An Aussie friend of mine once asked me about my heritage and I mentioned that I hailed from a long (and very distant) line of Chinese migrants from Fujian. Of which my Chinese dialect would be Hokkien. “Hokkien?” he asked, “As in the noodle?”
Alas, many people are only aware of the Hokkien noodle, which is basically the regular yellow, wheat-based egg noodles and not of the province in China or the dialect they speak. Hokkien is a dialect widely spoken in southern Fujian, Taiwan and several parts of Southeast Asia.
Just as the spoken hokkien language in Southeast Asia is a variant from the original, dishes that were cooked were also slightly modified as it passed through the generations. However, I’ve never visited China, much less Fujian, so I wouldn’t have a blinking clue as to what an ‘original’ dish is like. All that I am familiar with are dishes that my parents cooked (while I watched and learnt) and I know they’re hokkien-style because they said so. Who am I to argue right?
My dad used to make this dish which in hokkien is called ‘Dau Yew Bak’ and I loved drizzling the dark, caramel-y soy sauce on my steamed white rice. Even if there weren’t any pork or egg left, I would have been happy just eating plain rice with the sauce. That’s how obsessed I was…is…
The flavours are deceivingly complex (you know it’s not just dark soy in that thing) but the dish is easy enough to prepare and only has a few ingredients. The key spices are cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns (cloves are sometimes used too, but I didn’t have any) and fresh garlic cloves.
Right, when you start frying the cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorn and five spice powder together, be prepared to be hit by the most beautiful aroma…
Add the pork, create the sauce…and wait. That’s the most difficult bit…the waiting. The whole house smells delicious but you have to wait.
So I waited…and admired the gorgeous lilies that a friend / recent house guest gave me…and waited some more.
Then add the hard-boiled eggs, coat and colour the eggs evenly with the sauce, simmer some more…wait some more…
And voila! All the waiting is worth it. Tender, tasty pieces of pork, egg and that sauce, that sauce…on rice. This is my happy meal.
670g of belly pork, cut into 1.5 inch chunks (I used a mixture of belly pork and pork loin)
1 head of garlic, papery skin peeled off, smashed lightly
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
2 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon, 3 inches in length
1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder (optional)
4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of oil
2 – 3 cups of water (depends on how light or strong you prefer the sauce)
4 – 5 hard boiled eggs
Marinade the pork for 20 – 30 minutes with:
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine
1. In a heavy based pot, heat up cooking oil. Add star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, garlic and five spice powder (if using). Fry till fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the marinated pork and all the marinating liquids. Fry for about 10 minutes. This process is to get the meat browning. Add dark soy, light soy and sugar halfway through. Get the sauce caramelising.
3. Add water. Mix it well, lower heat, cover and let it simmer and braise for about 30-40 minutes or until pork is tender. Add the eggs in and coat them with the sauce to get an even colour about 20 minutes into the braising process.
Serve with steamed rice.