Five Spice Braised Pork Belly: part II


This is such a simple recipe you might think I’m not revealing all the secrets. Trust me, I am. I gave you the recipe for my super secret Five Spice powder didn’t I?

I’m sorry to have kept you waiting a while. I just had another nasty bout of flu that got me totally down for the count. I was barely coherent enough to speak, let alone blog. Anyway, all is behind me now. To those of you who’ve been following the alarming Status Message on my Facebook, I’m fine now. And, no, I didn’t have bird flu, I was just being a cry baby, sorry if I scared anyone. Now, back to the long awaited braised pork belly, shall we?

Once you’ve made the Five Spice powder from part I of this post, this dish is total child’s play. (Even if you didn’t make your own Five Spice powder you could easily substitute the store-bought stuff. Won’t be as good and it will do.) Once the braise it done, you could serve it on top of rice noodle, or any other kind of noodle that you like. You can even serve it on rice. I usually make a little chili-garlic-vinegar condiment to serve on the side. It adds a nice tang to cut through the fatty goodness in the belly.

Five Spice Braised Pork Belly

3-4 pounds skin-on pork belly, if you can find the belly with the rib bones attached, use it (rinse well and pat dry)
1 medium onion, diced
2-inch long knob of ginger, peeled and but into thin slices, lengthwise
2 tbsp Five Spice powder
3 cloves of garlic
2tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (You can substitute 2tbsp regular soy sauce plus 1/2 tbsp brown sugar.)
3 tbsp fish sauce (plus more to taste)
plus a handful of cilantro leaves for garnish.


Take half the ginger slices and chop them finely. Reserve the rest for a bit later.

Use a large dutch oven large enough in diameter to lay the pork belly flat in it. Heat the pan over medium high heat, add the oil, then the diced onions. Cook until translucent, then add the chopped ginger and the Five Spice powder. Continue cooking the onions and spices, stirring vigorously, until fragrant, about two minutes.

Lay the pork belly flat, skin side down, on the pot over the onions and spices. Add enough water to completely cover the belly and then some. Add the dark soy sauce (or soy sauce+brown sugar substitute) and the fish sauce. Peel the garlic cloves, crush and then add them to the pot.

Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a boil. Skim any foamy scum from the top. Then, open the lid slightly, and let simmer over low heat for at least three hours (skim occasionally) or until the pork is falling off the bone tender.

Once the belly is ready–it should have by now shrunk a good deal–remove it from the large pot and add it to a medium saucepan and set aside, covered. You should still have a good amount of braising liquid left in the big pot. It’s now time to reduce it to a thicker and more unctuous consistency. To do that, turn the heat back up to high, remove the lid, add the rest of the ginger slices, and let the liquid cook down until it’s the consistency you like. (This can take ten minutes, it might take a half hour, you just have to keep watch and guesstimate yourself.) At this point, if you have a stick blender, I’d give it a whirl or two in the pot to blend everything together. If you don’t have one, don’t bother. In either case, strain the liquid into the medium saucepan with the cooked belly, and return the saucepan to the stove. Heat again until the pork belly is warmed through. You might want to check the seasoning again, add more fish sauce or soy sauce if it needs a bit more.

As I said earlier, you can serve this over rice or any kind of noodle you have. I usually blanch and bit of bok choy or other Asian vegetables and tuck them under the noodles. They provide a nice crunch and a fresh green flavor to the the dish. It also helps to garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro.

If you like, you can also make my chili-garlic-vinegar condiment to drizzle over the pork to help cut through the fat a bit.

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 bird-eye peppers, finely chopped
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp white sugar
Mix well and serve as a condiment with the pork belly.

Tomorrow, a slight variation of this, using chicken thighs and legs, served with yellow egg noodle.

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30 Responses to “Five Spice Braised Pork Belly: part II

  • Casey said:
    March 6th, 2008 at 8:37am

    OMG; this looks sooooo good. Glad the flu fu has passed.

  • oakley said:
    March 6th, 2008 at 8:41am

    Pim – you’re killing me! Oh my god. I can taste this by just looking at it.

  • Julia said:
    March 6th, 2008 at 9:49am

    Oh Pim, I think I love you!
    I love pork belly and cook with it a lot at home. This looks absolutely delicious – I must try it.
    I’m glad you’re feeling better.

  • jai said:
    March 6th, 2008 at 9:57am

    The flu fu…. do adults really say that? Anyway, can you use this same preparation on a leaner piece of meat, or is it the fat that is necessary for this dish to turn out correctly? A pork loin perhaps?

  • sari said:
    March 6th, 2008 at 10:38am

    wowwww, i am drooling. the best part if the fat part!

  • Kian said:
    March 6th, 2008 at 11:07am

    Very nice recipe. Simple and elegant. I love braised pork belly. The Chinese “red cooked” version is my absolute favorite.
    I agree that braising with water is an appropriate technique if the protein contains sufficient fat and gelatin.
    I would however recommend the meat be seared or par-boiled before braising. This process prevents blood scum from collecting in the braising sauce.
    To sear the meat use low to medium heat and be sure to cook the meat through. Otherwise the blood scum will appear again when you add the braising liquid.
    Make sure the meat is cooked through also if you par-boil. Discard the water from the par-boiling.
    This technique will create the smoothest cleanest sauce at the end.

  • helen said:
    March 6th, 2008 at 7:44pm

    It’s almost 8 pm here in the Westcoast. I’m still at work and hungry, and your photo is killing me. Let me lick the screen…

  • Syrie said:
    March 7th, 2008 at 8:55am

    I have never tried preparing pork belly at home but you make it sound easier then I thought it would be. Looks fantastic. Good to hear you’re on the mend.

  • Judy said:
    March 7th, 2008 at 11:38am

    Dear Pim,
    I was new to your site following “Diary of A Foodie”. I’m not very computer literate and thought I couldn’t get into your site. I kept seeing the first pork belly entry. Thank you for getting better and confirming that I CAN use a computer. That’s a fabulous pork recipe. I look forward to many more. Judy

  • jimmy-in-Seattle said:
    March 8th, 2008 at 4:38pm

    Pimmy – you should take better care of your health. You are WAY smarter than that!!! Did the flu make you feel like that frying-pan picture above – kind of dizzy? LOL
    Hope you feel bettter. 😉

  • Love_at_first_bite said:
    March 8th, 2008 at 10:00pm

    Hey Pim that looks great! I usually do the Chinese style red braised pork belly but I think I may have to try out your five spice version. Do you have any recommendations on spice mills? I’ve been needing to get one and it would definitely help with this recipe. Thanks!

  • anticiplate said:
    March 9th, 2008 at 12:20pm

    okay! i NEED to make pork belly. That looks divine!

  • Pim said:
    March 9th, 2008 at 11:14pm

    Casey, Oakley, Julia,
    You might be able to get away with using leaner cuts of meat if you add cuts that have lots of connective tissues which would help add body to the broth. I would probably throw in a pig’s feet or two for the gelatin.
    The fat is definitely the best part.
    I don’t par-boil but I skim, skim, skim, and then strain the sauce at the end. I don’t want to lose any flavor in the par-boil liquid.
    How did the screen taste?
    Syrie and Judy,
    You’re welcome. Try the recipe, it’s really simple.
    I’m feeling much better, thanks.

  • veron said:
    March 12th, 2008 at 8:07am

    You are making me ravenous with hunger. I am so encouraged to make my own five-spice.

  • Jen said:
    March 13th, 2008 at 9:31pm

    this looks absolutely mouth-watering! I’m going to try out variation of the recipe (pretty much the same except addition of Chinese shitake mushrooms and copious amounts of ginger). This will be served Chiu Chow style with ginger mustard greens – laid out like Mui Choy Pork Belly. I have never cooked this dish before and I’m kinda nervous!

  • memnoch said:
    March 14th, 2008 at 12:19am

    As Kian said, most chinese parboil their meat in order to avoid all the skimming.
    I think it’s suggestable to add a bit of sugar to the braising liquid(to taste), if possible, substitute the onion with chinese green onion/ scallion. fish sauce is more traditional to vietnam and thailand’s variation. sometimes they use both light and dark soy sauce, and a bit of salt to keep the price tag down.
    One thing important is chinese yellow wine, called siu hing wine/ xiao hing wine, just some distilled white wine can substitue, it helps the meat to get more tender quicker. when you boil a large pot, you don’t need to grind the spice down, just throw them all together in the pot, even add some chinese medical stuff, such as licorice, white pepper, chilli, some type of black mustard seeds. hehe, heck, I like to throw in two pieces of bay leaf too.
    if you want something more chinese home-made taste: boil up a large pot, just leave the meat in the braising liquid overnight(can leave outside if the weather is 15C or so, yeah, let it rot, 6-7 hours will do fine), and reheat it the next day to a full boil then to a slow simmer before eating. even the soft rib bones will be tender enough to chew on the second day,
    some traditional shops have this 5 spice meat sauce keep on boiling, from morning to night on a slow simmer, only add new meat and stuff to the pot everyday, in some legedary shops, they have a continous stew for over a hundred years. sounds crazy? yes, but it taste damn good, the burst of flavour is quite unbelivable.

  • mielimato said:
    May 28th, 2008 at 6:36am

    You rock! A girl who can appreciate a good pork belly is a girl after my own heart! Who says this is unhealthy? It is so delicious and flavorful, you don’t need to eat a lot of it. Eat less but savor the flavor is what I say!

  • Rob said:
    July 21st, 2008 at 2:36am

    hi pim, i’ve been reading your blog for a long time but only just got around to making one of your recipes yesterday. it was this one for the five spice braised pork belly – and it was amazing! thanks so much; i can’t wait to try the khao soi…

  • Todd said:
    August 10th, 2008 at 11:31pm

    I really like traditional Chinese food, but the local place that would let me order off the Chinese menu closed. So I have been trying to make it at home.
    I tried this dish, and it only came out so so. My first problem was the pork belly curled up and became a boat in the broth. The second problem was even after 3.5 hours braising the meat was still a little tough, and almost dry tasting.
    Not that I did not enjoy it, but I feel it could have been much much better.

  • Todd said:
    August 12th, 2008 at 12:37pm

    Oops, re-reading that it sounded a little critical, I was more wondering what I did wrong, how I can make it better. Any suggestions?

  • Martha said:
    October 1st, 2008 at 4:05pm

    Hi Pim. My fiance was searching for a pork belly recipe and found yours. I tried it out and thought it was surprisingly really easy (just like you said) and tasty at the same time. I actually wrote a review of it on my blog (
    I want to thank you for the recipe. My fiance loved it! He especially loved that I finished the pork belly by pan frying the skin to make it crispy.
    The one question I have is that it wasn’t as quite juicy & tender as I expected – is it because my pork belly didn’t have a bone in it?

  • Danny said:
    August 29th, 2009 at 1:02pm

    This sounds delicious. Any thoughts about trying this with a pork butt? I have a big one staring at me and I’d love to try it. It’s pretty fatty. I;m a little anxious about the size, covering it in water, and knowing I have enough spice. Have you tired this with pork butt?

  • Nicole Norris said:
    April 26th, 2011 at 4:59am

    I made this for a dinner party (including home-making the five-spice), and got multiple requests for the recipe. We served it with stir-fried bok choy (which was lovely and crisp, and cut through the fat a bit) and crispy noodles. It was absolutely delicious, thanks for posting!

    Some comments:

    I found that reducing the sauce takes much longer than the recipe’s stated 10-30 minutes – more like an hour or so, depending on how fast you boil it. (I boiled it more slowly and it actually took a couple of hours, but it splattered less and I think that when you reduce things too quickly you loose some of the flavour in the steam, though that might just be my imagination!).

    In my opinion you need to reduce it until pretty much all the water is gone (from ~3L down to ~1 cup), it’s only then that the sauce becomes syrupy and ‘unctuous’ (I love that word!). This is much much easier if you use a non-stick pan for the end part of the reduction, because when it’s almost ready (about 1.5-2 cups) you start getting this sticky film, which is the beginning of the syrupy-ness. This film can be stirred back in again, which is easier to do if it’s not sticking to the bottom or sides!

    When the sauce was about 1L I tasted it, and it was very salty, so salty I contemplated not reducing it further. However, I wanted the unctuousness, so I kept going, and the other flavours intensified more than the salt as I reduced it (which surprised me)… so don’t be worried about undue saltiness before the sauce is ready! (though if you can find salt-reduced dark soy sauce, I’d use that – if it exists!).

    I strained the sauce before reducing it to it’s final volume (when it was about 500 mL or so), because otherwise the beginnings of the syrupy-ness would make it difficult to strain, and you might loose some of the gloopyness which makes it unctuous at the end! – This is a
    good time to transfer it to the non-stick saucepan if it’s not in it already.

    I added two 15 mL tablespoons of palm sugar (brown sugar would also work) at the very end of reducing the sauce to cut through the saltiness a bit. (My husband also liked it with only 1 tbsp – so just add to taste!).

    • Tom Tigue said:
      April 30th, 2011 at 4:08pm

      I think low sodium soy with a wee bit of brown sugar would be a good thing here. The recipe is goodness; ….I have used a Tangerine, Chicken stock, soy, 5 spice, clove and ginger braising liquid…. its also very good.

      P.S. It seems everyone in the current universe uses “loose” for “lose”… ( ones pants are “loose” – one may “lose” a bet.)

      I know, nitpicking……. : )

  • simon warren said:
    May 8th, 2011 at 2:46pm

    dessert recipe plz

  • Kcbcb said:
    December 21st, 2011 at 12:59am

    “Use a large dutch oven large enough in diameter to lay the pork belly flat in it” – has this anything to do with the cooking?

    Do we cut up the pork before cooking?


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    Awesome recipe

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