + 4 tbsp extra
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 star anise
1 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 cups water (approx)
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Tiny pinch of MSG
Coriander leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add in the whole piece of pork. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove and rinse the pork. Pat dry and let it cool slightly. Using a fork, pierce through the skin (about 50 times) to make many little holes in it. Make sure you pierce right through to the layer of fat beneath the skin. Rub the skin all over with 1/2 tbsp thick caramel.
  2. Heat up enough oil in a wok (about 1 1/2 inches) on medium heat. Don't let it get too hot yet because you need to fry the skin-side of the pork. Lower the pork carefully into the oil (remember, just moderately hot) and quickly cover with a large lid or splatter screen. Turn up the heat to med-high so that the skin can crisp up in the oil. Be careful as the oil may sputter or splash. When the skin is evenly browned and crisp (this may take 5 minutes or so), turn off the fire and carefully remove the pork with a good pair of tongs. Drain off the excess oil and set aside to let it cool slightly. Slice the pork into 1/2 inch thick slices.
  3. Place the pork in a bowl and combine with the remaining 4 tbsp thick caramel, shallots, five-spice, soy, honey, wine, garlic and sesame oil. Mix well to marinate.
  4. In a medium sized pot, heat up 1 tbsp vegetable oil together with 2 tbsp sugar. When the sugar dissolves and starts to caramelize and turn light brown, add in the star anise and the pork together with the marinade liquid. Fry on medium-high heat until the pork is seared all over, then add the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until it comes down to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the pork is tender and the sauce should be reduced to a slightly syrupy consistency. Turn the slices of pork occasionally so that they are evenly covered with the sauce. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste, and MSG if desired. Dish out and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot with steamed white rice.


Mel said...

This is one of my favourite too! I used to cook braised pork belly following my mum's recipe. My mum's version also a little bit of this and more on that kind of things.... Yours really look very appetizing!!

Fern @ To Food With Love said...

Thanks Mel. No wonder it's so hard to get food to taste exactly like Mum's! :)

Sharon @ Feats of Feasts said...

Wah, thank you for this recipe!! I love to eat this with those steamed mantou...!! Now i can make this at home.

cHowDivine said...

I love braised meats and root vegetables in the winter time. And I just LOVE pork belly! This looks especially appetizing!

WendyinKK said...

this looks to die for!!!!!!!

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Hi Fern! I know I just said see you tomorrow... LOL. I couldn't wait till tomorrow to see your new post! ;-)

Wow this looks so delicious. My family loves pork belly and we always enjoy all types of cooking, but I have never tried Malaysian version. I need to try this after getting ingredients.

So funny that your mom and my mom are the same. After all, pre blogging days, moms don't need to blog about it so they won't need to know precise measurement (and they can cook same way every time!). Haha. At least you and I can leave our recipes to the kids and they won't roll their eyes saying we don't give right measurement. ;-)

lena said...

correct, it always seems that there's some secret ingredients in mum's cooking that we failed to discover..haha! great photo!!

Yi @ Yi Reservation said...

this dish definitely sounds and looks incredibly delicious! I am a pork belly snob and have done quite bit of belly-cooking...but this fried and braised belly recipe has got me good...not to mention that i love aromatic spices such as five-spice powder, start anise, and etc. Adding it to my to cook list!!

Fern @ To Food With Love said...

@Yi: Thanks! I love pork belly too, but it has to have the right amount of fat, and not too lean! :)

Anonymous said...

Thumbs up. Made this together and my family loved it. Thanks for sharing