This is pure comfort food arena. Every Malaysian I know grew up with this dish; the sweet, slightly salty, sticky pieces of pork belly, its meltingly tender layers of fat and meat making a perfect complement to a bowl of rice.
This is an extremely easy recipe but you need to allow 2 hours, as the meat has to cook slowly in the braising liquid for 1½ hours. This reheats very well, and can be made the night before.
400g pork belly strips (should give you 4 strips)
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
~500mL water, just boiled
8 dried Shiitake mushrooms (soaked in water until reconstituted)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
4 small pieces of rock sugar (add more to taste)
½ tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1 garlic bulb
Soak the Shiitake mushrooms in half a cup of warm water and cover until fully reconstituted. Trim off the stems, and cut into similar sizes (I keep the small ones intact, but halve the larger ones). Clean and dry the pork strips, then brown in a large heavy pot (I use a cast iron pot) on both sides. The pork must all fit on the base of the pan, with some room to spare. Boil the eggs for 8 minutes, then shell.
Add in the dark soy sauce, and ensure the pork strips are evenly coated. Then, pour in the water to just cover the pork belly and add in all the remaining ingredients.
Simmer for 1 hour at low heat, then taste to see if you are happy with the braising liquid. You can add more soy sauce and rock sugar to adjust the saltiness and sweetness of the liquid. Add the hard boiled eggs.
At this point, I either place the lid ajar or use a splatter guard to allow the liquid to reduce and thicken. Simmer for a further hour.
Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves and garlic pieces. Cut the pork slices into pieces and serve with rice and stir-fried vegetables.