Coconut Braised Wing Beans with Pork Belly

It’s all in the way you spin it.

There are those who manage to maintain a sunny outlook no matter what life throws in their path.  There are those that push forward, guns blazing and devilish grin at the ready, even in the face of insurmountable odds and surly weather.  There are those whose feathers are never ruffled or out of place.

And there’s me, and those like me (and we are quite a few I firmly believe) – spin doctors.

Most of the time, I plant myself resolutely on the sunny side of the street.  I like being positive and I like being surrounded by positive people.  I try to inject positivity into my life at every opportunity.  It’s the best drug in the world…and totally free, with only the very best side effects.  Overdose on it, share it, push it, gulp it down in large doses 3 times a day.

Admittedly, it is not always as easy as it seems.  To those for whom it comes naturally, well, lucky ducks you all.  Sometimes, as most of those who inhabit the real world know, it takes effort.  And that’s when you need to spin it.

A traffic jam becomes the perfect time to call your best friend.  Working the night shift leaves you free to watch cheesy noontime shows.  Rainy weather means less people at the market and hot chocolate at night (yay!).  Summer’s blistering heat means extra ice in your gin and tonic.  Bread going stale means French toast.  Too busy with work to even go to the grocery?  Nutella for dinner!

You get the general idea.

And speaking of being too busy.  I have been and will be all throughout this week.  But that will only make my Holy Week break (or Easter break) that more gratifying.  Between work now, and beach holiday after, I’m afraid I won’t be able to be around until the week after next.  I don’t want to leave you empty-handed nor empty-stomached though….so I’m leaving you with these, hopefully, comforting words, and a dish which I find equally comforting.

Coconut Braised Wing Beans with Pork Belly
  • 150-200 grams pork belly
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce (patis)
  • Canola or other vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 250 grams wing beans (sigarillas)
  • 4 long green chilis (sili pang-sigang)
  • 2 tablespoons shrimp paste (bagoong), more or less depending on how salty your shrimp paste is
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • Freshly cracked black pepper 

- Cut the pork belly into 1/2-inch pieces.  Place in a bowl with the fish sauce and a generous cracking of black pepper and set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat a wok (kawali) or a regular pan over medium high heat.  Once hot, add a couple of swirls of oil.  When the oil is hot add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent.
-  When the onion is soft add the pork to the pan and fry, stirring once in a while, until brown on all sides.
- Add the wing beans, chili, and shrimp paste, tossing and sautéing until the wing beans just start to get soft and the shrimp paste is evenly distributed.
- Add the coconut milk and mix well.  Cook, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks, until both the wing beans and pork belly are soft.

Coconut milk, pork belly, braising, and looking on the bright side are all things I find comforting.  I’ve thrown in the wing beans to make us feel virtuous as well.  Not a bad deal I think.  Usually wing beans are not cooked too long, leaving them still fresh with a vibrant bite, but here I like them, as with the pork belly, soft and yielding and infused with coconut milk and shrimp paste.  Very Filipino in flavor, and familiarly Asian too.  Pile it on top of a steaming bowl of rice and let it be your silver lining…even if you have to eat it in front of a computer screen.

So smile when the sun shines and things go your way.  And when they don’t…spin it.  You might be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to do...and how real it can become ;)