Bak Tau Yu or braised soy sauce pork is truly the simplest yet deliciously flavorful dish all Nyonya families can relate to. But it is not exclusive to the Nyonya folks only as in fact, this dish can often be found in almost all Chinese coffee shops or stalls throughout Malaysia that sell dishes and rice, but each might prepare it with a slightly different twist. Some prepare it with the addition of dried chili for a spicy version or a few slices of ginger for added aroma or extra ingredients like dried shitakae mushrooms.
An original Nyonya style bak tau yu my late Mom used to cook is where the pork is simmered in water with light soy sauce (tau yu cair), thick dark caramel sauce (tau yu pekat) and with some white or palm sugar added in at the end after the meat has tenderized. The other version is where a few cloves of garlic are smashed and chopped, sauteed with cooking oil before the meat, water and sauces are added in. I love garlic! So, I've cooked it here based on the latter version. And I used sweet sauce (kicap manis) instead of sugar. Pork belly is the preferred part of the meat used for bak tau yu as there's nothing more comforting than when a piece of fatty meat converge and melt in the mouth. This is when you will momentarily forget about all the ill effects of saturated fats. And clogged arteries don't exist in your vocab. Well, I believe in enjoying food but as long as it is kept at an occasional and moderate level where fats is concerned, then that's completely alright by me. I've never tried it, but this should work well with beef too.
500 g pork belly, cut into strips of 1.5cm thickness (marinate with 1/2 tablespoon each of thick dark caramel sauce, sweet sauce and soy sauce, refrigerate for 30 minutes)
50 g garlic, smashed with the back of a cleaver and chopped roughly
2 tbsp cooking oil
About 1 litre water
3 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps dark sweet sauce (kicap manis, ABC brand or any other)
1 tsp thick dark caramel sauce
2 large potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and slice at 1 cm thickness
Heat the oil in a heavy based pot, fry the garlic until it is brown and fragrant. Stir in the marinated meat, fry for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the water, soy sauce, sweet sauce and dark caramel sauce. Cover with lid and braise the meat until they turn tender. Occasionally open the lid to check and stir and add half cup water if the gravy has noticeably reduced. Braise for about 60 minutes or until the meat is tender. Then, add in the potatoes and braise for a further 15 to 20 minutes. About 5 minutes before cooking is complete, taste the gravy and if necessary, add some more soy sauce if it's not salty enough. Serve hot with rice.