Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tau Yu Bak - Belly Pork Braised in Soy Sauce

A few friends who came to the UK around the same time I did have mused that there were several dishes from back home that they didn't like at all prior to making their way here, but have since changed their minds and miss it just as much as their favourites. As I grew up, I remembered not looking forward to dinner when I learnt that my mother had cooked tau yu bak, but have since acquired a taste for it and do miss it when in the UK.

To make the dish, whole slabs or bite-sized pieces of belly pork (the same cut used to make streaky bacon) are braised in soya sauce with Chinese mushrooms and an assortment of typical Chinese spices - cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel and ginger, though the concoction might vary - for about an hour. The meat is tender and has a small amount of fat that provides a flavourful punch. Typically this is served with rice.

Given that the preparation is relatively simple, it is surprising that while I was here none of the households I was in ever prepared it. I guess we were content with stir-fries for typical meals, reserving special occasions for the likes of laksa, chicken rice and chilli crab. When Sainsbury's introduced a Basics version of pork streaky rashers, belly pork in another guise, I thought I might as well give this a go for nostalgia. A quick Google search also showed that not everybody in the UK knew what to do with this, so this blog post might be of interest to curious British readers.

Since I was planning to cook for my flatmates as well I bought the regular rashers. The photo above shows a side-by-side comparison. The two rashers below are the Basics ones, while the two above are regular Sainsbury's.

To make this, I used the recipe taken from NoobCook, written by a fellow countrywoman. Due to ingredient scarcity, I left out the mushrooms and resorted to using ground versions of the spices she listed as well as granulated sugar. I also chopped the pork up to make it easier to manage when eating later. As this is a derivative of somebody else's recipe, my notes will be limited to discussing the things I did while cooking.

My experience with browning things is limited to using non-stick pans, so I browned the pork in a non-stick frying pan first. I sliced off the pork belly skins and rendered them for their fat, which would allow me to not only cook the pork without oil, but also add some flavour to the vegetables I'm stir-frying later.

Cooking in a separate pan means that I can get to place my stew ingredients in the pot ready to go though.

 This is a photo of the pot prior to simmering for one hour.

One hour later, the eggs are added in and left to simmer for a further ten minutes.

I have not had rice at home in a while, so to be able to sit down and enjoy a home-cooked dinner after a day at work was definitely welcomed. There was no almost no difference in taste between the Basics and regular pork, and if you can get over the smell when handling the rashers, the savings can be significant. A few of my colleagues at work have been eagerly anticipating this; perhaps I could make this for them if the opportunity ever presents itself.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Streaky Pork Rashers£4.27/kg4, typically+£0.72/kgLess smelly rashers, more regular sizes.


  1. I like very much! I'll try this out when I get the chance during the much-anticipated school holidays. Cereal prawns next?? Thought if you when I saw it in a menu last weekend. :-)

  2. Hello Ruth, I don't particularly like prawns very much. I don't believe the Basics range has unshelled prawns, but there might be a way around it... hmm.

  3. I, for one, am allergic to shellfish! LOL! You should try a version of char kuay teow with basics yellow noodles..


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