Tau Yu Bak (Pork Braised in Soy Sauce)

Growing up, my brothers and I always headed up to Penang during the school holidays. My dad had a really BIG family–with ten siblings, I had tons of aunts, uncles and cousins to play with. And every night, we all gathered around the kitchen table for many Nyonya-styled meals.

My grandmother had a bond-maid who cooked the most amazing foods. (I didn’t realize that she was a bond-maid until much later. I always just assumed she was part of the family) . Tau yu bak was one of the dishes we had often there. I just loved everything about this dish, its simplicity, its fragrance and its flavor. Plus, it’s got a killer sauce.

Tau Yu Bak (Pork Braised in Soy Sauce)

Tau Yu Bak (Pork Braised in Soy Sauce)

The secret really is that you have to use belly pork (or at least country-style ribs–I use these more now but it’s nowhere as good as using belly pork). The fat in this cut makes this dish sing! That and the garlic is key. Well, ok, the soy sauce is also quite crucial. But truly, that’s about it.

I want to say that when I make this dish, I tend to eyeball the seasonings. The main flavor component is the saltiness of the soy sauce, but there should be just enough sweetness to play a nice contrast to that saltiness. The garlic also adds a depth of flavor that marries well with the pork.

Some people add cloves, star anise and cinnamon to the sauce but I find that keeping it simple actually accentuates the garlic-porky-salty-sweet flavors in tau yu bak. I leave that option open for those who’d like more fragrance.

Also, we’ve always kept the skins on the garlic in this braise. I wasn’t sure why until this last time I made it when I did not keep the skin on. When you don’t keep the skin on the garlic what happens is the garlic melts into the sauce and the soy flavor is muddied a little. It’s still delicious but you really do want to just have the garlic infuse the soy sauce and not overwhelm the whole dish. Also, keeping it whole in the skin lets you suck up a whole melted garlic clove that has been braised in soy sauce–just delicious!

Tau Yu Bak

2 lbs belly pork (or other fat-marbled cuts of pork but truly the belly pork is best)

Country-style pork ribs for tau yu bak

2 Tbsp thick soy sauce (are you convinced yet that this is an indispensable condiment?)
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 small piece (about thumb size) rock sugar
1 head garlic (skin left on, broken into individual cloves), or you could use more if you like (and you know I like!)
1/8-1/4 cup water
1 stick cinnamon, 2 star anise, 2-3 cloves (optional)
6 hard boiled eggs

hard boiled eggs for tau yu bak

1. Cut belly pork into larger bite-sized pieces. Put pork into clay pot (if you have one. Otherwise, use regular pot.)
2. Add the garlic.
3. Add the thick soy sauce and the light soy sauce (because I do eyeball, I would ask that you make sure that your sauce at this point should not be more than a third way up the meat).

pork, garlic, soy sauce for tau yu bak

4. Turn heat on to high and as soon as the pot is hot, turn to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally to coat pork with soy sauce. When pork is half done, maybe about 20 mins in, add a bit of water if sauce is getting too dry. Don’t overdo the water.
5. Add a piece of rock sugar (not too much at first and more to taste if still not sweet enough) and also the eggs. Cover and simmer for another 20 mins or until pork is tender and eggs take on dark color of soy sauce.

1. You can also add some dried chillies in this dish to give it a spicy kick.
2. My mom also used to add some sea cucumber to the dish. Give it a try if you want. It’s harder to find sea cucumber here and expensive to boot so I never bother to add (plus I don’t even know how to prep a sea cucumber much less choose one).
3. Sometimes I add firm tofu (taukwa) to the dish. The tofu soaks up all the wonderful flavors from the sauce.

Tau Yu Bak (Pork Braised in Soy Sauce)

Serve and enjoy over rice. Lots of rice!

Cheers, Annie

30 thoughts on “Tau Yu Bak (Pork Braised in Soy Sauce)”

  1. >My grandmother used to cook this dish with hard boiled eggs and sea cucumber as well! Nothing beats the simple and delicious soy sauce braised pork. Thanks for the reminder. Will cook this again the next chance I get 🙂

  2. >i subscribed to your posts a while back and often i do not have much time to reply. However, i am on holiday now and joy..i have time. I loved this recipe. i also love the way you explain about the preparation. i am definitely going to prepare this dish. thank you for sharing.

  3. >Wow that looks truly delicious! I could see how pork belly would be awesome. It’s one of my favourite cuts of pork to cook with (though I feel guilty after eating it).

  4. >I would think pork butt would work here too (good fat content)?

    I’m digging all this Asian fare you’re whipping up to my virgin eyes.

  5. >My late mother made very good TYB and she had taught me how to make it, but mine is just not as good, I don’t know what. She liked to put some potatoes instead of eggs, very good, too. You can try in the future.

  6. >Annie, are you Hokkien? My mother will cook this Tau Yu Bak each time we have a family gatherings. She like to add pork knuckles and sea cucumber to it too.

  7. >That’s what I call great winter food. Never had pork prepared this way but there’s a similar Filipino version that I love. Your recipe seems so familiar to me.

  8. >@Ning – do you like it with or without sea cucumber?

    @jamie – good idea, thanks!

    @Valentina – thanks for delurking!

    @Marc – just don’t eat it all the time…and don’t eat this dish cold. Must be served hot!

    @Peter M – the “country-style ribs” cut that we used in this dish actually comes from pork butt.

    @Rasa – sometimes we put potatoes in it as well.

    @Little Inbox – oooh, dried cuttlefish, eh?

    @ICook4Fun – chiak!

    @Miss Tish – some more fragrant additions. I like it!

    @Jude – yes, this is close to Filipino adobo, although tau yu bak doesn’t call for vinegar.

  9. >You guys are killing me – Tau Yu Bak! … memories and friends come flooding back. I’m going to hunt around Tokyo for someone who can make this for me again. Love your blog.

  10. >Love this dish, a family favourite, the sauce on the hard boiled eggs…yum!!!! A killer. I love making this dish too, simple and delicious!

  11. >This is one of my favorites! My mom also used pork feet (it sounds gross but after it’s braised, it’s so delicious!!)

  12. >And I always thought this was a Thai dish 🙂

    We call it pae-lo. It’s almost always made with pork shank. Your right, the sauce is awesome. So good with steamed jasmine rice and chilis in vinegar.

    Now you got me craving!

  13. >hey annie, is this the recipe you’ve been telling me about? i’m not sure cuz i don’t remember you mentioning hard boiled eggs.

  14. >Hello, I’m so thrilled I found your blog! Definitely bookmarking it. I’ve been dying to know how to make this dish, or even know what its actually called. I live in London now but I always miss my mom’s version of this. Question, is thick soy sauce you used actually dark soy sauce?
    Thanks for your help.

  15. >Mmm, I love this dish, especially with the eggs. Any time I braise anything with soy sauce, I always toss in a few eggs. It’s such a great little bonus =)

  16. >@Terry – you should try making it yourself!

    @Anonymous – I am loving pig’s feet more and more nowadays.

    @dp – I think a lot of cuisines have a similar way of braising pork. I like your use of chillies and vinegar – yum!

    @smile4me8p – yes, this is the recipe you’ve been asking for 😉

    @Rachel – welcome to our blog! Yes, thick soy sauce and dark soy sauce are the same thing on our blog. Search for “dark soy” here and you’ll find more recipes that use it.

    @kevin – thanks!

  17. >Rachel–yes, thick soy sauce and dark soy are similar but be careful. Some dark soy sauces are not very thick. You don’t want that type of dark soy. You want the kind that is more “syrupy” in consistency.

  18. >Hello Nate and Annie, thank you so much for your replies! I do have dark soy sauce that is not syrupy, however I do possess a thick soy sauce called Kecap Manis, would this happen to be the type you used?
    Once again thanks alot, am enjoying your blog, keep it up! x
    (hope my msg didnt turn up twice as there was some error previously)

  19. >Rachel–kicap manis is not quite the same but I’ve used it in a pinch. It’s a little sweeter so I would cut the rock sugar if you are planning to use that. Hope that helps.

  20. I made this last night. It was so easy to make and the dish turned out really good. I also added carrots and tofu since I’m not a meat person. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

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