Babi kecap, though Indonesian in its name; it is actually a Chinese originated dish. It is a braised pork belly dish, slowly cooked with sweet soy sauce and five spices, with an addition of shitake mushrooms. It is very tasty, sweetish and aromatic.
Babi kecap is surprisingly very popular in NL, it is sold in the many Indonesian tokos across the country or in supermarkets as a microwave meal. But beware, nothing really tastes like the real thing. Though it seems easy, making babi kecap is not a simple fair; you have to know the particular tricks, otherwise you end up with a watery dish with a rubbery meat. Here are the things that you should know:
First, lean pork does not make good Babi kecap, use the pork belly part, see picture. It has to have a good composition of skin, fat and meat. The gelatinous nature of the skin will help to thicken down the sauce. It is no light dish I must say, but once in a while you deserve a treat, yes?
The four layers of porky goodness
Second, use good quality sweet soy sauce, you know one when you taste one. Good quality sweet soy sauce has a nice robust flavour, it is thick and sweet (as the name suggests, unlike the Dutch one).
Third, you could not rush this dish! if you don’t have a lot of time to spare, use a pressure pan to cook this dish, not only it cuts down the cooking time, it is also more energy savvy.
Fourth, good babi kecap has a balance taste of cinnamon, ginger, garlic, star anise, pepper and fennel seeds. If you could not find them separately just buy them all-in-one as five-spice powder. It is available at any Asian grocers in town.
Fifth, keep the pork belly a whole, don’t cut them in pieces. Only cut them before serving. This way you could prevent them disintegrating during the cooking process. This manner is actually unorthodox, but it really does the trick. I learned this from my husband.
Ingredients for 4-5 persons:
1000 gram pork belly, keep whole.
A whole bunch of garlic, peeled and crushed.
One thumb fresh ginger, peeled and crushed.
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder (and I like to add 1 teaspoon ground white pepper)
½ to 3/4 cup sweet soy sauce (depends on the degree of the sweetness that you prefer)
700 ml water or enough water to cover the pork entirely
salt to taste
2 table spoons vegetable oil to fry
10 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked and drained.
Coriander leaves and cucumber to garnish
Heat oil in a Dutch oven (or a thick-bottomed pot); brown the pork on both sides.
Add the garlic and the ginger.
Add the mushrooms and the spices.
Add the water and bring to boil.
Once it reaches the boiling point, lower the heat and cover the pot. Continue to cook until the pork is tender (around 1 to 1 ½ hour). If you are using a pressure pan, it needs only 20-30 minutes.
Once it is cook, drained the pork and keep the cooking liquid.
Once the pork is cool enough to handle, slice them carefully (1cm thickness).
Arrange the pork slices and the mushrooms on a plate, pour a little bit of the cooking liquid on top.
Garnish with coriander leaves and slices of cucumber.
Serve warm with steamed rice.
Note: The dish in the photos was prepared by my husband A.