I couldn’t tell you the first time I had it, because I don’t remember.
Son’s family eats it, boiled and with a shrimp fish sauce. I’ve learned to love it.
But that pork belly is not this pork belly. No, this is more comparable to the type of pork belly that you get in a hot steaming bowl of green curry ramen, on a dark, cold, rainy night, in the part of Tokyo that tourists don’t often frequent.
Or in the center of a fluffy steamed bun bought at a food stall in the basement of a department store, after spending a day photographing snow monkeys in snowy Nagano.
At least, that’s what I associate it with.
The point is, I discovered in Japan that not only do I like pork belly… when done right, I LOVE it. (After all, it is the same cut of meat that bacon’s made from, so what’s not to love?)
Obviously, I had to learn how to make it someday.
When I saw the recipe in Momofuku (I really cannot rave enough about that book. But I won’t post every recipe from the book here, as much as I want to cook every recipe there… you’re going to have to go out and buy it yourself. ~_^), I knew I had to make it. We went out and got a nice, big, beautiful slab of pork belly just a few days later.
A note: two lbs of pork belly (or three, if you follow the recipe), can look like a lot. But, alas, it shrinks while cooking! So don’t worry that it will be too much. I promise there’s absolutely no way you’ll have any problem finishing it all up. Most definitely not. ^_^
Another note: As is, this is amazingly good. But next time, we’re planning on adding a tablespoon or so of five-spice or togarashi (we haven’t decided which yet) to the sugar/salt rub. We sprinkled some on after the fact, and it adds additional depth to the flavor of the pork belly.
Pork belly, from Momofuku.
(Edit: since posting this recipe, I’ve changed the ratios that I use, so I’ve updated the recipe to reflect that. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup each of sugar and salt. These days I double the sugar, halve the salt (it was WAY too salty), and add the five spice at Son’s request.)
- 2 lbs pork belly, skin removed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 cup salt
- 1 tbsp five spice
- Mix the salt and sugar; rub onto the pork belly. Refrigerate for 6-24 hours, discard any juices.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Roast pork belly in a close-fitting roasting pan for 1 hour, basting with the rendered fat at 30 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to 250°F, cook for about 1 more hour.
- To get clean slices, it’s recommended to refrigerate the meat before slicing it. But if you’re impatient like me, just go for it.
- Enjoy! Best served with a salad or other fresh vegetables, and a starch like rice or bread.