One from Column ‘A’ – Five Spice Caramel Pork

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.

[gmc_recipe 7435]

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