Three-Layer Pork with Mustard Greens and Tofu

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In Burmese, as in Chinese and Thai, what we call pork belly in English is called “three-layer pork,” a great description of the cut, and to me far more attractive sounding. Three-layer pork looks a little like pale slab bacon: meat layered with fat. It’s a great way to give depth to a vegetable, as it does here.

Pickled mustard greens are widely available in Chinese grocery stores. In this Shan dish, their acidity balances the slight sweetness of the pork, and the tofu is a nice bridge between them. As is typical of Shan cooking, the ingredients come together in one pot, seasoned with salt, not fish sauce, and flavored with onion rather than shallot, as well as with fresh coriander.

This is traditionally served with rice, but it is also delicious with polenta.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds pork belly, to yield about pounds trimmed of skin
  • ¼ cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium to large onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
  • Scant 2 cups Chinese preserved mustard greens, well rinsed and thinly sliced crosswise
  • A scant ¾ pound tofu, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • About ½ cup water
  • ½ cup coriander leaves

Method

Lay the pork belly on a cutting board, cut it across the grain as thin as possible, then cut the slices into 2-inch or so lengths. Set aside.

Place a large wok or wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add the oil, then toss in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the pork, and cook, turning and pressing it against the hot surface of the pan, until it has all changed color and started to render its fat, 4 to 6 minutes. Toss in the sliced greens and stir well, then cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Add the tofu and salt and carefully stir to mix thoroughly without breaking up the tofu.

Add the water, cover, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the greens are a little more softened and the flavors are blended. Stir in the coriander, remove from the heat, and serve hot or at room temperature.

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