Belly Of the Beast

Asian Pork Belly

In my humble opinion, any western version of Chinese food falls directly into the category of comfort food. Characterized as sweet, sour, salty, and occasionally spicy, commonly stir-fried or deep fried. It really is the epitome of comfort. And this marinaded-braised-grilled pork belly is no exception. I’m not going to lie, this dish takes two full days to prepare, but the preparation is passive (lots of waiting) and worth every second.

There’s three essentially steps to this pork belly. First, the marinade. This step sets up the layering of flavors. The salt and acid penetrate the meat and tenderizes, while balanced on the back of the sugar and nuttiness of the sesame oil. The second step is the braise. This is where the bulk of the dish’s flavor is imparted, through a rich aromatic master stock. And finally, the last step is the grilling. This step seals the deal as the meat is caramelized and glazed with sweet hoisin sauce.

I have to admit, I sat down and sinfully gorged on an entire kilo in one sitting. I know, I know, I should be ashamed of myself, but this was the heroin of comfort food… I was hooked. The best piece of pork I’d ever tasted, and aside from bacon, pork is not high on my list of favorite foods. But this succulent piece of pork belly just melts in your mouth as an orchestra of flavor deafens all will power you may have had before sitting down. Of course I don’t recommend anyone eating a kilo of, well, anything, but other dishes that really make the experience complete are fried rice, spring rolls, chow mein, sticky sesame wings, and a Canadian-Chinese classic, chicken balls with sweet chili sauce.

pork belly6

Marinade:

  • 100ml soya sauce
  • 100ml water
  • 1 lime, juice and rind
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • ½ cup brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 1-2kg fresh pork belly

1. Slice the thick layer of skin/fat from the pork. Either set aside for crackling, or discard.

2. In a resealable bag, combine all the ingredients.

3. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.

pork belly3

Spice sachet:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 thick slices of ginger, roasted
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 pieces of cinnamon bark
  • 1 tbsp coriander seed
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns

pork belly51. Using a piece of cheesecloth, place all the aromatics inside and tie with kitchen string to seal.

pork belly4

Master Stock:

  • 3 liters water
  • 2 beef or chicken bouillon cubes
  • 100 ml soya sauce
  • 50ml wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Spice Sachet

1. In a large stock pot, combine water, bouillon cubes, soya sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar.

2. Then tie the spice sachet around the handle of the pot, giving it enough slack to fully immerse into the stock.

3. Heat to boil, then reduce to simmer for 4 hours until a rich flavor has developed. Adjust saltiness if necessary.

4. Preheat oven to 220°C. Place marinaded pork belly into a large roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Just enough to develop a nice brown color.

pork belly8

5. Reduce heat to 150°C. Remove pork belly from oven and pour the master stock into the roasting, just covering the pork. Cover with foil and braise for 3½-4 hours.

6. Remove from oven and let cool in stock until cool enough to store in refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight.

7. To finish off, grill the pork belly at 350°C until warmed through and brush with hoisin sauce to glaze.

pork belly1Enjoy!

13 thoughts on “Belly Of the Beast

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