Chinese Five Spice Pork Belly is a special occasion dish that always receives rave reviews.
Pork belly buns are very popular these days. It’s funny, because pork belly is a very traditional Chinese food. I’m glad people are finally discovering just how delicious this cut of meat is. It’s definitely a special occasion dish.
I made this Chinese Five Spice Pork Belly recipe for the twins’ 21st birthday and for an Asian themed party recently. It has received rave reviews from everyone who’s tried it.
My Aunt Florence made Chinese Pork Belly when my family visited her apartment in the Bronx as a kid. I didn’t appreciate how decadent pork belly was at the time – I just knew it was simply delicious. I did remember that my aunt’s version was steamed, not braised.
I scoured several Chinese cookbooks to figure out how to make this special dish. First of all, you need to find some good quality pork belly. This is a special occasion meal, so this is not the time to skimp on the fat. I actually bought a leaner pork belly the first time around and found it way too dry. Whole Foods carries pork belly and I’ve had good results with it.
The cooking process is a two step process. The second part of the cooking process is similar to braising, but it is done in a large steamer. The slow steaming process helps release a lot of the extra fat from the meat, which can be easily skimmed off if you refrigerate it overnight.
Step 1: Chinese Five Spice Pork Belly
First, the pork belly is cooked whole with some ginger, scallion and garlic to firm up the meat and make it easier to slice.
Next, once the pork belly is cool, cut it into thick 1/2″ pieces.
Then, place the pork belly skin side down in a heat-proof dish.
Step 2: Chinese Five Spice Pork Belly
Now, a braising liquid is made by first sautéing scallions, ginger star anise and cinnamon until fragrant.
Then, add dark soy sauce, regular soy sauce, rice wine brown sugar and water.
Next, pour the braising liquid on top of the sliced pork belly.
Finally, cover the dish with a piece of parchment paper and steam gently for 1 1/2 hours.
This recipe does take some time to make, but can be made ahead of time. In fact, I prepared this over two days and reheated it on the day of our party. I did the first step of cooking the pork belly in the aromatics one day, then steamed the pork belly in the braising liquid the next day. I then refrigerated the pork belly overnight and scooped off the excess hardened fat the next day.
How To Serve Chinese Five Spice Pork Belly
Serve Chinese Five Spice Pork belly stuffed inside of steamed Chinese buns with thinly sliced cucumbers, hoisin sauce and minced scallions for an appetizer. Two per person is more than enough because pork belly is so rich. – people will be so impressed.
Chinese Pork Belly
- 3 pounds pork belly
- 1 1" slice ginger smashed
- 4 garlic cloves smashed
- 5 scallions white parts only
Pork Belly Cooking Sauce
- 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
- 6 slices ginger 1/4" thick
- 3 garlic cloves smashed
- 4 scallion cut into 2" lengths, smashed
- 3 star anise
- 1 3" piece cinnamon stick broken in half
- 1/2 cup regular soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
- 1 cup organic brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
Bring a pot of water to boil and place pork belly inside, along with ginger, garlic and scallion; let cook for 30 minutes until meat is firm.
Remove from pot; let cool; cut into 1/2" slices. Arrange in a heatproof pan, skin side down.
Heat oil until hot; stir fry ginger, garlic, scallions, star anise and cinnamon until fragrant, about a minute. Add soy sauces, rice wine, brown sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and stir until sugar is melted. Pour on top of and in between pork belly slices. Place piece of parchment paper on top to cover the pork belly.
Cover steamer and steam on medium-low for 1 1/2 hours until tender. Refrigerate overnight if possible so you can skim off any excess fat.
Serve with steamed Chinese buns, sliced cucumbers and minced scallions.
Chinese pickled sour mustard greens are also a nice accompaniment to pork belly buns. To prepare this, soak pickled sour mustard greens in water for 1/2 hour. Drain and mince. Saute with a little sugar and salt.
Angie@Angie's Recipes says
I love pork belly, but it has been ages since I last had one…sighs..all I need is just one! Yours looks really delicious, Jeanette.
Pork belly is definitely an indulgent treat – but so good!
Amelie Moore says
Oh my gosh this looks so good! I am over here drooling over this dish right now. I am all over this. I can’t even stop starring.
Thanks Amelia – it’s a special occasion dish – everyone who’s tried it loves it!
Where is the 5 spice in the recipe?
Hi Wei, sorry about the confusion. This recipe actually does not have five spice powder – cinnamon and star anise are the spices used. When I first made this recipe, I did use some five spice powder. The cooking method was slightly different. I rubbed five spice powder and salt on the pork belly and seared it first, then cooked it sous vide.
Helen Hiem says
Hi Jeannette , where can I buy the buns? Can I get it frozen?
I buy them in the frozen section of the Asian grocery store.
Thanks for the recipe. I’ve made this so many times and this one is a definite keeper. I don’t like the heavy flavor of the five-spice powder, so this is perfect. Thanks for sharing! Love it.
I’m so glad you have been enjoying this recipe – thanks so much for letting me know!