Initially when I first heard of this dish, I thought to myself, well….sounds rather salty. But I guess it’s not so much the salty type of soy sauce but the dark one that gives it the colour and enhances the braising liquid because dark soy sauce is not as salty as the light one. I’m not sure what are the must essentials for this dish but what I do know is you need soy sauce, hence it would not be called ‘tau eu bak’. ‘Tau eu’ means soy sauce in Hokkien. The other things are the aromatics and spices like cinnamon, cloves and star anise.
While I do like my spices, putting a whole cinnamon stick into the dish might be a turnoff, I like a little cinnamon but too obvious is no-no for me. So I thought that rather than use a cinnamon stick, I’d marinade the pork belly first with 5 spice because essentially you do have cinnamon in 5 spice, among other things.
Also another essential thing, the gorgeous dark coloured eggs on the outside made so by the braising liquid and white and golden on the inside. Tau eu bak is such a homely dish and you eat it mainly with rice because you need the bland starch to soak up all the gravy goodness. There has been recipes known to put tau pok or tofu puffs in it and also adding some rock sugar at the end to give it that syrupy shine. But i just kept it simple.
My family enjoys this dish very much, even my son who’s not so keen on pork skin just ate everything because braising it for few hours meant everything is soft and just falls apart in an appetizing way.
RECIPE FOR TAU EU BAK
400 gms pork belly (with the skin)
2 teaspoons of 5 spice powder
5 tablespoons of light soy sauce
3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
4 cloves of whole garlic
2-3 star anise
A handful of dried shitake mushrooms
(soaked in hot water until soft)
3 hard boiled eggs
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1. Cut the pork belly into chunks. Marinade with 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce and the 5 spice powder for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Heat a heavy based pot with the sunflower oil. Sear the pork belly till it colours and caramelizes on all sides.
3. Add the garlic cloves. Pour in the rest of the light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. I put the star anise and the cloves in a soup pouch because the worst thing ever is to bite down on a lone star anise pod or a clove. But if that doesn’t bother you, just drop in the spices as is.
4. Stir around for awhile. Add water till you just about cover the meat.
5. Add the soaked mushrooms and season with white pepper. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour and a half. Boil some eggs in the meantime.
6. 30 mins before it’s done, drop in the hard boiled eggs into the gravy. Cover.
7. Serve with rice.