When I was a kid, one of my very favouritest food was my mama’s Lor Bak. Being a rice lover, I absolutely adored the savoury sauce poured over rice and devoured. It always made me eat more bowls of rice than I should. Damn. Unfortunately, mama didn’t make this dish frequently. Understandably so, as it takes quite a lot of work. The one thing that pissed me off big time was when she would make this dish in a ginormous pot, and being really generous, proceed to distribute all that delicious Lor Bak to family and friends, until we had only one portion left just nice for the family dinner. Argh. Not enough!!
I loved it when my mom was making this dish. The aromas from the braising pot would waft all the way to the lift lobby of our HDB.. and I could smell it the moment I came home from school in the afternoons without even having to step through the door! Heaven. Those are actually one of the more enduring memories I have of my childhood days.
Now, this dish is Lor Bak. Do not get it confused with Tau Yew Bak which, from what I understand, is a Peranakan dish. The version I’m making is the authentic Teochew style – the kind my purist Teochew grandmother hao lian about. It’s different from Tau Yew Bak in that it’s got gravy: lots of it. Think of it as a stew, or even a soup: that’s how much gravy there is. And while there are some very simple spices in it, it’s different from the Hokkien style of braising in that this recipe does not contain any herbs; and neither is the gravy sticky and starchy. Ah yes; the pride of the Teochews.
Ok, let’s cut to the chase.
Lor Bak (good for 6-8 people)
- Pork ‘twee bah’ – 1.5kg
- This dish is classically made with pork belly, but my wife hates the fat; so I swapped it out for pork shoulder in this recipe. It’s known as ‘twee bah’ at NTUC.
- Hard boiled eggs
- Tau Kwa
- Dark soya sauce – 10 tbsp (for colour and sweetness) the dark, sticky type (‘superior grade’) gives better colour and flavour
- Light soya sauce – 10 tbsp or to taste (for saltiness)
- Garlic – 10 cloves, 5 crushed 5 uncrushed
- Ginger – 2 slices
- Star anise – 2
- Cloves – 10
- Chinese Five Spice powder – 1/2 tsp
- Wash and cut the pork into chunks. Marinate in 2 tbsp of dark soya sauce for colour.
- In a pot, saute the pork with a bit of oil till browned.
- Add the sauces, and add water until the meat is immersed. Add the ginger, garlic and spices (you can use a tea bag) and simmer.
- After about an hour, add the eggs and the tau kwa.
Simmer on a low heat for another hour until pork is tender and easy to the bite.
- This is not meant to be a ‘pretty dish’, it’s kinda imprecise, so feel free to adjust the proportion of the different sauces and spices to your liking.
- Eggs and taukwa need to simmer for at least an hour to absorb the flavours.
- Take care not too over-spice with the 5-spice powder. It tends to be very strong, half a teaspoon too much and it will spoil the whole dish.