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Pork Belly: A Five-Layered Meat

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Fall Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(3) pages: 10 to 11

Pork belly is popular in Chinese cuisine and known that way or as ‘five-layered meat.’ The Chinese call it as wu hua rou. This fatty protein is found directly under the pig’s belly, and in the US only available cured and called bacon (which is shown in column 2) It is a common breakfast food. In China, it is never cured, most often sold as the entire piece with or without the exterior skin, with or without its end flap, and rarely sold pre-sliced.

The entire belly pork portion can weigh about twelve pounds, and when we bought one, we would cut the flap off and grind or mince it making another dish, then cut the big piece in three or four pieces and freeze them for future use. We did appreciate the red and white layers when we braised them, when we kept them frozen, but rarely for many months because fatty meats have a shorter shelf life fresh or frozen, even meat well wrapped.

As a two person family now, we no longer buy the whole piece, but do purchase what would have been a third or quarter of it as that makes more than one meal for the two of us. We have been empty nesters for years, rarely have more than one or two guests, and now live in a life-care retirement community that does require payment for twenty main meals a month. Truth be told, we even have trouble consuming them because we eat out in Chinese or other restaurants or at my daughter’s home a few times every month and rarely cook a large piece of meat. We do order belly pork when it is on the menu here, and always enjoy it (see belly pork picture on page 11).

This cut of meat is popular among most Asians; who know dozens of ways to prepare it, most long-cooked or quickly braised when cut into small pieces; and that way it cooks faster then cooked whole. Our rice cooker is a wonderful place to do that and there needs little attention until done.

Below, are several recipes for this particular cut of meat, and a great way to prepare it as is using any an electric vessel such as our slow cooker or rice cooker.

If you are not familiar with this type of meat, Wikipedia and other web sources have a plethora of recipes worth trying, and we offer a few below. Readers, we suggest learning how great this layered meat can be, learn how much fat is rendered, the meat ending up very tender, indeed.

Twice-Cooked Pork Belly

1 pound pork belly, cut in two-inch cubes, simmered one hour, drained the liquid discarded, the cubes dried with paper towels
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
5 cloves peeled and sliced garlic cloves
3 scallions, coarsely minced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup brewed Chinese black tea
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon chili sauce (optional)
1 leek, the white part only angle-sliced


1. Mix belly pork cubes with the thin and dark soy sauces, sliced garlic cloves, and cornstarch, and set aside for one hour; then drain and use the marinade for another use, if desired.
2. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add the oil and stir-fry the garlic and scallion pieces for one minute, then add the drained belly pork cubes, sugar, sesame oil, brewed tea, and ground white pepper. Cover and simmer this and the other ingredients for half an hour, then uncover and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about twenty minutes.
3. Stir in half the leek pieces, put the belly pork in a pre-heated bowl, then add the rest of the leek pieces scattered over the top, and serve.

Beef-Braised Pork Belly

1 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
1 Tablespoon whole fennel seeds
2 pounds pork belly cross-hatching only through the outer skin layer, not into the five meat layers
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup apple juice
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 carrots, peeled, then angle-cut in half-inch pieces
5 dried apricots, each cut in four
2 twelve-ounce cans dark beer
3 Tablespoons rendered chicken fat
3 shallots, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons minced bottle horseradish


1. Tie star anise, cloves, and fennel seeds in a square of cheese cloth and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a four-quart pot, add the belly pork, and the cheese cloth packet, and fry this until the pork is browned, and then pour off and all but two tablespoons of the oil.
3. In this small amount of oil, stir-fry the onion and carrot pieces for three minutes, then add the apricots, beer, chicken fat, minced shallots, lemon juice, salt and pepper, the lemon juice and the horseradish and stir-fry one more minute, and then serve it.

Bitter Melon, Doufu, and Pork Belly

3 bitter melons, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeds discarded, then the halves sliced
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
½ pound firm doufu, cubed in half-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 pound cooked pork belly, outer skin discarded, and thinly sliced
½ cup vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon dark or mushroom soy sauce
2 large eggs, beaten well
1/4 cup bonito flakes


1. Mix bitter melon slices and the salt and set this aside for half an hour, then rinse and drain it.
2. Next, squeeze out any water from the bitter melon, and divide them into two batches freezing one for an hour, and cooking the other half for fifteen minutes before draining them, and setting them aside on a plate.
3. Then, heat wok or fry-pan, add the vegetable oil and stir-fry both sets of bitter melon for two minutes before adding the pork belly pieces and stir-fry them with the bitter melon for three minutes.
4. Now, add the doufu, and stir-fry for three more minutes, then add the broth and soy sauce, and when hot stir in the beaten eggs, stirring this one minutes, a minute longer if you like your eggs more firm.
5. Put everything into a pre-heated bowl, and then serve.

Pork Belly in Tea Sauce

2 pounds cooked pork belly, cut in one-inch cubes
3 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
3 scallions, cut in one-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil


1. Mix the pork belly cubes with thin soy sauce and cornstarch and set aside for fifteen minutes.
2. Put the garlic and scallion pieces in a sauce pot with half cup of cold water and simmer them covered for fifteen minutes.
3. Then add the mushroom soy sauce, granulated sugar, and the sesame oil, and cover and simmer an hour, then put everything in a pre-heated bowl, and serve.

Pork Belly and Duck Eggs

4 raw duck eggs simmered for five minutes, then put them in cold water, and peel discarding their shells
1 pound cooked pork belly without the skin, and grind or mince coarsely
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds, coarsely chopped or ground coarsely
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup pea leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 pound oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped or thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon golden raisons
1 clove fresh garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon rendered chicken fat
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 chicken eggs, beaten well
½ cup bread crumbs
1 cup panko
3 cups vegetable oil


1. Mix pork belly, the sugar, and the coarsely ground fennel and coriander seeds with the salt and refrigerate for half a day or overnight.
2. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add the oil, and sauté the garlic for one minute, then add the oyster mushrooms and sauté another three minutes.
3. Now add the pea leaves and raisons and stir-fry for two minutes, then remove them to a bowl and cool for ten or fifteen minutes.
4. Then coat the eggs in flour, then in the beaten chicken eggs, and finally, in a mixture of bread crumbs and panko and set them aside for fifteen minutes or until the crumbs and panko look dry. Next cut each egg in half.
5. Reheat any remaining oil and deep fry the egg halves in it, and when lightly tanned, drain them on paper towels, and put them in the center of a pre-heated serving platter.
6. Mix the pork belly mixture and fry it two minutes before draining it on paper towels.
7. Put this on the platter around the duck eggs, and serve.

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