Tender melt-in-your mouth Assam braised pork belly, with tart and slightly sweet assam (tamarind) sauce. Only needs 15 minutes active time and 3 key ingredients (plus some common condiments). Unfussy, simple, but tastes oh so good!
Wash and clean the pork belly thoroughly to get rid of the smell (see detailed recipe notes for the method).
Blanch the pork belly in boiling water for 10 minutes, then wash and pat dry.
Mix 150 ml of water with the assam and squeeze out the juice, until the seeds separate cleanly from the pulp.
Sieve the assam juice into a big bowl, using a spoon to squeeze out all the juices from the assam pulp.
Add the assam juice, dark soya sauce and sugar to the pork belly and mix well. Then allow the pork to marinate for 5-6 hours, turning it over midway to ensure all sides of the pork are nicely marinated.
Add the pork belly and assam water to a pot, followed by 250ml of water, the rock sugar and salt, then bring back to a boil over high heat.
Once boiling, lower the heat to medium then simmer for 1.5 hrs or until the pork is soft and tender. If the water starts to dry up, add a little boiling water and continue to simmer otherwise it can get burnt easily.
Towards the end of the braising process, the sauce should thicken and turn slightly sticky. Be careful to stir the sauce and turn the pork frequently as its easy for the dish to get burnt at this stage.
Check if the pork is tender enough, if not, you may need to extend the braising time by another 10-20 minutes.
Once done, remove the pork belly and cut into thin slices. Garnish it with parsley and cut chillies. Best served hot with rice or steamed leaf buns.
MAKE AHEAD / TIME SAVING TIPS
Do the preparation the night before then leave the pork to marinate in the fridge overnight.
Make this a few days ahead! As with most braised dishes, this Assam Pork will actually taste even better if you leave it in the fridge for a few days after it is cooked, and then re-heat before serving. This way, the flavours from the gravy will really seep into the meat and make it so tender and flavourful. Thats why its a great dish to make-ahead for an upcoming meal or potluck gathering.
Make a larger batch and freeze up the extra portion for a rainy day when you have no time to cook.
You can substitute pork belly with Bu Jian Tian (不见天) which is actually Pork Armpit, or Twee Bak with skin on (also known as Pork Butt but which is actually the upper part of the pork shoulder).
Clean the pork thoroughly to remove the porky smell. First, use a sharp knife to scrape the pork skin to remove the thin film of covering. Next, rub the skin with coarse salt to exfoliate it, then rinse it thoroughly. Blanching the pork in boiling water is also a crucial step to remove the scum. After blanching the pork, discard the water and rinse the pork thoroughly.
Some brands of assam and dark soya sauce are super salty. I usually use the Orchid Brand assam and Elephant Brand Dark Soya Sauce. Both brands are products of Thailand. For other brands which are more salty, you may need to reduce the quantity slightly. You may want to wait until towards the end of the braising process to taste the sauce and see if you still need to add the pinch of salt.
If the gravy is drying up too fast, add boiling water. Tap water will affect the temperature of the dish, and so the cooking time will no longer be accurate.
To tell whether the pork is tender enough, use a satay stick to poke through the centre of the pork - it should glide thorough easily. Otherwise, you can continue to braise it for another 10-20 minutes until it is tender.
If the sauce is still too diluted by end of braising process, turn the heat up to high to evaporate off some of the gravy until it turns slightly sticky. Take extra care to turn the pork and stir frequently to avoid the dish getting burnt.
For a spicy version of this dish, add in some chilli padi by bruising the whole chilli and add to the pork during the last 15 mins of the cooking time!