Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

September 28, 2021

© Antonis Achilleos

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Pork belly and arrowhead stew

This dish combines rolled pork belly with arrowhead braised in a rich Vietnamese-style stew. Arrowhead is bitter and in a braised dish, it needs a rich, sweet flavour to balance it. Caramelizing the sugar and then stirring in the aromatics delivers flavours that enhance both the pork and arrowhead. Serve with steamed rice to sop up every bit of sauce; it’s that good.

2 tbsp. (30 ml) canola oil or another neutral oil
¼ c. (60 ml) granulated sugar
¼ c. (60 ml) minced shallot
1 tbsp. (15 ml) minced garlic
1 tbsp. (15 ml) peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 small serrano chili, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeded and diced
1½ lb. (680 g) rolled pork belly, thinly sliced across the grain, then cut into 3-in (7.5-cm) lengths
1¼ c. (310 ml) water
2 tbsp. (30 ml) Asian fish sauce, preferably Vietnamese nuoc mam
1 tsp. (5 ml) freshly ground pepper
14 oz. (400 g) arrowhead, ends trimmed, peeled and halved lengthwise (available through winter in Chinese and Japanese markets)
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and left whole
4 green onions, including green tops, cut into matchsticks for garnish

In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until dissolved and golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. (At first, the sugar will form a paste with the oil, but will eventually melt).

Add the shallot, garlic, ginger and chili, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the aromatics are softened, 3 minutes. Add the pork, raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, until cooked through and beginning to brown, 7 minutes. (The edges will brown first, with bits sticking to the bottom of the pot).

Add the water, fish sauce and pepper, and bring to a boil. Nestle the arrowhead halves and the eggs in the liquid. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the pork and arrowhead halves are tender, 30 minutes. (The pork should be slightly chewy, but no longer rubbery and tough. Stirring helps to colour the eggs on all sides).

Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to eat. Garnish with green onions. Serves 4 as a main course.

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