There was much mirth and leg pulling today on twitter after I first tweeted about the Bombay toast sandwich and then about a planned trip to lose my, vegetarian restaurant icon, Swati Snacks virginity.
“Finely Chopped’s gone veg” went the chant. A bit like a group of kindergarten kids taunting…”Barnie’s got a girlfriend’ and all.
So this post had to be written. Just to get in touch with my carnivorous side.
The story of finally cracking pork belly this weekend.
Just as Professor Higgins needed Pygmalion, a good cut of pork is my muse in the kitchen. Perfecting the belly in a manner which I am sure would make a Hainanese granny approve made me smile.
I had picked up a slab of pork belly from Meghna Agro for a press shoot. But then I was reminded that we don’t talk of politically incorrect meat on Indian media. I put the pork in the cold storage and tandoori’d some chicken leg instead for the shoot.
Thankfully, as Kunal Vijaykar told me on the topic, ‘you bloggers are lucky’.
So while it’s legal here’s the recipe of what I did with the pork belly.
The recipe was inspired by a food truck programme that I saw on Fox Traveller. Food trucks are the current food craze in the US from what I believe. And this was a truck that served pork belly sandwiches.
The cooking style is based on what I remember what I saw there. The recipe is exceedingly easy. Triple cooked as they say in the trade. In this case…1. Braise 2. Roast 3. Stir fry.
Though you could have left it after stage two. The pork was ready to eat & quite char suey’ish in form and texture at this stage itself.
This was also the first time that I cooked an entire slab of belly and then cut it. Before this I’d get the butcher to cut it and then come back and cook the cut pieces. At the end the ease with which I cut the belly using the cleaver I bought at Chiang Mai was so self satisfying.
Here’s the recipe:
Triple cooked soy chilli pork
- 500 g pork belly
- Marinate…this is what I used…there’s no fixed formula… 5 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice powder (use pepper otherwise), 4 star anise, 3 tablespoons any Chinese chilli sauce, 1 tablespoon Thai chilli paste (optional…if you don’t have you could use a bit more of honey)
Step 1.0 Prep
- Score the skin (slash with a knife…go for a diamond pattern)
- Marinade the pork in the sauce for at least two hours. More the better
Step 1.1 Braise
- Heat a flat pan
- Lift the belly from the marinade and place it on the pan.
- Wait till you hear a sizzle
- Turn the slab around and put it on the pan till you hear it sizzle.
- Repeat once
- The idea behind this is to seal in the sauces into the meat
Step 1.2 Roast
- Place the belly on a baking tray. Skin facing the top
- Add the rest of the marinade and brush some extra marinade on the top surface. You can add a bit more of the sauce. You don’t need salt with the soy sauce there
- Cover with a baking foil and put into an oven preheated for 10 min
- Roast (heat on both sides) for 20 min at 200 C
- Take the tray out and remove the foil
- Put it back in for another 10 minutes at 200 C
- Change the controls to grill (heat from top), apply some of the marinade on the surface. This is called feeding the meat.
- Keep it in for another 5 minutes at 200 C.
- Once done take out the meat and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. This lets the juices flow evenly inside and allows the blood to settle
- After 10-15 minutes cut the belly into cubes along the lines which you had scored
I looked with awe as the cleaver went in cleanly through the meat and the cherubic pieces of pork smiled at me. It was such a sense of triumph to see the pork cook so perfectly.
The Pune Warrior Vs Delhi IPL match was going on on TV while I cooked. Dada had just taken a wicket on the first ball and was celebrating in a manner reminiscent of Shoaib Akhtar meets Lillee.
I could have done that after I cut the pork.
I was as thrilled.
Frankly the meat was ready to eat at the point with a char siew or siew yoke like consistency.
You could serve it as a starter. Can put in to roast when guests arrive. Get the roast to table and carve it with fanfare. You could have it with steamed rice and chilli sauce as the Chinese of Malaysia and Singapore would.
However I did not leave the pork at that and moved into step 3 as I had planned to triple cook and not double cook it. The plan was to add bokchoy as friend and reader Chef Kunal Dhume of Melbourne once suggested. Plus chillies. And sprouts. The latter a touch I picked up at Penang and Chiangmai.
Don’t tell the vegetarian brigade this, they will get encouraged, but I actually like a crunch of greens adding a spring to the doughty bouts of meat when it comes to pork these days.
Step 1.3 Stir fry (optional)
Ingredients: 1 stalk bokchoy shredded. 4 chopped chillies – red & green. 1 cup bean sprouts
The pork is actually cooked so you don’t want to cook it too much. More like adding a seasoning of greens and chillies at this stage.
- Heat a teaspoon of cooking oil in a wok
- Add 1 stalk of shredded bokchoy & the chillies and toss. Don’t bother if you think the oil is not enough. There is enough fat in the meat which will come into play
- Add in the remaining marinade or jus of the pork
- Add the pork cubes
- Stir for 2 minutes
- Top with bean sprouts. The dish is done
You could have this with steamed rice. That’s how they have it in the Malay peninsula. Or whip a quick bacon fried rice like I did that night. Took 5 minutes. Here’s the recipe
Bacon fried rice
Ingredients: Boiled rice, 1 egg, 200 g bacon bits, garlic, soy & chilli sauce, vinegar – 1 tablespoon each, some greens
- Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok
- Add some chopped garlic
- Add a tablespoon each of soy and chilli sauces
- Break in an egg and beat it with a ladle till the egg scrambles
- Add chopped bacon. 200 g for 2 is good
- Stir a bit. Add the rice
- Add some salt, vinegar. Stir
- Add some greens. I added bokchoy.
- Stir. you are done
And here are the tweets that led to this post :) :