Monday, March 29, 2010

White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways (蒜泥白肉)

Oh, what a Herculean task! What an Odyssean journey!

When we found out that GARLIC was the ingredient for this edition of Weekend Wokking, JS and I put our thinking caps on. The difficulty was in deciding which garlic-intensive dish to make, as we like so many things -- or perhaps I should say, everything -- with garlic! This whole blog seems to be composed of all-garlic-all-the-time posts.

Finally, we thought of one of my absolutest-favoritest dishes, "White Pork with Garlic Sauce" (蒜泥白肉).

But, therein lies the problem.

There seems to be a thousand and one ways to make this "garlic sauce", and every time I happen to see a recipe, it is not the version I want. Usually, the recipes would call for a soy sauce-y version where the sauce seems to be merely soy sauce with chopped garlic thrown in.

I even saw one with oyster sauce! Super gasp! That is so not what I am looking for.

What I want is the thick, slightly sweet, pale brown garlic sauce that I get with this dish -- #61 on the menu -- at Cabin 5555. (In fact, I have mentioned this Dish #61 love of mine here and here and here.)

Note to Vancouverites: I've also had this dish at Beefy Beef Noodles and their garlic sauce is similar to Cabin 5555's.

I've asked around. I've looked at recipes. But, to no avail.

Finally, I asked my friend AL. She was the bride whose wedding JS and I attended in Taipei in March 2009. AL's mother is an extremely good cook, so it's very likely that she would be the key to unlock this garlic sauce mystery. However, it sometimes seems that AL's mother is a little unwilling to part with her wisdom.

I took a chance and sent AL an email, marking it "urgent", asking her if her mother could tell me the secret to that garlic sauce.

Here's is the reply that I received from AL.

You've asked me before!! And my mother's reply was very vague!

Fine, if it pleases you, I will CALL HER RIGHT NOW.

OK, I'm back. Here's how our conversation played out:

"Mom, TS wants to know how you make the garlic sauce for the pork dish." (Obviously, I'm paraphrasing. I told her the name of the dish.)

"You dice the garlic and add soy sauce. And if you want, you can add a little sugar."

"But she wants to know why the sauce is thick, not thin, like soy sauce."

"So she wants a thick sauce or not?"


"Then you add garlic! The garlic is what makes it thick! You have to really GROUND the garlic. Then you add soy sauce and sugar to taste."
OMG!!! Nobody ever told me this before!!!

AL elaborated:
Okay, here I must add my own take on the making of the sauce.

The name of the pork dish, word for word, in Chinese, is "garlic mud white meat."

Well, obviously the "white meat" refers to the pork. The "essence" is therefore in the "garlic MUD." Maybe the word "mashed" is a better translation.

Anyhow, you HAVE TO MASH that sucker!
OMG!!!! I never knew that the first two characters of the dish's name was GARLIC MUD!!!!

Armed with this life-changing information, I set to work!

"White Meat"

For all of you who guessed "fat" when I posted the picture above, good on you! I was very impressed. There was even an anonymous commenter who wrote that it was the "hardened fat from stock". Wow.

Although, my mother was also fooled into thinking it was fresh coconut meat. She wanted to eat it right then and there!

All this fat came from pork belly, of course.

I simply simmered pork belly in plain old water for about an hour until they were tender but not falling apart. We let them cool in the liquid overnight. The next day, I was enamored with the fat on top since it was so clean and white! I've never seen it that clean before! That pork fat is now sitting in the refrigerator.

I sliced the pork belly as thinly as I could.

The prettier slices in the foreground, the uglier ones in the back. =)

Garlic Sauce, Version 1

Well, I didn't want my heart to be broken too soon, so I decided to make a "regular" garlic sauce first, not the life-changing garlic-mud version.

This is simply soy sauce, finely chopped garlic, chili peppers, green onions, rice vinegar, sesame oil and a touch of sugar to balance everything out.

See, this is what I meant about garlic sauces being "soy sauce + chopped garlic". This is such a sauce. Still delicious, but different from my fantasy garlic sauce.

Garlic Mud Sauce,
aka "Go Crying to Your Mama If You Can't Handle the Garlic" Sauce

freshly buzzed sauce; more thickening happened while sitting

I whipped out the mini food processor and put AL's mother's words to the test.

I popped in an obscene number of garlic cloves in there and started whirring away. To make a purée out of the garlic, I figured I needed a liquid in there. So I added some soy sauce.

Lo and behold! The mixture was starting to take on a pale brown color, not like soy sauce at all. I was giddy with excitement.

I added soy sauce, sugar and a tiny amount of rice vinegar, all to taste.

Success at last!

My "garlic mud" was a little too fine because when I was using the mini food processor, Boss #2 (now aged 4) came and wanted to help.

This resulted in a gratuitous amount of pulsing on the machine.

But, too fine a garlic mud is fine by me. My sauce was a success!

I feel I must warn innocent readers at this time.

This sauce has true, true, pure garlic flavor. There is none of that "mellowing out" of the garlic by roasting, turning it into a sweet paste, or even by just plain cooking.

This is no-holds-barred, punch-you-in-the-gut, in-your-face, full-on RAW garlic flavor!

User discretion is advised.

But, this is the garlic sauce I love.

White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways

To serve, warm your pork belly slices. We could've steamed them, but we took the lazy way out and simply used the microwave. Top with your preferred garlic sauce.

There you go. The saga is complete.

A final note. Sprinkling some peanut sugar (seen in our gua bao post) on the dish is heavenly!

White Pork with Garlic "Mud" Sauce with Rice, sprinkled with Peanut Sugar.

Pork Skin; Pork Fat.

Scroll down for the recipes.

Just a few of the numerous GARLIC-intensive dishes here at eatingclub vancouver.
Roast Chicken Adobo (or any of our adobos!)
Beef Salpicao
Skinless Longganisa (Philippine Pork Sausage)
Sinangag (Garlic Fried Rice)
Grilled Cuban Chicken
Hazelnut Gremolata
Creamy Chanterelle and Roasted Garlic Pasta
Piedmont Marinated Eggs
Philippine-style Chicken "BBQ"
Philippine-style Pork "BBQ"
Baked Tahong (Mussels)

White Pork with Garlic Sauce (蒜泥白肉)

"White Pork"
pork belly

In a pot, boil water. Add pork belly. When the water comes back to a boil, turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about an hour, until meat is tender but not falling apart. Let cool in the liquid and store overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, take out pork belly and slice thinly. Set aside.

Garlic Sauce, Version 1
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
green onions, chopped
chili peppers, chopped

Combine all ingredients together. (Add your desired amount of green onions and chili peppers.)

Garlic Mud Sauce ("Go Crying to Your Mama If You Can't Handle the Garlic" Sauce)
Makes about 1 cup

1-2 heads garlic
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sugar
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Note: Decrease the amount of garlic, if you wish.

Make sure to finely chop or mash the garlic well. Use a food processor for ease. Add all the other ingredients and mix well.

To serve the dish
Warm sliced pork belly. Stir your garlic sauce (either one) well before drizzling over the pork. Top with peanut sugar, if desired. Serve remaining garlic sauce on the side.

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eatingclub vancouver Weekend Wokking posts:
Ravioli "Caprese": Tomato, Basil, Bocconcini
Eggplant "Clafouti"
Pumpkin Congee w/ Pumpkin "Beignets" & Sesame-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese w/ Pipián Verde
Adobo Mushroom Tart
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce
Almond Eggplant "Bisteeya" (Bastilla)
"Mashed Potato Beef Burger" (Red-skinned Potato Salad in Taiwanese Sacha Cheeseburger)
Korean Soybean Sprouts Pancake (Kongnamul Jeon)
Lemon Chamomile Tiramisu
Cilantro Horchata
Strawberry Cilantro Salsa, on Grilled Flank Steak
Duck Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Clear Oxtail Soup with Corn, Cabbage and Potatoes
Beijing Pickled Cabbage
Salsa Romesco ("Queen of the Catalan Sauces!")
Aguadito de Pollo (Peruvian Chicken Soup)
Bangus Belly à la Bistek (Milkfish Belly with Onions, Calamansi and Soy Sauce)
White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways (蒜泥白肉)
Mr. Zheng's Soupy Tomatoes and Eggs with Tofu (蕃茄雞蛋跟豆腐)
Steamed Fish and Tofu with Chinese Black Beans
Spinach and Cheese with Puff Pastry, Three Ways

We're submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks celebrating the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient.

The host this month is Sijeleng of Javaholic.

If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check
who's hosting next month.

Check out
all Weekend Wokking Roundups.


  1. I like the sound of both versions! I love garlic but I don't know how I'd handle all that raw garlic paste.

  2. I'm a die hard garlic (and lemon) fan!!! I'm going to try this. The taste and smell of garlic sticking to me, my clothes and my whole house for a week or so would be SOOOOO worth it! LOL.

    Question: For the leftover garlic mud sauce, should it be refrigirated after or not?

  3. Wandering Chopsticks:
    I used to not like garlic if it's raw. It's an acquired taste. ;) But yeah, do try it, just with less garlic.

    kaye i.:
    Oh yes, please refrigerate the leftover sauce. I would love to hear how you find the sauce. =)

  4. Oh that garlic mud! I could roll in them , just don't call me stinky! I usually have mine in California's Szechuan eateries.

  5. I love this dish but when I made it, I couldn't make it look appealing. What a beautiful job plating and the photos! Looks great.

  6. This looks wonderful, a true garlic lover's dream dish. The garlic mud looks as if it pairs perfectly with the boiled pork belly, allowing each element of the dish to stand out. I am definitely going to give this a try.

  7. And I thought (prior to reading this post) that I was the only woman in the northern hemisphere to eat thick garlic paste!)
    You proved me wrong; wonderful master class on the intricacies of pork and garlic/ thanks!

  8. I hate it when you have a craving and don't quite know exactly how to go about satisfying it. So frustrating!

    It looks like you figured it out though. I love garlic. In abundance. I'm so going to have to try both of these sauces!

  9. Pork belly is probably my favourite cut of meat. It's perfect for just about any use and your version with the two garlic sauces looks sublime!

  10. tigerfish:
    Oh, those Szechuan versions are delicious too!

    Thanks! But oh, I remember you making them, and I wanted to eat them right off the screen! =)

    Thanks! I hope you do.

    That's why I had to include a disclaimer/warning.

    You'll always have a sister-in-garlic in me. =)

    I'm looking forward to reading about that!

    We've been having our fill of pork belly lately... ever since we decided to eat "healthier". LOL. Thanks!

  11. There is no such thing as too much garlic. Sometimes when I pass Asian or Greek restaurants there is a garlicky aroma in the street. Such a great smell. I haven't had this dish in years but I'm going to make it soon. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Though I think I'll cook my garlic mud in some oil.

  12. KC:
    Oh, I may try that as well, as the frying with oil will definitely lend a different aspect to the sauce.

  13. Sounds divine! I’m seeing trying this. Thank you!


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