My friend Kim is basically a superhero. A talented journalist and blogger, mum to four boys and spectacular cook, the food photos she posts on social media never fail to get my mouth watering. A couple of weeks ago she posted a photo that had me wiping drool off my phone screen: jewel-like cubes of pork belly slow-simmered in Asian seasonings until they were sticky and caramelized. She called it Dongpo Pork and posted the recipe on her blog not long after.
I had four pounds of pork belly in my freezer just waiting to be turned into such a delicacy, but there was one small problem: the original recipe is very soy-heavy, and my husband and kids all are allergic to soy. Other problems, on the night I decided I HAD TO MAKE THIS THING RIGHT NOW and didn’t want to take the time to run out to the store first: I had no idea what Shaoxing wine was, I had no peanut oil in the house, ditto Chinese tea of any kind, tritto yellow rock sugar (or any “normal” sugar for that matter).
But no matter! When pork belly needs to happen, PORK BELLY NEEDS TO HAPPEN, PEOPLE. Somehow, miraculously, I managed to make it work with a million substitutions. Below is my hacked version of Kim’s amazing original recipe. For what it’s worth, my version is soy-free, nut-free and completely paleo, though I did serve it over rice. And it was delicious! We literally fought over the leftovers, which never happens in my house. Awesome stuff!
Paleo Dongpo Pork
- 4 lbs. pork belly
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 cup coconut aminos
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 cup mirin
- 5 Tbs. coconut palm sugar (it’s what I had)
- 2 cups brewed black tea (I used a chai spiced tea because again, it’s what I had)
- 1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled, sliced and bruised
- 8 green onions, cut into thirds or fourths
Place the pork in a large pot or dutch oven, cover with cold water, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove pork and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Cut pork into 1.5-inch cubes (more or less). Wipe out the dutch oven, add the olive oil and brown the pork in batches over medium-high heat, setting aside afterward.
Carefully wipe out the dutch oven again. Add the coconut aminos, molasses, mirin, coconut sugar and tea and bring to a boil. Add the ginger and onions.
Add the pork and enough water to cover, if needed. Bring it back up to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for around 3 hours or until the pork is tender (make sure all the pork is covered with liquid during the cooking process or, as per Kim, it may dry out).
Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and set aside. Bring the sauce back to a gentle boil and reduce to a thick glaze (this took about 30 minutes for me).
Pour glaze over pork and serve with rice, cauliflower rice, vegetable noodles or just on its own!