Preserved Mustard Green with Slow Soy Braised Pork Belly. Or The Dish that turned a Vegetarian.

Pork belly. Braised with garlic and preserved mustard greens overnight with a small bunch of dried chilli just for a little baby kick in the back of the throat. The fat and the meat took on all the flavours from the braising liquid and melted in the mouth from hours of braising. It was salty sweet garlicky fat spicy all in one. All the basic food yumminess receptors.

You should be able to find the mui choy (preserved mustard greens) in your standard Chinatown supermarket. In Southeast Asia, most of the time it comes all semi-dried, wrinkly and speckled generously with salt/ sugar just laying there uncovered. But in London (and I would think most of the Western world), it comes vacuum packed and sealed. If you are lucky, there are two versions, Salty and Sweet. I use the Sweet version. If your local Asian supermarket doesn’t have it, write to them, your local MP and boycott them with a vengeance.

For the pork, go to your local butchers and get good free range pork. That extra bit of cash you pay for happy pig meat is worth every penny. The intense marbling of fat double up as couriers of depth and flavor through the pork belly when it breaks down after the slow and low braising.  

Recipe courtesy of Goz of plusixfive supperclub. ‘Badass Singaporean street food cooked the good ol’ way, presented with minimum fuss and maximum taste.’ 

(Feeds 6 – 8)


1.5kg good marbled pork belly

3 tsp of five spice powder

3 tbsp of dark soy sauce

4 tbsp of sugar

1 bulb of garlic (mashed or finely chopped)

1 tbsp of fish sauce

700g of mui choy (preserved mustard greens)

2 bulbs of garlic

2 tsp of white pepper

4 tbsp of honey/ maltose

2 tbsp of dark soy sauce

6 dried chillis

3 inch stick of cinnamon

3 bulbs of thinly sliced fennel (optional)

The night before

  1. The night before, taking a sharp implement of sorts, frenziedly stab the tough skin of the pork belly repeatedly. You should try to stab it through the skin and the fat but not through the meat.
  2. Then, massage the pork belly all over with five spice powder, dark soy sauce, sugar, garlic and fish sauce. Really rubbing it and getting it in there.
  3. Leave the pork belly skin side up uncovered in the fridge overnight for all those flavours to marinate mingle and get sexy time together.

The morning after

    1. Soak the mui choy in a bowl with sufficient water to cover it. Leave it for half an hour. Then pour away the water, refill and leave it again for another half an hour before pouring away the water. You want to wash away some of the saltiness or else it will be way too salty and kidney failure is a pretty crap gift for your dinner guests.
    2. Then discard the salty water and chop the mui choy into 1 inch chunks.
    3. Heat up a wok filled with an inch of oil* TIP: You know the oil is hot enough that when you shove a dry chopstick in,
    4. Now take the pork belly out of the fridge, reserving the marinating liquid and gently place it skin side down into the hot oil. BE CAREFUL. It will splatter, splutter, spurt, pop and wheeze like a drunken crazed violent ex-girlfriend so use a cover, splatter screen and/or wear suitable body armour.
    5. Let it deep fry it for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the skin started to crackle and the fat starts to render, checking every couple of minutes. Then flip it over so that it sis now skin side up.
    6. Add the marinating liquid you reserved earlier, the chopped mui choy, the bulbs of garlic, white pepper, dark soy sauce and sugar.
    7.  Add boiling water to just below the skin level of the pork belly. 
    8. After the contents in the wok comes to a boil, scrap off any bits stuck to the bottom of the wok, making sure you don’t lose any flavor clinging on to the base of the wok. Then drop the stove fire to a gentle flame and let it simmer slowly for at least 6 hours.
    9. Check every other hour that there is sufficient water in the wok and that it is not burning and charring and putting the lives of your family in imminent danger.
    10.  After at least 6 hours, taste and season accordingly. I generally like this dish slightly sweet but if you prefer it slightly saltier add more light soy sauce.
    11. ( Then turn the fire up and boil it hard and fast stirring continuously to ensure that it doesn’t burn and that the sauce slowly thickens and caramelize

To serve

  1. Take the pork belly out of the pot and slice it into slices. As a starter/ canapé, you can serve it between Christine’s soft pillowy buns (pun totally intended) (see next recipe). As a main dish to be served with rice, I like to dish it out on a bed of raw English lettuce cups as the freshness of the lettuce helps cut through the richness of the dish. Ladle a bed of mui choy and rest the pork belly on the top of the mui choy.

* TWIST! For an interesting English summer twist, if it is in season, you can add fennel as well about an hour and a half before you serve it so that its not too mushy and also not too crunchy. After braising, the aniseedy/liquoricey intensity of raw fennel gives way to a subtle minty/staranisey flavor which balances out the richness of the pork.

Oh yeah. I forget. We served it once at a supperclub and a vegetarian who’s been a vegetarian all her life just couldn’t resist. And spent the rest of the night polishing it off and licking the bowl. FACT.