A few weeks ago, I made an all too brief weekend trip to Singapore to visit my girlfriend – well, that was one of the reasons, others included eating my body weight in chilli crab and taking a break from work before my head exploded. Gladly, I returned head intact, and filled with some fantastic memories, many of which featured food. Singapore, you see, is home to an amazing and vibrant food culture, with hawker food centres literally everywhere, featuring cuisines that span the Asian continent.
Some of my food experiences, sadly, weren’t amazing (durian and century egg, I’m looking at you), though most were great and some, incredible. Popiah, Cereal prawns, Chilli crab, frog and Soursop juice were all phenomenal – so too was Bak Kut Teh, a chinese soup that consists of pork braised in a broth of various spices. Upon coming home I was determined to make this dish myself, and this is how it was done:
1 tbsp white peppercorns, crushed in mortar & pestle
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed in m&p
1 tsp fennel seeds, dry roasted in a pan, crushed in m&p
1 head of garlic, roasted in oven, plus a few additional cloves to garnish the dish
2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
Light soy sauce
200g chicken wing tips
1 brown onion, diced roughly
500g pork belly
To begin, sauté the chicken wing tips in some oil until they’re browned, then lower the heat and add the onion and cook until slightly caramelized. Add the pepper, the fennel seed, the star anise, the garlic and the cinnamon, a litre of water and a good splash of soy sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, add the pork and cook for 2-3 hours or until the pork is tender. Taste the stock, it should be quite peppery and garlicky, and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it. At this point I removed the pork and placed it in the fridge. After straining the stock, I poured it into a ceramic dish and allowed it to cool in the fridge. After a few hours, the stock will hopefully have cooled and set into a jelly, a result of the natural gelatin contained in the chicken and pork skin. At this point, cut it into cubes and freeze solid. Remove the frozen cubes and place them in a sieve over a bowl and allow to melt in the fridge. This is basically a clarifying method that will result in a perfectly clear consommé while retaining all of the flavour. Don’t ask me how it works though, as I have no idea whatsoever.
To complete, gently reheat the pork in some of the stock, then garnish with some cloves of garlic. Good times!