Home » Tau Yu Bak: Soy Braised Pork Belly Nirvana

Tau Yu Bak: Soy Braised Pork Belly Nirvana

Tau eu bak may look unassuming but it is nothing short of pure succulence. Meltingly tender chunks of pork belly swimming in a pool of intensely umami-rich soy sauce nirvana. It’s simple and delicious, with the sort of welcoming flavor that has mass appeal.

It’s also a ridiculously easy dish to make. So easy, in fact, that you can think of the recipe below as the ‘foundational’ tau yu bak recipe. There are variations galore, with pretty much every household having its own version.

Because that’s very much how tau yu bak is cooked: at home, with and amongst family. This is pure home cooked comfort food at its best. And now you can have some in the comfort of your home!

What is Tau Yu Bak?

Tau yu bak also goes by tau yew bak, tau eu bak, kong tau yew bak, lou bak, or babi tau yu. But they all refer to the same dish: pork braised in soya sauce.

The name is as straightforward as the recipe…

  • Tau eu: means ‘soy sauce’ in Hokkien
  • Bak: means ‘pork’ in Hokkien

And the language gives away the origin. Well, sort of.

You’ll often hear that tau eu bak is a Hokkien dish. Other times, it’ll be labeled a Nyonya cuisine. It’s also called Malaysian, Singaporean, Fujian, and Peranakan.

So which of these are true? Well, all of them.

Tau yu bak has its origins in the Fujian province of southeastern China, where the Hokkien people hail from. In the 15th century, when these Chinese men came to trade with and eventually settled in the Malay Archipelago, they married local Malay women. The result? A fusion of Chinese and Malay cultures.

In these mixed marriages, men were known as baba and the women as nyonya. And thus, the name: Baba Nyonyas, also called the Peranakan Chinese.

Today, the Peranakan diaspora live in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and all over the world. And where the Nyonyan people live, there is tau yu bak.

Tau Yu Bak Ingredients

Tau yu bak is essentially a tender cut of pork – typically pork belly or at least pork ribs – that is slow-cooked in a savory garlic-infused soya sauce.

It is, in essence, a very simple dish, which is exactly what makes it so perfect for home cooking.

The Essentials

To make it, you’ll need:

Pork belly. Pork belly is the ideal cut for this slow-braised recipe. The sauce may be a simple one but it’s the fat in the pork belly that melts into it and amplifies the flavors. Plus, there’s just no other cut that gets you that jiggly, meltingly tender texture.

Soy sauce. Tau yu bak is made using a combination of light and dark soy sauce. In case you don’t have light soy sauce, you can substitute regular. I usually do and it tastes great. But for dark soy sauce, it is highly recommended that you use it. If you don’t have it, you can substitute with kecap manis (but add a touch more salt) or mix two tablespoons of regular soy sauce with either half a teaspoon of molasses or a quarter teaspoon of dark brown sugar.

Garlic. Garlic is a must in tau yu bak. If you don’t mind the garlic melting into the sauce, you can use whole cloves, smashed, crushed, or sliced. This is what I go with because I like little bit of garlic floating in the sauce. If you’d like to prevent that, use unpeeled cloves. You can even go with a whole or half bulb of unpeeled garlic and then squeeze them onto your chunks of pork belly and egg. Yum.

White pepper. Pepper is very good in this recipe. I use ground white pepper but you can use cracked whole peppercorns – either white or black. Or ground black pepper as well.

Ginger. Ginger is not a must and you can feel free to leave it out. I usually add it to pork belly recipes because I feel like the fresh zing of ginger counterbalances the greasy pork belly.

Sugar. Dark soy sauce is already quite sweet so we’ll just be using a little more sugar to get a subtle sweetness in our sauce and help caramelization. You can use granulated white or brown sugar or rock sugar.

Eggs. A couple hard boiled eggs are delicious in tau yu bak. In fact, I think they’re mandatory.

To Spice or Not to Spice

The topic of whether to add spices – or not – is a controversial topic in the tau yu bak world. Every family has their variation and their preferences.

Some like it with any or all of these spices:

  • cinnamon sticks
  • star anise
  • ginger
  • five spice powder
  • cloves
  • dried chili peppers

Others, like myself, prefer the simplicity of the flavors without the extra spices. For me, pepper and ginger are more than enough. The aromatic spices give it an entirely different flavor that doesn’t taste quite like tau yu bak.

Ultimately, it’s up to you and what you prefer. If you like the taste of extra spices – go for it!

Anything Else?

When tau yu bak is finished cooking, there is a lot of absolutely delicious sauce. To soak up this sauce, you can also add firm or fried tofu, potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms. All are so good soaked in this sauce.

As for garnish, chopped cilantro and/or sliced green onions are perfect.

Tau Yu Bak Recipe

This is a very easy recipe with very little work on your part. The magic ingredient is simply time.

1. Parboil

Parboil the pork belly first. This is an optional step but I prefer to do it because those couple minutes make a big difference to removing scum and excess oiliness from the pork belly.

So bring enough water to a boil to cover the pork belly and then add in the pork and let simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water and scrape off any scum.

2. Make the Sauce

Add soy sauce, sark soy sauce, white pepper, ginger, and sugar to a bowl and stir to mix.

Cut up the pork belly slices into thumb-length pieces and then coat in the bowl of marinade. Leave this to soak for about 5 to 15 minutes.

3. Brown the Pork

Heat a large, preferably heavy-based, pot or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown for around 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and stir to let it brown for a minute.

Then pour in the marinade and enough water to cover the pork belly. Tip: Use the water to rinse out the remaining marinade in the bowl.

4. Cook

Bring the whole pot to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer on low for around 45 minutes.

While that’s cooking, cook the eggs. Bring water to boil and then add the eggs. Let it boil for around 8 minutes and then drain, rinse in cold water, peel and then set aside.

When the pork belly is nice and tender, add in the eggs and let it continue simmering for another 30 minutes, uncovered, so the sauce can reduce and thicken. Occasionally turn the eggs so they get evenly dyed in the sauce.

Serve warm and enjoy!

What to Serve with Tau Yu Bak?

Rice, of course, is the ideal side dish with tau yu bak. Greens are also delicious, especially Chinese-style, like bok choy and morning glory.

Want to make it Singaporean style? Serve it with sambal belacan.

Leftovers & Storage

Tau yu bak is even better the next day. So if you have leftovers, you have something to do look forward to tomorrow.

Even if it’s not leftovers, tau yu bak stores well. If I have the time, I’ll often prepare it a day ahead of time so it could have extra time in the fridge to meld and the fat can congeal for easy removal. Like so:

To store, cool it down to room temperature and then store it in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 days. When it’s time to reheat, go with the stovetop as the boiled eggs will burst in the microwave.

Variations

Like this recipe and want others like it? Here are some variations that are absolutely delish…

  • Filipino Pork Adobo. A very similar recipe but vinegar adds a tangy flair. It’s a must try. After all, you don’t get to be the Philippines national dish without bringing something special to the table.
  • Vietnamese Thit Kho. Another slow-braised pork belly dish with egg but it uses coconut water which lends a whole different flavor.
  • Chinese Dong Po Rou. You know all those spices that we didn’t add to this tau yu bak? Well, most of them go into this Chinese braised pork belly recipe, along with a heavy dose of scallions. And it is chefs kiss.
  • Filipino Pork Hamonado. This is one of my favorite pork belly recipes of all time. What’s special about it? The sweet tanginess of pineapples.
tau yu bak

Tau Yu Bak (Soy Braised Pork Belly)

Meltingly tender chunks of pork belly swimming in a pool of intensely umami-rich soy sauce nirvana. It’s simple and delicious, a total crowdpleaser.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean
Servings 4
Calories 979 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 lbs pork belly skin on, cut into small chunks
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce or kecap manis
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp ginger grated
  • 1.5 tbsp granulated sugar white or brown
  • water to cover meat
  • 3 boiled eggs

Instructions
 

  • Parboil the pork belly first by boiling enough water to cover the pork belly. Add in the pork and let simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water and scrape off any scum.
  • Add soy sauce, sark soy sauce, white pepper, ginger, and sugar to a bowl and stir to mix.
  • Cut up the pork belly slices into thumb-length pieces and then coat in the bowl of marinade. Leave this to soak for about 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Heat a large, preferably heavy-based, pot or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown for around 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and stir to let it brown for a minute.
  • Pour in the marinade and enough water to cover the pork belly. Tip: Use the water to rinse out the remaining marinade and any leftover sugar in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Bring the whole pot to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer on low for around 45 minutes.
  • While that’s cooking, cook the eggs. Bring water to boil and then add the eggs. Let it boil for around 8 minutes and then drain, rinse in cold water, peel and then set aside.
  • When the pork belly is nice and tender, add in the eggs and let it continue simmering for another 30 minutes, uncovered, so the sauce can reduce and thicken. Occasionally turn the eggs so they get evenly dyed in the sauce.
  • Serve warm and enjoy!

Notes

Substitute for dark soy sauce. If you don’t have it, you can substitute with kecap manis (but add a pinch more salt) or mix two tablespoons of regular soy sauce with either half a teaspoon of molasses or a quarter teaspoon of dark brown sugar.
What about spices? Some like tau yu bak with the simple goodness of soy, garlic and pepper. Other prefer it with spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger, five spice powder, cloves, and dried chili peppers. Go with what you like. 
Can I add other ingredients? Definitely! You can also add firm or fried tofu, potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms. All are so good soaked in this sauce. As for garnish, chopped cilantro and/or sliced green onions are perfect.
How to store leftovers. Wait until it’s cooled to room temperature and then store it in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 days. When it’s time to reheat, go with the stovetop as the boiled eggs will burst in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 979kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 23gFat: 94gSaturated Fat: 34gPolyunsaturated Fat: 10gMonounsaturated Fat: 44gCholesterol: 262mgSodium: 1359mgPotassium: 430mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 212IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 41mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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