Asian, Budget Meals, Chinese, Featured, International, Main Course - Meat, Pork, Special Diet, Spicy

One from Column ‘A’ – Five Spice Caramel Pork

To be fair, I’ve never seen this on any Chinese take-out menu. I have only been able to get it in Bangkok…. or at my favorite Chinese fare haunt in the city. So, dont hate me there.

In fact, if you are going to hate me at all – its because I’ve monkeyed around with the traditional recipe a goodly amount… I’m not using pork belly, Jane is deathly allergic to soy, neither of us like our head blown off with heat….. and (God forbid), I’m not using a wok, it’s a Dutch oven.

Five spice pork is an old Cantonese recipe that has cousins and distant relatives across most of Asia. And, unlike most take-out oferings, is more of a stew rather than a quick wok fried dish (hence, the dutch oven.) It is smoky, spicy, slightly sweet and terribly flavor packed. Short of Char Sui, it is my absolute favorite way to enjoy pork.

Alrighty then… on with the changes we’ve made.

  • Chinese Five Spice Powder – If you wanted to go through all the hoops and make your own, there are plenty of recipes on the Web, books in an actual library, and resources on the matter. Me? I’ve used a ready mix from the market. It is pretty pedestrian; having no heat and an even mixture of the aromatics. In order to beef it up some, I’ve added 1 tablespoon of pink peppercorns to emulate the taste of seczuhan peppers, and a teaspoon of ground white pepper for a bit of heat.
  • Because of Jane’s sensitivities, I am using Haddar Sauce instead of soy sauce. As I’ve said before, it is an imitation soy sauce. However, since it is fake, it isn’t as strong as even light soy, so I have added more. There’s a cup in our recipe. If you are doing the real thing, use 1/2 cup.
  • I have substituted 1 whole large poblano pepper instead of hot chili. I wanted chili flavor, but not necessarily chili heat; there is a fair amount of heat already in the 5 spice powder.
  • Lastly, the pork. Traitionally you should be using belly. However, with everyone going bat crap crazy gaa gaa over pork belly these days, finding it is either too much of a hunt, or if you can lay your hands on a slab, they want your first-born child as a down payment. I dont have time for that. I am going economy class and using Country Style Pork Ribs. There is minimal bone-age and a good ratio of meat to fat…..and fat is important.

Foddr Five Spice Caramel Pork

Serves 4
Prep time 24 hours
Cook time 1 hour, 45 minutes
Total time 25 hours, 45 minutes
Allergy Soy
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot
Region Asian



  • 1 cup Haddar Sauce (If you are using REAL soy sauce, use 1/2 cup measure.)
  • 1 cup Rice Wine
  • 1 tablespoon Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic (Thinly Sliced)
  • 1 Large Poblano Pepper (Seeded & Rough Chopped)
  • 1 - 2 inch piece Fresh Ginger (Peeled & Minced)
  • 1/2 cup Water (If using REAL soy sauce, Use 1 Cup Water)
  • 1 teaspoon Fish Sauce


  • 1/2 cup Palm Sugar (Feel free to Use Palm, Turbinado, or Light Brown)
  • 1/2 cup Water


  • 1.5lb Country Style Pork Ribs (Cut into 2)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese 5 Spice Mix (See Above Note)
  • 2 teaspoons Salt


  • 3 Large Whole Bamboo Shoots (Sliced)
  • 1 Medium Onion (Halved & Sliced into 1/2 inch strips)


For the Five Spice Powder:

Mix together 2 Tablespoons premixed Chinese Five Spice with - 2 Teaspoons White Pepper, 1 Tablespoon Pink Peppercorns (whole)

Stir to combine.


Step 1
Cut the country ribs into 2 inch pieces. Coat with 2 tablespoons of the 5 spice mixture (See Note) and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well to coat, place in a zipper bag and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.

30 minutes before Browning, Add another tablespoon of the mix to the rib pieces and coat well.
Step 2
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown the marinated pork pieces, remove and set aside.
Step 3
Add the sugar and 1/2 cup of water to the pot, stir to dissolve
the sugar. Cook until the sugar makes a caramel in the bottom of the pot. Add the ginger, chilis, and garlic... saute in caramel for two minutes. Add the fish sauce, rice wine and Haddar Sauce (or soy sauce). Bring to a boil.
Step 4
Add the browned pork and water. Stir well to coat.
Step 5
Reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour
Step 6
Remove the lid and continue cooking for 30 additional minutes.
Step 7
Remove the pork, add the bamboo shoots and slivered onion. Raise the heat to high and boil down until sauce thickens. (15 min for haddar Sauce, 10 minutes for soy sauce)
Step 8
Remove from the heat, return the pork to the pot and turn to coat.
Step 9
Cover until ready to serve. Serve with rice and broccoli sautéed with garlic.