My North Korean Grandmother’s Braised Pork Belly

Soft, jiggly pork belly. Decadent, luscious sauce. My North Korean Grandmother’s Braised Pork Belly recipe is so good, you’ll be scraping the bowl clean.

In the summer of 1947, my grandparents paid someone to smuggle them out of North Korea.

For two weeks, my newly married grandparents traveled across rivers and mountains. They walked at night and slept during the day. They defecated in holes dug with sticks and covered up their tracks so that no one could follow them. They went up and down so many mountains (Korea is called the land of 1000 mountains) that my 18 year old Halmoni thought she was going to die.

Eventually, they found their way to Seoul. And many years later, they immigrated to America with their sons. This was one of the dishes they brought with them.

What is Korean Braised Pork Belly?

I grew up eating and loving my North Korean Grandmother’s braised pork belly. We called it Doenjang Dwaeji Gogi or Soybean Paste Pork.

Similar to Bossam — the iconic Korean pork belly dish that everyone knows and loves — my grandmother’s recipe highlights luscious braised pork belly.

Her dish is more stewy and rich because it’s been braised with a generous scoop of doenjang, Korean fermented soybean paste. The result is a deeply flavored sauce that clings and coats the pork belly. So good!

When I asked Halmoni about the origins of this dish, she told me it was a random experiment in the kitchen. Everyone loved it so much, she never stopped cooking it! A family favorite, she’s been making this dish for over 50 years now.

Incidentally, I’ve never seen this dish in a Korean restaurant. My Korean friends have never heard of it. And yet, it’s got so much Korean flavor. Plus, multiple people have told me, this is their favorite dish when they come over for dinner! They love it more than Korean Fried Chicken, Cheese Buldak, Galbi Jjim or LA Galbi!

I think this recipe fits neatly into the family of melt-in-your-mouth Asian Braised Pork Belly dishes. Vietnamese Thit Kho. Taiwanese Lu Rou Fan. Chinese Hong Shao Ru. Japanese Kakune.

All the jiggly lusciousness of pork belly. All the stewy richness of doenjang. Handed down from my North Korean grandmother’s kitchen to yours!

Ingredients:

  • Doenjang. Korean fermented soybean paste. Use the best you can find.
  • Pork Belly. Look for nicely marbled pieces that contain an equal amount of fat and meat. It doesn’t matter if the pork belly is skinned or not — the long braising time will break it down regardless.
  • Ginger. The classic aromatic that pairs well with pork.
  • Instant Coffee. Optional ingredient but a classic Korean way to remove the gamey smell of meat. Leave out if you don’t have it.
  • Mirin. Sweet Korean cooking wine.
  • Soy Sauce. For more flavor and depth.
  • Jalapeno. When stewed, adds richness and depth of flavor. Results in a subtly spicy dish.

What is Doenjang?

Doenjang is Korean fermented soybean paste. Like all other fermented foods, it’s strongly flavored and absolutely delicious. Doenjang is also probiotic and packed with good-for-your-gut nutrition.

Doenjang is similar to Miso paste in that they are both fermented soybean pastes. However, Miso is fermented with Koji, a sweet rice starter that results in a milder, sweeter flavor. Doenjang is fermented with only salt, creating a deeply rich and potent flavor base!

Doenjang | The Subversive Table

What do I serve with Korean Braised Pork Belly?

My North Korean Grandmother’s Braised Pork Belly begs to be spooned over rice. Even when all the meat has been eaten, you can add the flavorful sauce to rice as a way of stretching the dish.

To cut the rich fattiness of the dish, I also like to serve with lettuce wraps and Gochujang Sauce on the side. And good kimchi is definitely a must when serving this dish!

How to Make My North Korean Grandmother’s Braised Pork Belly:

Slice pork belly into 1/2-inch strips and place in a large pot. Add remaining ingredients and water.

Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer (covered) until pork belly is tender and soft, about 30 minutes. The sauce will be watery.

Remove lid and simmer until sauce is thick and reduced, about 10-15 minutes. The pork belly and sauce should darken.

Serve with lettuce wraps, rice, gochujang sauce, and kimchi. Enjoy!

small shallow dish with korean braised pork belly and side dishes all around

My North Korean Grandmother’s Braised Pork Belly

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Soft, jiggly pork belly. Decadent, luscious sauce. My North Korean Grandmother's Braised Pork Belly is so good, you'll be scraping the bowl clean.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Servings 6

Equipment

  • Stock pot

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs pork belly
  • 1/2 cup Doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 inch ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee (optional)
  • 1-2 Jalapenos, sliced *see notes below
  • 2 cups water

Instructions
 

  • Slice pork belly into 1/2-inch strips and place into a large pot. Add remaining ingredients.
    pot of ingredients for korean braised doenjang pork belly
  • Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer (covered) until pork belly is tender and soft, about 30 minutes. The sauce will be watery.
    pot of korean braised pork belly
  • Remove lid and simmer until sauce is thick and reduced, about 10-15 minutes. The pork belly and sauce should darken.
    pot of korean braised pork belly
  • Serve with lettuce wraps, rice, gochujang sauce, and kimchi. Enjoy!
    small shallow dish with korean braised pork belly and side dishes all around

Notes

*I suggest 1-2 jalapenos because not all jalapenos are equally spicy.  Some are very spicy, some are mild.  I usually taste a little bit of the jalapeno.  If it’s spicy, I use 1 jalapeno.  If it’s mild, I use 2.  Also, I make sure to include all the seeds.  
Keyword Braised, Korean, Pork Belly
All Recipes, Braised, Korean, Main, Pork

13 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Incredible story and this sounds delicious! If I was going to make for 8 people, how many pounds of pork belly do suggest ?

    Also, for that amount of pork, what is the total time to braise? Thanks!!

    • For 8 people, you could try 4 lbs and keep all the rest of the ingredients the same. It’s very forgiving. If the taste is not strong enough at the end, add another small scoop of Doenjang and cook for 5 minutes more. Enjoy!!

  2. 5 stars
    Was looking for a Korean pork belly recipe to make for dinner with some kimchi and I can’t wait to cook this tonight!!

  3. 5 stars
    So sorry! One more question, do you use pork belly with skin on or off?

  4. 5 stars
    So awesome! I’m making this ASAP! Looks super mashita! How much ginger do you use? And when you say ground ginger do you mean freshly grated like on a microplane or dried ground like a powder? Thank you!!

  5. 5 stars
    Just made this, Such an amazing taste from simple ingredients. My family loved it.

  6. 5 stars
    Great story, recently we have a big Asian supermarket in our neighborhood, so I was searching for some Korean recipes and came across your site. I will try this recipe, love pork belly. (As a matter of fact, I will going to try dozens of your recipes) (-:

  7. Wow what an incredible story! Yum I need to try this one!

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