Babi Pongteh (Stewed Pork with Fermented Soya bean)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

When I first had a taste of Babi Pongteh in my then boyfriend's dinner table, I was struck at how it reminded me so much of a dish which my Granny used to make. From the cut of meat used to the simple lilt of spices, every bite yields a burst of flavour so good that it very nearly brought tears to my eyes. Lest you think I'm exaggerating, most of you who follow my writings here will know how close I was to my late Grandmother, and a certain taste or smell is enough to trigger a flood of memories and make me miss her more, even though it's been 13 years since she passed on.

It will not be the only Peranakan dish which I will then find in common with the foods I grew up with, which perfectly made sense when I realised that many Indonesian dishes were also a marriage of Chinese and native Indonesian flavours. The Peranakan community was born when Chinese men who settled in the South East Asian islands married the local women in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

I was fascinated by the mystery surrounding the Nonya and Babas of yore, their culture and their cuisine. Furthermore, the ability to cook and sew were the prerequisites toward finding a husband, and it's been said that a matriarch can always tell if a prospective daughter-in-law will be able to feed her family well (and thus take care of her husband and her mother-in-law) just by the sound made by the mortar when she pounds the spices using a pestle.

Recipes are almost family heirlooms in Peranakan communities. Every family will have their own style of cooking a particular dish, and these methods are often closely guarded secrets, only to be passed down to daughters or favoured daughter-in-laws. So because I needed to learn how to cook these intricate dishes, I married that 'nice' Peranakan boy!

Today I share with you a dish which I learnt to make because it is the Mookid's absolute favourite. He perks up at the smell of it cooking, and will always race to the dining table when he knows that his Mama has prepared it (especially for him, these days, that lucky boy!) for dinner. Just a word of note, though - do NOT attempt to substitute the fatty pork with a leaner cut. The dish needs the layer of fat to accentuate the base notes of the ingredients used, and will not taste the same with a dry slab of lean pork. Make this on special occasions, and savour each melt-in-your-mouth pork piece with relish.

Babi Pongteh

Mrs. Jessie Moo's recipe

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 2 hours
Serving: 6 adults or 4 adults + 1 Mookid


  • 800 gr Pork shoulder (Twee Bak) or Pork belly, cut into squares
  • 15 nos. shallots
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, or approximately 8 cm.
  • 2 tablespoons of Fermented / Salted Soya Bean (Tau Cheo 豆酱)
  • 4 nos. potatoes, cut into quarters (optional)
  • 30 gr hard brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cups of water
  • Spring onions (for garnish)


1. Blanch pork with boiling water for about 5 minutes, and drain. Marinate with 1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce, and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

I prefer to use hard brown sugar for this dish, but you can also substitute that with regular brown or white sugar. Grate the required measure.

2. Blend shallots and garlic till you get a smooth paste.

3. In a wok, fry the shallots and garlic blend for about 3 minutes. Take care to control the fire and sauté continuously so that it won't burn. Once it turns a slight golden yellow, add the fermented soya bean, and fry till fragrant.

4. Put the marinated pork pieces in, and stir fry for about a minute or so, or until the pork loses its translucent look. Add dark soya sauce, sugar and salt, stirring till well blended. Add about 1 cup of water and continue to stir fry till the mixture thickens.

Add the remaining 3 cups of water and bring to boil over high heat. Once it boils, reduce the heat. I added in the raw potatoes halfway through the cooking process, so as to not overcook them.

5. Simmer for about 1.5 - 2 hours, or until meat is tender. Trust me, it will be difficult to wait till dinner time when the house is filled with the wonderful aroma of the stew simmering. Oh... and cook more rice than the usual measure.

Babi Pongteh usually calls for more than just one bowl of rice.

Babi Pongteh tastes even better the next day - when all the flavours have had a chance to fuse 'into' the pork!


This is my contribution to the 'What's Cooking?' blog train hosted by Alicia, over at Beanie N'Us. Stop on by to check out more recipes by other Mums!

The train stops next at The Domestic Goddess Wannabe's blog. Diana is a good friend of mine, and she inspires me to bake and cook! Do check out her blog for simple yet tasty recipes that you can make easily at home, as well as wonderful bakes with step by step instructions which are extremely helpful for novice bakers (like me!)

Diana will be sharing another Peranakan favourite, Ayam Assam Tumis, which is a simple but tasty dish made with chicken and tamarind (assam). The piquant flavor of the assam and aromatic spices highly complement the spicy chilli and the result is a fragrant curry that pairs perfectly with rice.



  1. This is my absolute FAVOURITE peranakan dish. Now that I have your heirloom recipe, I shall go make it!!! :P~~

  2. I am not even a pork person but the fats look good man - melt-in-the-mouth type. You are setting high standards for Mookid's future GFs / wife!!!!! LOL. Thanks for linking up Veeps ;)

  3. Sedap!!! I must tag this post so that I can cook 2014 Cny dish!

  4. That looks absolutely delish! I'm so going to try this.

  5. When does the cinnamon go in?

    1. Hi Darren,

      The cinnamon is fried together with the shallots and garlic.



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