Friday, November 4, 2011

Braised Pork Korean/Chinese Style 돼지고기찜: Speaking two languages

About a month ago, I took all three kids on an airplane to fly to Seoul, Korea. Brother #2 was getting married, Husband was there on a business trip, and Daughters #1 and #2 were off from school. It was the perfect vacation/experiment, as we would get to be in Seoul for an extended time. The flight there was extremely eventful with a bad moment where I really had to use the restroom and a very beautiful, but FIRM flight attendant ushered me to my seat and made me buckle my seatbelt due to turbulence. Her beauty overtook my resolve and I chose to sit quietly in my seat and suffer. It is a story for another time however, and I only wanted to say that GETTING to Korea with Children was almost enough to make me NOT want to go again. EVER. It was a time fraught with whining, the kids being uncomfortable, and my personal individual freakouts over the peanuts that they served on the plane and kept on trying to give to Family and me, despite my repeated declarations that we had ALLERGIC KIDS. They did not, needless to say, get the message.

Once there, and greeted at the airport by Husband (who was truly, at that moment, a sight for sore eyes) things immediately started picking up. Children's school had been arranged by Husband and me, and we knew that the next day, we'd be dropping off Children at a Korean preschool. They would be going to class there for 6 hours a day, experiencing a Korean immersion type of environment. It was one of the goals of this trip and thankfully we were able to make it happen. We ate dinner as a family at a Korean restaurant that we used to frequent in our old days of living in Korea, and got repeated stares as the "family of five." We were an anomaly at the restaurant, as most families were four adults and one child, or only adults, and we were the only table where the kids outnumbered the parents. No matter. Husband and I were old pros and feeding multiple children and feeding ourselves at the same time. (I've become ambidextrous as a mom of 3.)

The next day, the Korean schooling adventure began. Taxi cabs in Korea, for a family of five, were not ideal. No car seats, no seatbelts and four squeezed in the back (3 kids plus me) meant lots of whining and lots of noise. Eventually I learned to take the bus with the three kids for about 25% of the cost of the cab. We dropped the kids off at school, with no tears and just a hopeful heart that they would survive a day of school where they had only the basic understanding of the language. Thankfully Son knew the words for different foods, bathroom words, and the Korean word for fart, so we knew he'd be okay. At the very least he'd get some laugts. Daughters, especially Daughter #1 was a cause for a bit more concern, especially since we put her in a preschool but we just ran with it.

Within a week, it was clear that Son was picking up a great deal of Korean. During meals, he'd suddenly interject phrases like, "이거 맛있다" (This tastes delicious) and 이거뜨거워요? (Is this hot?) He could say 감사합니다 (thank you) and it became clear that our experiment in Korean language immersion was working. Within three weeks, he could speak a lot more; Daughters had a far more extended vocabulary and were watching DVD's in Korean with English subtitles and learning a ton of vocabulary and phrases. (In particular, Max and Ruby, dubbed in Korean with English subtitles was a huge hit.)

But it was during our flight back that I was most surprised by Son. During an exchange with a flight attendant (another pretty one, but with whom I did not have to fight with regarding the restroom) I spoke Korean to her, and then the flight attendant turned and spoke English to another passenger. Son carefully watched her and then turned to me and said, "She speaks two languages. I speak two languages too."

I looked at him and said, "What two languages do you know?"

"Korean and English. See? I know English. 감사합니다 (Thank you.)"

"Mommy and Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa - we all speak two languages. Isn't it great?" I reminded him.

"I like two languages mom. My favorite word is 방구(fart)," he pronounced laughing hysterically.

"Yeah, I know. You love those two languages."

For a while longer, Son and Daughters will be more likely mixing the two languages together in some sort of strange concoction which Brother #1 likes to call Hanglish. I continue to speak more Korean at home than English and hopefully the next time we have an opportunity to go to Korea, Children will once again enjoy hearing intensely and speaking the other language.

This dish is sort of a fusion dish between what I know of Chinese braised pork belly and the flavors I like from the Korean food I normally eat. I can only say that Children GOBBLED it down and couldn't get enough of it. There were cries for 고기, 고기, 고기 (meat, meat, meat) as I sliced through the fully cooked pork belly. The flavor is rich with a hint of heat from the whole dried chilies, but nothing that Daughter #1, who is my spice hater, couldn't handle. You do need to take some time, as the braising portion can take up to an hour, but it doesn't need to be be anything to complicated or too difficult.
Braised Pork Belly Korean/Chinese Style
(adapted from A Korean Mother’s Cooking Notes by Sun-young Chang)
Serves 4

1 ½ lbs whole pork belly (Not sliced samgyupsahl)
3 ½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
3 ½ tablespoons honey

2 cups water
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sake
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
5 slices of ginger
3 or 4 whole dried red chilies
3 tablespoons of honey
6-7 stalks green onion

Cut pork belly into 3 inch wide blocks. (or into large chunks, depending on your personal cut of belly.) Prepare green onions by cutting off the bottom third and reserving it for something later, and just using the middle and the dark green section. Cut into long strips. Prepare garlic, ginger and chili peppers. Set aside.

Heat oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add honey. Sear pork belly on all sides, fatty side first to render the fat, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove pork from pan and place in a bowl of ice water to rinse off excess fat and make pork tender.

Wipe down saute pan removing excess oil and caramelized sugar, but don’t wipe it clean. Those brown bits will get deglazed during the braising process making for a delicious base. Add to the wiped down pan, water, soy sauce, sake, garlic slices, ginger slices, and chilies. Add the pork, and when the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until meat is tender, about 30 minutes.) After 30 minutes, remove lid, add honey, and allow braising liquid to reduce and turn into glaze over low heat, about another 15 or 20 minutes. Add green onions and allow them to wilt and add a bit more liquid to the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove pork from sauce. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, and then slice into ½ inch pieces. Serve with a bit of extra drizzle of the remaining pan juice if so desired.

Printable recipe

Another language I know how to speak...YUM!

If you want a traditional Korean cookbook with good cooking tips, albeit quite a few omissions and some lack of clarity, this is a great one.


Shoy said...

Looks great! You saved me a bite right?

lica said...

you make everything look so easy! i will have to try this one.

Hannah said...

this looks so incredibly delicious! my husband and i just got back from an asia trip as well (korea and taiwan). we had some crazy good braised pork belly in taiwan, and i vowed to try to make it when i got back home. now i have a recipe! thanks so much!

Becky said...


I just went to Korea with my three kids last summer and had a similar experience except my youngest kept on pressing the button for the flight attendant and kicked the seat in front...yikes!

Your kids'gogi mantra sounds very familiar in my family as well. Hilarious. I can't wait to try this dish :)

Michelle said...

Kids are such sponges with languages; that immersion experience must have been incredible for them!

That pork looks absolutely scrumptious. :9~~ Got a real weakness for pork belly here. (Doesn't everyone? :) )

Annie said...

Can I use pork ribs for this recipe?


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