If you’re a fan of bold flavors, then you absolutely must try Suan Ni Bai Rou, or Sliced Pork with Garlic Sauce! Don’t let its elegant appearance fool you – this dish is surprisingly easy to make. Whip up the delicious garlic sauce, poach the pork belly, and toss everything together for a mouthwatering meal that will have you coming back for seconds (or thirds!).
Your friends and family will be blown away by this impressive yet approachable dish, and you’ll have a secret smile knowing just how easy it was to make. So go ahead and give it a try – you won’t regret it!
In The Light: Poaching vs. Boiling
There are a wide variety of regional Chinese cuisines, but they all share a common reliance on the simplest of cooking methods: poaching or boiling the meat. The meat is boiled so its flavor, texture, and aroma can be preserved precisely as nature intended.
Poached chicken is a staple in Cantonese cuisine, and it’s highly regarded there. As for New Year’s feasts, the Xinjiang region serves boiled lamb, while my memories of Shanghainese cuisine center on sliced boiled pork belly (bai qie rou). I remember eating this as a kid with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions.
Famous as a Sichuan appetizer.
Suan Ni Bai Rou is a popular dish in the Sichuan region. While I’m calling it “Sliced Pork with Garlic Sauce” in English, it’s not the same as the “pork with garlic sauce” you get from the local Chinese takeout.
Typically found in the menu’s appetizer section, the name literally translates to “Garlic Paste White Meat” (not the most appetizing name in English).
You shouldn’t confuse it with Twice Cooked Pork, another popular pork belly dish from Sichuan cuisine.
The inclusion of pork belly is required.
This begs the question, “which pork cut should you use?” To avoid doubt, the only meat that goes into Suan Ni Bai Rou is pork belly.
It’s possible to get away with using a fatty pork shoulder, but if you want the best of both worlds, go with pork belly.
Additionally, I get a lot of questions about whether or not to use skin-on pork belly. I wouldn’t give a hoot either way. My daughter and husband, however, would argue that it is essential.
The pork skin adds texture but not flavor to the dish. You should base your decision on your personal preferences and the selection of your neighborhood butcher.
It’s also worth noting that the Suan Ni Bai Rou recipe doesn’t call for any sesame paste. Although it is commonly used in cooking, I omitted it because I like my food to have a more natural flavor (maybe it was all those years of eating boiled pork dipped in soy sauce and sesame oil).
A person’s taste in such matters is entirely subjective. You get to call the shots on the condiments, especially the sauce. Turn the knob to whatever level suits your taste.
To Boil the Pork Belly:
- 1 lb. of lean pork belly (preferably one whole piece)
- 6 cups of cold water
- 5 slices of ginger
- 1 pcs. of star anise
- 2 tbsp. of Shaoxing wine
- 2 scallions
- 1 tsp. of Sichuan peppercorns
To make the sauce:
- 10 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 3 slices of ginger (minced)
- 1 scallion (finely chopped with the white and green parts separated)
- 2 tbsp. of red chili flakes (or to taste)
- 1 tsp. of Sichuan peppercorn powder
- ⅓ cup of oil (heated to 225 degrees F)
- 3½ tbsp. of light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. of Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tbsp. of sugar
- 1 tsp. of sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. of sesame paste/tahini (optional)
- 1 small cucumber (julienned)
- ⅓ cup of water from boiling the pork belly
- 1 tbsp. of toasted sesame seeds
- Place 1 pound of lean pork belly, 6 cups of cold water, 5 slices of ginger, 1 star anise pod, 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine, 2 whole scallions, and 1 teaspoon of whole Sichuan peppercorns in a medium-sized pot. The meat should be fork-tender after 30 to 40 minutes at a simmer from boiling. When the pork belly is done poaching, remove it to a plate to cool, and set aside a 1/3 cup of the poaching water. Keep the pork belly moist by covering it with an upside-down bowl or plate while it cooks.
- While the pork belly is cooling, prepare the sauce by combining 10 cloves of minced garlic with 3 slices of minced ginger, the white part of 1 scallion that has been finely chopped, 2 tablespoons of red chili flakes, and 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn powder in a heatproof bowl.
- Now, bring a third of a cup of oil to a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit, and pour it over the spices (especially the red chili flakes, so you get that nice red color). Thoroughly combine the light soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and sesame paste before adding the remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons (optional). Mix thoroughly by stirring. In other words, put aside.
- Put the julienned cucumber at the base of the serving dish. When the pork belly has cooled enough to be handled, cut it into thin slices and arrange them in a pretty pattern on a serving plate. Mix in 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds and the remaining 1/3 cup of pork stock (reserved from boiling the pork belly) just before serving. When the sauce is ready, pour it over the pork and sprinkle the green parts of the scallions on top.