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Asian Braised Pork Belly

April 2, 2009
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porkbellyxtremecloseup2In keeping with what has now become a Sunday tradition (sinful eating) I made bacon for dinner.  Well, to be particular, I made Pork belly for dinner.  Pork belly is essentially uncured bacon.  

Pork belly is a very popular Korean food, traditionally served simply grilled and wrapped in lettuce (with rice, garlic and jalapeno).  I first tried pork belly prepared this way at an authentic Korean restaurant in Vancouver while visiting the in-laws last November.  Like all the Korean food I’ve tried thus far, it was incredibly delicious.  Also, probably the most unhealthy of Korean delicacies.  Korean food is generally healthy with a focus on fresh vegetables, seafood and spice instead of salt and fat for flavor.  

We picked some Pork Belly up at the Galleria Korean grocery store in Thornhill (warning, go with lots of extra patience if you plan to visit this place on a weekend.  Tons of amazing sights and smells to take in but you have to negotiate your way between tight aisles and many busy shoppers) but I imagine most butchers would carry it as it has recently become a popular dish in Western cuisine.

I also wanted to try my hand at braising.  Braising is a method of cooking that involves searing the meat first and then simmering it in liquid at a low heat.  Also, braising is easy as it doesn’t require much attention and is finished (sauce and all) in one pot which means easy clean up! Perfect for a Sunday dinner.

The Autumn 2008 issue of Food and Drink magazine (yes, Food and Drink AGAIN!) has a recipe for Asian Braised Pork Belly that called for most ingredients I always have on hand such as ginger, garlic, soy sauce and rice wine, plus 2 things that I have never purchased before: cardamom pods and star anise.  I found the Cardamom pods in the spice/baking aisle at Loblaws, and the star anise in the dried foods section of the large Chinese grocery store on Gerrard.  The marinade filled the entire house with a heady aroma of sweet ginger and licorice (from the anise).  It was so lovely, but even more tasty.  I served the spoon tender meat atop a steaming scoop of steamed rice, Chinese broccoli and lettuce leaves for wrapping.  

Ingredients

I piece, 2-3 lbs boneless belly pork

Marinade

1/2 cup light soy sauce

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup mirin

1 tbsp sugar

1 cup water

4 slices ginger

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

3 star anise 

6 cardamom pods

Glaze

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1.  Preheat oven to 250 F

2.  Score fat of pork belly with a sharp knife in 1 inch intervals.  Place pork belly in a cold skillet, fat side down, and turn heat to high.  Sear belly for 5 minutes or until browned, pouring off fat as needed.  Flip over and sear for 1 to 2 minutes or until second side is browned.  Remove and place, fat-side up, in an ovenproof casserole.

3.  Combine soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, mirin, sugar, water, ginger, garlic, star anise and cardamom pods in a small bot and bring to boil.  Pour over pork belly.  Liquid should come halfway up pork.  Cover tightly and place in the oven.  Roast for 4 hours, checking occasionally and basting with liquid.  

4.  When pork is very tender and practically falling apart, turn oven up to 500F

5.  Spring top with brown sugar and kosher salt and bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes (watching carefully to avoid burning the top) or until top is golden brown and skin is crisp.  

6.  Remove from oven, place pork on a baking sheet, top with a clean skillet and weigh with cans for about 15 minutes to press out a little fat.  REmvoe weights and leave until cool.  REturn pork to marinade in a casserole and chill until fat congealed.

7.  Remove fat from marinade.  cut pork into pieces or slices or shred it and reheat in cooking marinade before serving.  Pieces can take up to 10 minutes to reheat; slices take only minutes.  Serve with rice or duck pancakes.

Serves 6

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