Braised pork with star anise, tofu and egg

This rich braise is both darkly spicy and fragrantly aromatic.
This rich braise is both darkly spicy and fragrantly aromatic. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Dairy-free

This recipe is inspired by the Thai dish muu parlow. The culinary impact of the large 19th-century migration of Chinese into Thailand (then called Siam) is very apparent in braises like this. I find the pervasive anise flavour very comforting in the cooler months. The braise has deep, warm flavours, though not particularly hot, with the lime leaves and ginger added in the final 10 minutes brightening the dish. The eggs and tofu take on the flavour well and add texture.

Ingredients

6 boneless pork belly spare ribs (150-200g each)

1 tbsp rock salt 

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3 tsp white peppercorns 

150ml grapeseed or rice bran oil, plus extra for frying pork

8 eschalots (french shallots), peeled and cut in half

1 celery heart, sliced into thirds on an angle 

3 red bullet chillies

2 x 3cm-thick slices of galangal

3 star anise

1 piece cassia bark 

60g palm sugar, smashed

80ml fish sauce

1.5 litres chicken stock (or water)

3 tsp oyster sauce

3 tsp kecap manis

2 tsp light soy sauce

300g firm tofu, cut into 2cm dice 

4 large eggs, boiled for eight minutes and peeled

3 x 3cm-thick slices of ginger, peeled, lightly bruised

4 kaffir lime leaves 

1 lime, quartered, to serve 

steamed rice, to serve 

150g salted beer nuts, crushed, to serve

steamed greens, to serve

Method

1. Sprinkle the rock salt on the pork and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes or up to two hours. 

2. Using a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic and peppercorns to a rough paste.

3. Heat a splash of the extra oil in a wide-based pot over medium heat. Brush the salt off the pork, then brown the meat very well (about three minutes each side). Remove from the pan, then add the eschalot and cook for one minute. Add the garlic-and-pepper paste and fry until fragrant. Add the celery and chillies and fry for about three minutes. Stir through the galangal, star anise, cassia, palm sugar and fish sauce, then return the pork to the pan. Add the stock, oyster sauce, kecap manis and soy sauce, and simmer gently for about 50 minutes, covered, but allowing a gap for steam to escape.

4. Meanwhile, shallow-fry the tofu in the 150ml oil until golden (about three to four minutes), then drain on paper towel.

5. In the last 10 minutes of braising, add the tofu, eggs, ginger and lime leaves to the pot.

6. To serve, squeeze lime juice into the braise and serve with rice topped with the crushed nuts and steamed greens.