Braise The Pork Belly
I have got here 2lb of pork belly. The store already sliced it into 2/3-inch thick slaps, which is perfect.
Preheat your clay pot over medium heat until nice and hot. Place a few belly slaps and pan-fry them for 1-2 minutes on each side. You can cover the lid, so you don’t get oil splatters all over your countertop. Flip and pan-fry the other side. We are not trying to brown the pork belly. We just want to render a little fat out.
I have tried browning the belly until golden; The meat becomes dry and stringy at the end so don’t do that.
Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the clay pot and check how much oil you got. We don’t need a lot, so I am not going to pan-fry the rest of the belly. You can if you want, but it won’t change the final flavor. Why bother? A tbsp of oil should be enough to saute the diced shallots, minced garlic, minced ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and bay leaves.
Keep stirring on low heat. When the bottom of the clay pot feels sticky, that is the time to add the rest of the seasonings: 1/2 tsp of five-spice powder, some freshly ground white pepper, 2.5 tbsp of sugar, 1/4 cup of Chinese cooking wine, and 5 tbsp of soy sauce. We will also use 1 tbsp of dark soy sauce for the color.
Add the seared and uncooked pork into the clay pot and pour 2-3 cups of water. Adjust the pieces, so everything stays under the water. Then put on the lid and wait for it to come to a boil. Turn the heat to the lowest and simmer for 1.5 hours.
Make the steamed lotus bun, or what we call 荷叶饼.
Add 2 tbsp of sugar, and 2 tsp of yeast into 210g of lukewarm water. Stir well and wait a few minutes for the yeast to bloom. If you are using instant yeast, you don’t have to wait.
Add the flour (400g). Give that a rough stir to incorporate everything. Then knead the dough by using a stand mixer on low speed for 10 minutes or until the dough is nice and smooth. If you knead it by hand, it will also take about 10 minutes.