I’m of German heritage which means every New Year’s we eat roast pork and sauerkraut – no exceptions. It’s a tradition meant to bring good luck for the year ahead. But really, I just think Germans wanted even more excuses to eat their favorite foods. Nevertheless, despite my utter hatred of sauerkraut, I too eat this meal every New Year’s, but lately I’ve been adding my own twists.
This year I turned toward Asian culture and Walt Disney World to inspire my take on pork and sauerkraut. Many years ago, aka December of 2015, I ate at Disney’s California Grill – a restaurant located on the top floor of The Contemporary resort. Most people eat here to watch the spectacular view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from a luxurious setting. I come for the food and the food alone – it’s spectacularly good. But in 2015 I had a bite of something that’s stuck with me all this time – nigiri (a type of susi) topped with roast pork belly. It sounds so simple but it was incredible, and I’ve be chasing that high ever since.
So this year, after finding the most beautiful piece of pork belly at Whole Foods, I decided to give it a try. But instead of roasting, I thought braising would give it the perfect sweet / salty flavor to compliment the tanginess of the sauerkraut. Turned out this experiment paid off – these were AMAZING!!! However, they were a ton of work so I honestly recommend just serving the braised pork belly over a bed of rice, it’s just as good if not better.
Braised Pork Belly
- 1 Lb pork belly you want a piece with a big cap of fat on one side but still good marbling with the meat so it’s not all fat
- 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
- 2 Inch piece of ginger root peeled and sliced thin
- 4 Large garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 Cup soy sauce you can also use coconut aminos if you’re trying to avoid soy!
- 3 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/4 Cup mirin or Shaoxing wine
- Bring a large sauce pot of water to a boil – while waiting, cut pork belly into 1-inch cubes
- Add pork belly to boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes – you’ll see some scum rise to the top of the water, these are the pork’s impurities purging from the meat. It also means the pork belly will be far more tender at the end of the cooking process. Once done, skim off the scum then rinse and drain the pork belly – set aside.
- Set a medium-sized pot (I use a Dutch oven) over medium high heat and add sugar and 3 tbsp water – watch and stir this constantly as it becomes an amber color. Turn down the heat to medium low and add in the pork – toss in the sugar mixture until all pieces are coated.
- Add ginger, garlic, and bay leaves into pot and cook until fragrant – about 1 minute. Then add 3 cups water until the pork is just covered, give it a stir and turn up the heat to bring it to a roiling boil.
- Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and cover. You’ll cook this for about 1 hour until the pork is tender.
- Once cooking is complete, remove pork from pot with slotted spoon and place pot in the fridge to bring down the temp – this makes the fat far easier to skim from the top – it should only take about 10 minutes in the fridge for it to solidify
- Place pot back on the stove over medium heat and reduce the remaining liquid until a thick, glossy sauce comes together – add the pork back in and toss to coat and reheat.
- Serve over rice!