Revisiting Tau Yew Bak and quoting Su Shi, "Keep the fire low..."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I have written a lengthy post 2 years ago on making Auntie Ruby's Tau Yew Bak.

Here I will give some quick tips and the low down on making this. I don't work with a fixed recipe and this version will vary slightly from the earlier one. This is a very easy dish to do.

I repeat it here again - the key to good Tau Yew Bak is a very low fire. Keep fire low, cook patiently till meat is tender.

If the heat is too high, the meats will shrink and the oils will ooze out of the fats. You will end up with tough chewy meat and watery TYB.

In fact, when I was in Hong Kong recently, I came across an old Chinese poem by Su Shih quoted in a 18th century Chinese Cookery Book (!). (I wondered whether anyone in the 24th century will read my blog....)

Su Shih was an official serving in Hangzhou. Apparently, he invented Dong Pou pork. He wrote this poem entitled "Eating Pork":
Huang Chou produces good pork
Which is as cheap as dirt.
The rich spurn and won't eat it.
The poor know not how to cook it.
Keep the fire low.
Use very little water.
Give it plenty of time to get tender.
I take a bowl of pork first thing in the morning
I like it this way - mind your own business!
Interesting, right?

For those who like to read it in Chinese, here are a few lines:

慢着火、少着水 – give a low-temperature fire and less water
柴火罨焰烟不起 – the fireworks lit with a small flame and a little smoke
待它自熟莫催它 – wait for being absolutely cooked and never hasten
火候足时它自美 – it will be naturally tasteful if the duration and the heating degree are sufficient

Looks like Su Shi was already using a "slow and low" way of cooking pork, way before the French invented Sous-vide.

Just remember this and you will come out with good TYB everytime.

Here is the recipe again:

For one kilo of pork, use 2 Tbsp of dark sauce, 4 Tbsp light soy sauce, 5 cloves of garlic, 15 pieces of rock sugar (see pic), 2 pieces of star aniseed and about 15 pieces of white peppercorns. It goes without saying that you should be using good quality sauces. The superior light soy sauce is tastier and less salty. Check out this post for some info on sauces.

The proportion is just a rough guide.

I added neither oil nor water. 

First thing to go into the heated pot n medium is the sugar crystals. Let them melt. You are caremelising the sugar. Then the star aniseed, peppercorn and garlic. If you have smoked garlic, use it. After about a minute, add the pork. Then add the thick and light soy sauces. Stir and mix.

Up till this point, you use medium fire to melt the sugar and bring out the aromas of the spices.

Close the lid. Now, lower the flame to as small as possible.

Let it braise gently for an hour. Meanwhile, make the hard boiled eggs. Add them into the pot.

Now, I prefer my TYB to be dry. If you need more sauce, add some water towards the end. If your flame is very low and you are using a thick-bottom pot (i.e. not a cheapo pot), the pork won't be burnt. Stir occasionally to ensure.

Eat with sambal belachan and rice.

That's it.

Remember...keep the fire low.

Use Smoked garlic if you can. Your TYB will be more fragrant and sweet. 
The first thing which goes into the heated pot
TYB on the way, low and slow. I did not add any oil or water

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  1. The salt content of the soy sauce also very important. Depending on the recipe, the saltiness can really ruin the dish

  2. Forgot to mention, use superior or good quality soy sauce

  3. Do you know where can I get the bentong ginger & brown garlic locally?

    I love browsing through yr blog and to discover stuff that I am unknown of..Thank You

  4. What cut of the pork? Belly Pork?

  5. Yes, Pork belly. For this I mixed in some shoulder

  6. I saw some Bentong gigner sold at NTUC Finest at Bukit Timah...

  7. Jenloh:Thanks!!!!! I found it at Finest(Bukit TImah Plaza)

    Distributor: Shandy Trading Pte Ltd.

  8. I was looking for a good TYB recipe. reading from those previous comments, I believe your recipe is very good.
    I like your method of cooking the pork over very Low fire and without water.
    However, I would like to ask , do you add water when you add in the eggs. I am not sure how to braise them without water. Thanks for yr reply as I would like to try out yr recipe

  9. Lily - cook the eggs separately, peel and then add to the TYB.

  10. I tried this Aunty Ruby receipe many times, however the tenderness of my pork varies, it always comes out tough and chewy (not soft enough), tell me how to make it soft and tender, besides using very low fire?