Salt-fried pork is like the lazy, gets-away-with-anything-because-he's-so-darn-loveable sibling to twice-cooked pork. Twice-cooked pork is delicate and refined, the pork belly slightly crisp at the edges, the meat tender throughout. Salt-fried pork, on the other hand? Its skin is chewy-crisp, its layer of subcutaneous fat intact enough that each morsel bursts with porky juice. (And did I mention that it comes together in half the time or less you need to prepare twice-cooked pork?)
Now, which would I rather eat? That's a tough call. Both employ pork belly: thinly sliced, and stir-fried with chili bean paste and fermented black beans.
Both are stir-fried with leeks (or green onions, in a pinch.) Both are savory and spicy. (That flavor duo—chili bean paste plus fermented black beans—graces so many of my favorite things: mapo tofu, red-braised beef, and of course, twice-cooked pork, just to name a few.) Twice-cooked pork is perhaps a smidgeon sweeter, containing a sweet bean paste.
The main difference between the two dishes lies in one step, and one step alone. Twice-cooked pork is thusly named because the belly is parboiled before being stir-fried, whereas the cooking for salt-fried pork is done in one fell swoop.
Don't get me wrong—I love twice-cooked pork, the way the slices of pork belly have that melt-in-your-mouth quality due to their being parboiled.
But salt-fried pork is somehow more fun...as in, it's so much fun to chew! This is due mostly to the rind of the belly, which, when sliced as thinly as you can get it, crisps up in the oil, retaining a sort of toothsome texture.
Now how to get your slices that thin? Stick the belly in the freezer for an hour or two, then slice, like so:
Take those extra-thin slices, and stir-fry in the wok until much of the fat has rendered. Then you add, in quick succession: fermented black beans, chili bean paste, soy sauce, sugar. Bada-bing, bada-boom. In ten minutes or under, you've got one of the tastiest pork belly preparations around.
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About the author: Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi Wang currently resides in Manhattan, where she divides her time between writing, cooking, and tracking down the best noodles in the city. Visit her blog, Mostly Tripe.