Monday, March 7, 2011

Chef Takashi's Braised Pork Belly (My version- The pre google era)

Do you remember the pre google era?. I do. Do you remember how you got your recipes? I do! Oh i remember those days:

1. I was glued to the TV every Sunday watching Julia Child's "The French Chef" and Stephen Yan's "Wok W/ Yan" with my pencil and paper on hand. I loved wok w/ yan's aprons;).

2. Tear pages from a magazine especially at M.D.'s office. Shhh! ;) oh please don't tell me you haven't done that before!

3. Go to the library and borrow some cookbooks or copy/ write them down. Nooo...not tear the pages!!!...thought of that before but never did, too scared, I'd get in trouble! lol!!!!

4. From my mother, MIL, grandma and relatives. The only problem w/ this source? you did not get the exact measurements. You usually get the "oh, i don't know..maybe a handful of this, half a palm of that or i have this special spoon or ladle that i make as my standard base for my measurement".  But i managed to get my mama's exact measurements by cooking the dish with her and document the process step by step!

5. Deconstruct. I still do this up to now. I savor dishes slowly and analyze what spices, herbs etc. are in the dish. In fact this is the reason for this blog.

My sister and I recently visited my daughter in Chicago and dined at Takashi (a Michelin Starred Restaurant) where she work at the garde manger station. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed everything we had from the appetizer to the dessert. Now that'll be a different blog. It'll follow.

This blog will be about a specific dish we ordered. OMGosh!! they were sooo good. My sister and i sort of did the " guessing game" or the " i can name that spice/herb in few minutes" lol!!!

I got challenged that i had to replicate the dish sans the googling of the recipe. Just to see if my sister and i did good while deconstructing the dish. To me it was a simple yet complex dish. Layered with wonderful flavors.

We tasted and smell star anise or Chinese 5 spice of some sort. There was soy sauce for sure, since he's Japanese i assumed he used Japanese soy sauce. I thought there was oyster sauce and hoisin sauce. For me the flavor profile is akin to a Filipino adobo hence my addition of vinegar to the recipe. I believe it's the execution and the process  that made this dish so tender and tasteful. The best pork belly ever. A must try dish at Takashi Restaurant.

Aahhh, pork belly, this will be another blog for sure. Just to "showcase" my "love affair" with pork belly! ha!ha!ha!

Okay enough already. Here's how i did my version of Chef Takashi's Braised Pork Belly w/ Steamed Buns. By the way, because i did this the pre google era way..i will have to do the "handful", "a half palmful of this" way! ;p. No, really, i will have to make this again just so i can come up with the measurements i did.

Anyway..i'm posting Chef's Takashi's recipe here as well! Ofcourse!!!!

Ingredients: (My version)

Y: 2

Pork Belly- a pound, with skin please. Cut into cubes.
water - enough to cover the meat
oyster sauce-  to taste*
hoisin sauce - to taste*
soy sauce - to taste*
sherry wine- to taste*
vinegar - about 1/2 T
star anise - 2 pieces
garlic - 1 clove minced
onions - small piece chopped
brown sugar- 1/2 teaspoon*
whole black peppercorns
bay leaf - 2 pieces

Chinese mustard mixed with sriracha **
mesclun salad
steamed buns - store bought but you can make you're own.

* start with a tablespoon then taste, add if needed.
** Side sauce.

Mix all the ingredients from the pork belly to bay leaves. Bring this to a boil until meat is tender.
Remove pork belly from liquid.
Pass the liquid through a sieve to get rid of the "chunky" stuff.
Simmer liquid until it thickens to a sauce like consistency.
Please taste and adjust the seasoning.
As the liquid is simmering, fry the pork until light brown.
Place the fried pork back into the sauce and cook for few minutes. Just enough for the meat to absorb the sauce and look like it was glazed.

Arrange the  pork belly with steamed buns and the salad.

My version was really good but no way was it the same as Takashi's.  I think i made a different dish;). It's a good one,  now i have to call it Pia's braised pork belly! ha! sure...why not!



Serves 4:
Pork Belly
1/2 T vegetable oil
9 oz. pork belly
4 cups cold water
1/2 C sake
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

Braising Liquid
1 1/2 C cold water
1 C Japanese soy sauce
3/4 cups sugar
1 piece star anise
1/2 t whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

1/4 head iceberg lettuce
1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal

2 T hoisin sauce
1 t cold water
1 t cornstarch

Mustard Sauce
2 t mustard powder
2 t water

4 steamed buns ( also called "milk steamed bread" available at Asian and Chinese stores), defrosted and halved.


To prepare the pork belly, place an 11-inch sauté pan over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Using tongs, carefully place the fatty side of the pork belly in the pan and cook until it turns golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the pork belly over and repeat on the other sides until nicely browned all over. Decrease the heat if the oil begins to smoke again.

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the seared pork belly, the cold water, sake, and smashed ginger, and place over high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then decrease the heat; simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

To make the braising liquid, combine all the ingredients in a 4-quart saucepan.

Drain the pork belly and discard the liquid, then add the pork belly to the braising liquid in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Braise for 11⁄2 hours, or until the pork belly is very tender.

Transfer the pork belly and braising liquid to a container and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool, then cover and chill overnight. The next day, assemble a steamer on the stove top. You can use a perforated pan, steam basket, or bamboo steamer. Fill the bottom with water, cover, and set over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium once the water comes to a boil.

To prepare the garnishes, discard the outer leaves of the iceberg lettuce. Place 3 large leaves in a bowl of cold water along with the cucumber slices. Set aside. (I like to soak cut vegetables in cold water for 10 minutes because it helps them retain their freshness and crispness.)

To make the sauce, combine 1⁄2 cup of the chilled braising liquid and the hoisin sauce in a small saucepan and set over high heat. In a bowl, mix the water and cornstarch until smooth. When the sauce just begins to boil, whisk in the cornstarch and cook briefly, just until the sauce begins to thicken. Make sure that it doesn't thicken too much--the sauce should run in a steady stream when poured. Set aside.

To make the mustard sauce, mix the mustard powder and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Remove the pork belly from the remaining braising liquid and cut into 8 slices, each 1⁄4 inch thick. (You'll have leftover pork belly after you cut these slices. See below for other uses.) Place the slices in a single layer side by side with the halved buns on a plate small enough to fit in the steamer (don't put the buns directly on the steamer because they will stick to it). If you have a large steamer, you can do this in one batch. If your steamer is smaller, just steam the pork belly and buns in several batches. Set the plate in the steamer, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft and heated through.

While the pork belly and buns are steaming, finish preparing the garnishes by draining the lettuce and cucumber and patting dry with a towel. Cut the lettuce into pieces the size of the steamed buns and stack in 4 small piles. Top each pile with 2 slices of cucumber.

To serve, assemble a braised pork "sandwich" by placing the lettuce, cucumber, and 2 slices of pork belly on half of a bun. Drizzle the sauce over the meat and top with the other half of the bun. Serve the mustard on the side.

Repeat for the remaining 3 buns.

Ideas for Leftover Pork Belly:

Any leftover pork belly and remaining braising liquid can be frozen for up to 2 months. The braising liquid can be used in the Shoyu Ramen broth and the pork belly can be used as a garnish for various ramens or for fried rice.