Pork belly has been enjoying its 15 minutes of fame for the last, what, 7 years or so? And no wonder: pork fat tastes good, and as every bacon-lover knows, pork belly is wonderfully fatty. This recipe, from Tom Mylan's The Meat Hook Meat Book, couldn't be easier, and lands you with luscious, wobbly, sweet-and-savory hunks of pork that are as good as any in Chinatown.
Mylan stresses that his version of Chinese barbecue is not true char-siu, usually made with pork shoulder and grilled or roasted. Instead, he throws strips of belly in the oven in a bath of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and aromatics, and lets them simmer in the marinade and their own rendering fat until tender and glazed. The soy, garlic, ginger, and star anise infuse the pork with distinctly char-siu-like flavor (and your house will smell amazing). Mylan uses hotdog buns as a low-brow, 5-second stand-in for Chinese steamed buns; smeared with hoisin and sprinkled with cilantro and scallions, these speak to the best of the street food/pork belly craze.
Why I picked this recipe: Oh, come on: I'm going to turn the page on glazed pork belly?
What worked: Besides the simplicity and general deliciousness, I love that the one small act of butchery involved—slicing the pork belly—was described in such a way that really did make it easier. He instructed to use long, even strokes without too much pressure, and the meat gave way effortlessly.
What didn't: In order to get the marinade reduced to anything resembling a glaze, I had to cook it for 1 1/2 hours beyond the suggested cooking time. I used a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, and perhaps a larger, shallower pan would have helped the liquid reduce more quickly (he just calls for a square cake pan or the like). It was worth the wait, but be sure to allot more time than you think you need.
Suggested tweaks: Not a tweak, but it's worth noting that this pork belly makes an appearance in the sure-to-kill ramen recipe in the book, as well.
Excerpted from The Meat Hook Meat Book by Tom Mylan (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell. Illustrations by Kate Bonner.
- Yield:Serves 3 or 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:3 hours
- 2 pounds fresh pork belly
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup light soy sauce
- Four 1/2-inch-thick slices fresh ginger (unpeeled
- 4 dried chiles de árbol
- 3 black peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 package hot dog buns
- Hoisin sauce
- Chile sauce
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Start by taking your chunk of pork belly and, using a long chef’s knife or the equivalent, slice it into 1-inch-thick slices as evenly as you can. Use long even strokes and don’t press down on the knife—allow the edge to do the work for you: this may take slightly longer, but the cuts will be much more even.
In a medium bowl, combine the water, red wine vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, chiles, peppercorns, star anise, and garlic.
Put the pork belly slices in a square cake pan or the like, pour the marinade over them, and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour. Then remove the foil and raise the temperature of the oven to 350°F. Cook for about another 40 minutes, giving everything a stir every 8 to 10 minutes or so. What you’re doing here is rendering the fat and softening up the pork belly in the first hour, then reducing the braising liquid so it glazes the pork slices and turns them a groovy reddish color at the end. Continue to cook and stir until the pork has the reddish color you’re after.
Remove the pieces of pork belly using a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon and place them directly into your waiting hot dog buns. Garnish with hoisin and chile sauce, scallions, and cilantro. Eat immediately, over the sink or trash can (no plates or napkins).