Braised pork belly with preserved mustard greens is one of our all time favorite Chinese comfort foods. It is a medley of sweet, savory and sour from the greens and the unctuous texture of the meltingly tender pork belly. The dish looks labor intensive, but it’s surprisingly simple and absolutely addictive over a bowl of rice.
Hakka cuisine is known for the use of a variety of dried and fermented ingredients in their dishes. This pork belly with preserved mustard greens (mei cai) is one of the signature dishes of Hakka cuisine and heartiest food in China. It has a lot of similarity with the version that originated from Zhejiang Province. But the main difference is the preserved vegetables. For this recipe, I used pale Hakka-style mei cai. There’s a darker version made in the Shaoxing style.
Because of various stages of preparation, mei cai tastes savory, salty, slightly sweet. Along with soy sauce and other seasoning, the juice from the mei cai infuses a lot of umami flavors into the meat when steaming. You can find mei cai in Chinese markets. Look for either the dried goods or the pickled vegetable aisles. They are either sold with small pieces in packages or a whole plant which is what I used in the video.
To prepare mei cai for cooking, wash it thoroughly to get rid of the sand and dirt, then soak it in water overnight. This will make the greens extra tender and juicy.
Since this dish is a bit labor-intensive and time-consuming, I usually make a few batches and refrigerate/freeze them so I can enjoy it anytime. Lastly, cook lots of rice and serve with the dish.
Braised Pork Belly with Mustard Greens (Mui Choy Kau Yuk 梅菜扣肉)
For Cooking the Pork
- 1 lb Pork Belly with the skin on
- 1 star anise
- 1 stalk green onion
- 3 slices ginger
- boiling water
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine
For Seasoning the Mustard Greens
- 6 ounces preserved mustard greens
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
For Seasoning the Pork
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce for rubbing the skin and pan-fry
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 2 stalk green onions chopped
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine
Wash the mustard greens thoroughly to remove all the dirt and sand. Rinse about 6-7 times. Soak it in water for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Cut the greens into 1/2 inch pieces.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok. Add the greens and give it a stir with sugar and soy sauce.
Heat a medium sauce pan with cold water over high heat, add the pork belly with ginger, green onions, star anise, and shaoxing rice wine. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for about 20 minutes.
Let the pork cool down. Pat with a paper towel until it's dry. Brush the skin all over with the dark soy sauce.
Heat a sauce pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Then carefully add the pork with skin-side down. Fry the pork skin until it's slightly golden brown with blisters over the surface. Use a splatter screen to protect you from the popping oil.
With the skin-side down on the cutting board, cut the pork into 1/4 inch slices.
Add garlic, green onions, hoisin sauce, sugar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and rice wine to the pork and combine well.
Place the pork skin-side down in a bowl.
Stuff the pork slices with the greens.
Place the bowl into a steamer over medium heat or a pressure cooker for at least 2 hours. For pressure cooker, use the STEAM setting.
Take the pork out of the steamer. Pour the sauce into another bowl.
Place a bigger plate over the bowl and invert the bowl onto the plate. Carefully lift off the bowl and pour the sauce over the pork. Serve with rice.