Emperor's Pork


The late Aussie restaurateur Tony Lo taught his son Buddha Lo — the winner of Season 19 of Top Chef — how to braise and glaze pork belly in a sweet and savory sauce laced with warm notes of cinnamon and rock sugar, along with soy and MSG. Serve the glazed cubes of pork with steamed greens and white rice to soak up the sauce.

Emperor's Pork
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling byClaire Spollen
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 45 mins


  • 3 pounds pork belly with skin, cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1 cup chopped (2-inch pieces) scallions (from 1 bunch)

  • ½ cup dark soy sauce

  • ½ cup sweet soy sauce (such as Kecap Manis)

  • ½ cup Shaoxing cooking wine

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • ½ cup rock sugar

  • ¼ cup Maggi Seasoning Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons monosodium glutamate seasoning (MSG)

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

  • 4 whole star anise

  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

  • 4 dried bay leaves

  • 4 dried red chiles

  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

  • 5 large garlic cloves, smashed

  • 8 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • Steamed greens (such as Chinese mustard, bok choy, or Asian greens) and cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high. Add pork belly; boil, undisturbed, 3 minutes. (This will remove blood and impurities from the meat.) Drain and rinse pork belly clean. Set aside. Wash and dry pot.

  2. Combine pork, scallions, dark soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, granulated sugar, rock sugar, Maggi Seasoning Sauce, salt, MSG, white pepper, star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, dried red chiles, ginger, garlic, and 8 cups water in cleaned large pot. Stir to ensure everything is submerged. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender when pierced with a fork but not falling apart, about 2 hours. Remove from heat. Let pork rest in cooking liquid in pot at room temperature, uncovered, 1 hour.

  3. Remove pork from cooking liquid in pot, and set aside. Pour cooking liquid through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl; discard solids. Measure 4 cups strained cooking liquid into a medium pot; bring to a boil over high. (Reserve remaining strained cooking liquid.) Meanwhile, whisk together cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until well combined.

  4. Gradually add cornstarch slurry to boiling cooking liquid, whisking continuously. Continue to boil on high, whisking constantly, until sauce forms a glaze consistency and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. You might need to add more reserved cooking liquid if glaze becomes too thick. Reduce heat to medium; add pork to mixture, and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve alongside steamed greens and white rice.

Make Ahead

Pork can be prepared through step 2 up to 12 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.


MSG and Maggi Seasoning Sauce can be found at most grocery stores or online at walmart.com.

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