The Cantonese term for “steamed pork belly with taro” is wu tau kau yuk, while the Mandarin equivalent is yùtóu ku ru.
Try this recipe for steamed taro with pork to celebrate the Chinese New Year or any other festive event.
This Hakka specialty of steamed pork belly with taro is a staple on many Lunar New Year menus.
As a young, hungry, and admittedly rather husky boy, I thought this Pork Belly with Taro was one of the nicest things that could have appeared on the dinner table.
Making Steamed Pork Belly With is Worth it
The traditional Chinese dish wu tau kau yuk is a household favorite, but that doesn’t make it easy to prepare. That’s why it’s such a perfect celebratory meal!
To achieve a crispy exterior on the pork belly, it must be blanched before being fried. Soaking the fried pork belly in the blanching liquid gives the skin a different texture than it would otherwise have. The taro is fried as well, giving it a nutty, toasted taste.
After being sliced and marinated, the ingredients are put in a bowl in a symmetrical fashion. After 90 minutes of heating, everything fuses into one cohesive mass.
However, that’s not all! Like a savory pineapple upside-down cake, it’s flipped over on the serving plate.
In the final minutes of cooking, you may add some more shine and flavor by draining out the sauce, reducing it to gravy, and pouring it over the dish.
We’ll get to the recipe in a minute.
For the Sauce Mixture:
- 1 piece of red fermented bean curd
- 3 small pods from a whole star anise
- 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon of Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon of five spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
For the Rest of the Dish:
20 ounces of boneless skin-on pork belly
- 1 pound large taro
- 1 cup of vegetable oil (for frying, plus 2 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped scallions (for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon of finely minced shallot
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons of finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch (mixed with 1 teaspoon water)
Make the Sauce:
- Combine the fermented tofu, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, light soy sauce, five spice powder, white pepper, dark soy sauce, and star anise pods in a medium bowl. Don’t bother with it right now.
Blanch the Pork Belly and Prepare the Taro:
- Bring roughly 6 cups of water to a boil to blanch the pork belly. Just throw in a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Skin side down, drop the pork belly into the boiling water. Reheat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Prepare the taro by slicing it into half-inch thick pieces, then into two-and-a-half by three-inch pieces.
- Take the pork belly out after 30 minutes and allow it cool to room temperature. Put the boiling water in the fridge to chill (you will need it again later).
- When the pork belly has cooled, puncture the skin all over with a fork until you reach the fat. (Avoid penetrating to the center.)
- Rub half a teaspoon of dark soy sauce into the pork belly skin. Leave the pork out at room temperature for at least 10 minutes, preferably longer, so the dark soy sauce can dry on the surface.
Cook the Pork Belly in Oil:
- You’ll need a deep pan or wok to cook the pork belly. In a deep fryer, heat the oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 degrees Celsius). The taro slices should be fried for about 90 seconds per batch or until a golden crust forms (45 seconds per side). Put it aside till it cools down.
- The pig belly comes next. Using a paper towel, pat it dry to ensure it is completely dry. Slowly lower the pork belly into the oil, skin side down, using a metal wok spatula or tongs while holding the pot lid in your free hand. The saucepan should be covered right away to prevent oil splatter.
- When the oil stops splattering, turn off the heat and let the pig skin fry in a shallow pan for 3 minutes (meaning any residual moisture has cooked off). Many recipes use extra oil to deep fry the pork, but it needs to be cleaner. Make sure the skin is fried thoroughly, like before.
- With a slotted spoon, lift the pork belly out of the oil and return it to the pot of cooled blanching liquid. Soak for 10 minutes.
- Soaking the pork belly (especially the skin) in the blanching liquid makes it deliciously delicate yet springy/chewy, which sounds paradoxical after frying.
- Remove the pork belly from the pot after 10 minutes and place it somewhere to cool down some more. Take off to the side and save 3/4 cup of the blanching liquid.
Make the Pork Marinade and Fry:
- Marinate while you cook. Bring a pot or wok up to medium heat. Combine the ginger with 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. Keep the ginger in the pan for about 15 seconds to soft brown. Then, after about a minute, add the garlic and shallots and saute until they become translucent. Combine the sauce ingredients with half a cup of pork blanching water you set aside previously. Remove from heat after simmering for a minute, then let cool.
- When the pork belly has cooled enough to be handled, cut it into half-inch-thick pieces that are 2.2 by 3.3 inches in size (about the same as a taro). Toss the pork belly with the marinade after it has cooled, then pour the mixture into a big bowl. Marinate for at least an hour, giving it a toss with a rubber spatula every 20 minutes for the best results. (May marinate for as long as one day.)
Assemble and Steam
- Choose a deep, round, heat-resistant bowl (at least 3 inches).
- Put the pork belly skin-side down (when turned, it will be skin-side up) and alternate the taro slices with it around the bowl. At the time of assembly, marinate the taro in the pork belly in small batches.
- Miniaturize the taro and pork belly and use them to fill in any holes. There shouldn’t be any wiggle room when placed in the bowl. After everything has been added to the bowl, the remaining marinade should be poured equally over the taro and pork belly.
- Get some water simmering in a steamer. Submerge the bowl in the steamer once the water has come to a boil, and cook for 90 minutes over medium heat. Ideally, the water would be bubbling vigorously enough to produce a substantial volume of steam. The steamer should be checked at regular intervals so that more boiling water can be added.
Preparation: Sauce and Serve
- After steaming, transfer the pork and taro to a wok or skillet and carefully pour off the cooking liquid. Cover the bowl and place it back in the steamer with the heat turned off.
- Simmer the sauce over medium heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup of the pork belly blanching water. Spoon-coating thick, add the cornstarch slurry gradually. Taste it and add salt to taste or a little soy sauce if you like.
- Prepare a serving dish for the pork belly, such as a platter or a bowl. Flip the bowl of pork and taro over onto it. To prevent the taro and pork from sticking to the bowl, turn the hot bowl a quarter turn and then lift it, releasing the pork and taro in a dome shape.
- To serve, pour the sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped scallions.