Braised Pork Belly with Cucumber and Spicy Garlic Sauce

Also on the menu for Chinese New Year is this simple pork belly dish.  Traditionally, the pork belly is boiled in just water and a little wine, but I am adding just a bit of soy sauce to up the flavor.  The former will produce a more natural pork flavor, but just a little soy sauce gives it a little extra something something.  All the dishes for CNY are chosen to signify prosperity, long life, happiness, and good fortune in the year to come.  Pork belly is a staple in a CNY meal, most often red-cooked, slowly braised in a soy sauce mixture.  But I'm doing something different this year and hope it goes over well.

1 pound pork belly
4 cups water
½ cup rice cooking wine
¼ cup soy sauce
2" piece of fresh peeled ginger, smashed

Cut the pork belly crosswise into 2-3 pieces.  Place the pork belly and remaining ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium low / low to gently boil for about 1 hour.

For the spicy garlic sauce:
¼ cup Szechuan chili oil
2 ½ tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp sugar

Plus one hot house cucumber to serve with the pork.  Slice the hothouse cucumber lengthwise, into very thin slices.

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Drain the pork belly and wrap it up in plastic wrap of foil so that the surface does not dry out while it's cooling.  Once cool enough to handle, slice the pork belly lengthwise, as you would like bacon, into thin slices.  Alternatively, you can make this a day ahead and store the pork belly in the refrigerator and slice it the next day when you are serving, but let it come to room temp before serving.  Arrange the pork slices with the cucumber, alternating between the two.  Pour the sauce over top and serve.

Great flavor but not for those who are shy to garlic!


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