Adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuschia Dunlop.
- Yield:4 to 6 as a main course
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:3 hours 30 minutes
- 3 pounds pork cheeks
- 1- to 2-inch piece ginger
- 2 scallions
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons Sichuan-style chili bean paste
- 5 cups stock or water
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 Tsao Kor (cao guo) (false cardamom), optional
- Cilantro to garnish
- A few tablespoons cooking oil, for browning
- Salt and pepper for sprinkling
In the skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Make sure the pork cheeks are dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add them to the pan, taking care not to crowd the meat. Cook until the surface is browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side, flipping only once or twice so as not to disturb browning. Remove with tongs as cheeks are browned; set aside.
In the sauté pan, heat a few more tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the chili bean paste and stir-fry for 30 seconds until the paste starts to smell fragrant. Add the stock, wine, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and spices. Bring the liquid to a boil; then turn the heat down and add the pork cheeks.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300°F. Cover the pan with the pork cheeks, either with a lid or foil, and braise in the oven for at least 2.5 to 3 hours, until cheeks are very tender. Allow meat to cool and settle in the liquid, refrigerating the liquid overnight. The next day, scrape off the fat and reheat gently. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with rice and vegetables.