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Braised Pork Belly in Soy Sauce (Tau Yew Bak)

Belly with Soy Sauce Pork (Tau Yew Bak)
Belly with Soy Sauce Pork (Tau Yew Bak) pictures (2 of 3)

Since my second sister came into town, we have been cooking up a storm. (Previously, we have made pineapple fried rice and salted fish bones curry.) We have also been reminiscing our fond memories of our late parents—sharing the stories of our times with them and those days when we were growing up. Naturally, we talked about the delicious foods that my late mother used to cook for our family and the many dishes that she prepared which we missed dearly although the tastes still linger on our taste buds.

As my second sister is many years my senior, she had the opportunity to learn more about cooking from my late mother. We grew up in a big and poor family, so since she was 12 years old, she was tasked with housework and kitchen chores, including cooking for the whole family. Because of that, she has acquired and inherited most of our family recipes.

A couple of days ago, we talked about making my mother’s braised pork belly in soy sauce, or tau yew bak (in Hokkien)—one of the many family recipes that my mother excelled in. Her tau yew bak was legendary; the pork belly was always tender, juicy, and they are steeped in an intensely flavorful soy sauce. The taste was complex, sophisticated, addictive, and utterly delectable. There were always extras such as hard-boiled eggs, tofu, and sometimes, potatoes and mushrooms.

When my parents came to visit us in San Francisco 10 years ago in 2000, I managed to learn my mother’s tau yew bak recipe. I volunteered to make the dish, following the instructions that she had briefed me during her stay. I added some cracked whole white peppercorn (her secret ingredient!) and slowly braised the pork belly over low heat. The result was rather satisfactory and adequate, in fact, it was delicious but it is never going to be as good as my mother’s version. My sister said that it lacked the taste of “mother,” which, unfortunately, something I could never ever recreate.

Here is my family recipe of braised pork belly in soy sauce or tau yew bak. It’s a savory dish that goes extremely well with steamed white rice, esspecially with a side of sambal belacan. I hope you like the recipe and get to try out one of the many great tastes of my childhood.

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61 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. in

    Yes its true what you said about mothers. I have tried to recreate many of my mother’s signature dishes, but somehow its just not quite the same. BTW, tau eu bak is definately comfort food for the soul! Its a quintissential malaysian hokkien dish.

  2. Jayne

    I’ve been wanting to make this for ages but was daunted by the timing (anything braised scared me because it took ages for meat to really soften). I think I’m just going to try this out anyway. Probably in a crockpot too, so I can sleep through the cooking time :-). BTW, I’m a new fan of this site. Love it! Keep up the great work. Let us know when your cookbook gets out. I think I wanna grab a copy ;-)

  3. grace

    I have tried cooking this dish before, the only difference is that I used sugar instead of kecap manis. Is there any different on the taste?

  4. DailyChef

    Yum! This brings back memories of childhood for me too. Haven’t made it myself, but now you’ve inspired me. There definitely is something of “mother” in the dish, isn’t there?

  5. For some reason, I can’t quite get this dish right – by that I mean like how my mom makes it. This is the best comfort food ever, esp when the pork is braised so tender it melts in the mouth and the hard-boiled egg is awesome. My mom puts in potatoes for my daughter these days. I like my tau yew bak with loads of sambal belacan.

  6. Kiki

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, I remember my grandma did this often for chinese new year with duck meat, hard boiled eggs and fried tofu puffs. I loved the eggs and the tofu puffs more than the meat itself! I often wondered if using chicken was alright, too. Guess I’ll try it myself soon

    Another dish that I really loved from my grandma is herbal chicken. Very simple, but the combination of herbs makes it simply delicious.

  7. CT

    My mother likes to make this dish. I love it. I like to eat it with sambal belacan chilli.

    Btw, my sisters and I have started focus on eating foods with high collagen… you know age is catching up, we have to take care of our complexion. We eat pork feet, chicken feet… what else can you suggest? I think fish stomach too, right? With all these foods, we just have to work harder at the gym and eat more konnyaku jelly to digest them but it’s worth it. We don’t want to have a firm body and have dry and old complexion. It will be nice if you can share recipes with high collagen. Thank you.

  8. Oh my… my mum used to make this dish a lot when I lived with my parents. I will ask her to cook this next time I go to visit them. Great recipe. Delicious photography too.

  9. That looks so delicious. I can imagine the soy and pork belly flavors, married together….mmm! This would definitely be a treat.

    To CT – about collagen, I recently made a broth using chicken feet – about 1 lb chicken feet, plus 1/2 onion, 1-2 carrots, 2 stalks celery, 2-inch knob of ginger, and some parsley stems, and simmered for like 5 hours or so. When strained, fat skimmed off and chilled, that broth gels up so nice from all the collagen. Yum!

  10. David

    This is perhaps my all time favorite comfort food,there are so many variations of this dish but I have yet to cook it in a clay pot, oh how I wish I had one. Never the less, an awesome dish and as always,thank for sharing.

  11. Emily

    This is my favourite dish of all time and it always reminds me of my gran as she cooked this for us when we were little kids. In turn, I cook it for my kids and they love it! My gran uses onions as well as garlic in her tau u bak. I’m intrigued that you’ve added eggs to yours and will do that next time as I love eggs! Thanks for sharing.

  12. It is for this reason that I encourage my sons’ paticipation when I am cooking for I know that one day, they will have the same sentiments.

    We have a similar Filipino dish but when I braise the pork belly, I just add a minimum amount of water (say for 1 lb. less than 1/4 cup water) while the porkwill still exude a lot of liquid so it will braise in its own juices and the flavours will be more concentrated and cook it on really low heat just barely simmering…..and there is something about cooking things in a clay pot that makes it more yummy? …or maybe it is just me!…and like the others, I always went for the eggs first and the tofu puffs!

  13. tony

    Thanks for the recipe, just like my grandma’s recipe.
    I use the pressure cooker and it is just as nice.
    Hope the tip will help busy cooks.

  14. Hi! I just discovered your blog and I love it! I actually have some pork belly in my freezer right now that I bought at Imbi Market in Kuala Lumpur, and I’ve been looking around for what to do with it. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe!

  15. Joe

    Thanks for the recipe, I just made this and it was great. I don’t think I can ever get the ‘mother’ flavour in my cooking – for me it’s not an actual flavour, but just that the food was made by my mum. It’s a bit like going back to your old hometown – you’ll never get back the feeling of the summers you spent there.

    @CT: you don’t need to eat actual collagen; your body makes it fine if you give it the ingredients it needs. Eat plenty of vitamin C and either red meat, soybeans or spinach and your insides will do the rest.

  16. pat

    hi thanks for the great recipe! haven’t had it since i’ve been away from home and currently living in Italy. I’d like to give this and your recipe for Siew Yoke a try but instead of pork belly, can i use pork shoulder or thigh which is more readily available in italian supermarkets??? great blog, keep it up.

  17. joey

    I’ve try the Tau you bak… woo… very good :P
    while i was cooking not time to fried bean curds!! don’t hv sweet soy sauce but then i replace it with sugar!!! hehehe… a bit only la and I also add in a cinnamon stick just a little bit n it smell good…. thanks its just bring me back to the old days of my mum cooking taste…

  18. Tom

    Excellent recipe.
    Can the clay pot be used on electric stoves without issues?
    Also anything special that is needed before using a clay pot on the electric stove?

    Thank you

  19. ha


    Been enjoying your site. Find your fondness for Vietnamese food a delight. This particular dish could pass as Vietnamese’s Thit Kho Trung (Pork Stew with Eggs). We use fish sauce instead of soy sauce. Interesting food is prepared similarly though differently around the SE Asia & the world for that matter.

  20. keekerngcheng

    Hmm tried this dish for dinner last night and hubby gmailed my son to tell him it was the best tau yew bak I’ve cooked :) Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  21. KY

    Your dish probably tasted different from your mum’s version because of the different brand of soy sauces used. I can’t get the thick soy sauce my mum uses in KL (Orchid brand) over here so my dishes never taste quite the same. :-(

    • KY – I agree. The soy sauce here in the US sucks, even my sister said so when she came to visit a few months ago. She told me to bring soy sauce back from Malaysia. The soy sauce in Malaysia has soy fragrance, here most of them taste like minerals. And yes, we can’t get Malaysian thick soy sauce here in the US, that’s why I just use Indonesia kecap manis.

  22. chris cornwell

    Thanks for the recipe! I’ve been craving this for years. Tried something similar twice but never tasted like home. What is kecap manis? Light soy sauce? Ketchup? Please help! THANKS!

  23. Jonathan_Goh85

    Hi 姐姐. I used sugar instead of sweet soy sauce. >.< but I find my pork belly very tangy instead of tender.. what could I've done wrong?

  24. Thank you so much for this recipe! My grandma always makes this for our family dinners…and I look forward to it everytime. I want to make this for a potluck dinner, and I have a few questions…how many people does this feed? is it possible to make it one day ahead? if so, how should i reheat it if i make it in a regular pot, not clay pot?

    Thank you so much for your help!

  25. Mel

    Gosh, i was so looking forward to finally making this dish on my own, and it was going so well! but then for the last 10 mins of simmering, i got bored and logged on to Facebook for a bit – turns out there wasn’t enough liquid left and so now there’s a lot of charred marks on my precious pork belly…! :( Tragic, but by moving the meat to a fresh pot and adding the sauces again, i just about salvaged it…

    anyhow, excellent recipe, i love that you kept it simple & this is really one of the best Chinese recipes, in my humble opinion as an Indian Malaysian :) Thanks for such a great site, Bee. I’m so glad that you’ve made this so successful & put our awesome food on a wider platform :)

  26. Patrick Tan

    The recipe my mom uses includes some sticks of cinnamon, and a sprinke of all-sprice powder.
    Also best served with Sambal.

  27. Thanks for a great site
    In the instructions there is no mention of whether to cover the pot while braising. I am planning to cover it for the initial cook and then uncover for the second braise. Correct?
    Thanks in advance

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