let's face it...you can't go wrong with Pork Belly.
any way you cook it, it will be delicious...it will be rich...it will be fatty. it will be unctuous and it will be worth every melt in your mouth delicious guilty morsel you find shoveling in your mouth. most likely you will have porcine butter dripping down your chin as you polish off your plate and find yourself wanting more.
i have cooked quite a few pork bellies in the past year and my favorite go-to recipe has been Jamie Oliver's Crispy Skin Roasted Pork Belly. if you have never cooked a belly before i highly suggest giving it a go. Jamie's recipe is too easy not to try.
for a good laugh click HERE for pork belly with "extra bits"...and HERE for a roasted pork belly seared and served with maple dipping sauce
this time i wanted something different.
i wanted that soft pillow-like little nugget of meaty fatty goodness.
BINGO...a slow braise with Asian aromatics.
i was looking for something like a Red Cooking or a Chairman Mao style recipe with that caramel looking glaze, but instead i went for a simple flavorful braise.
BUT...to change things up a bit i decided to add a coca cola. when reduced i think coca cola has a caramel effect....it worked.
did it make a huge difference? i have no idea. i didn't get the "mahogany" glaze, BUT i did succeed in making beautiful little porcine packages swimming in a delicious light, well rounded...almost, dare i say,
UMAMI-ish subtle broth.
for this recipe i combined ingredients and techniques from 2 great bloggers (links below). please check out their blogs and refer to them as i did. being this is the first time i attempted an Asian braise with pork belly, they were quite helpful.
this is what i did for...
ASIAN STYLE BRAISED PORK BELLY with COCA COLA
2.2 lbs pork belly
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 star anise
1/3 cup dry sherry ( you should use Shaoxing wine if possible)
1 1/2 inch(approx.) fat stub of fresh ginger sliced, thick - 5 or 6 slices
5 scallions, cut into 3 inch sticks
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
2 arbol chili, whole...optional
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 cups water
1 can coca cola
boil some water in a stock pot big enough to fit the whole slab of belly. par boil the belly for 3-4 minutes. this removes any impurities that might be lingering. discard the liquid and clean the pot if using the same one for cooking. when cool enough to handle cut into approximate 2 -2 1/2 inch squares. tieing isn't necessary, but it looks cute and it will keep the belly pieces from separating during cooking. tie them tight because they will shrink.
in a pot big enough to hold the pork belly pieces in one layer (i used a 5 1/2 qt. cast iron-enamel) add the brown sugar, cold water, sherry or Shoaxing wine, ginger slices, cinnamon stick, scallions, arbol chilis, soy sauce and coca cola. STIR to combine and add the pork belly pieces, skin side down. at this time i removed about 2 cups of the liquid because you want the liquid to just cover the pork belly. depending on the size pot you choose you will probably need to remove some liquid...save it in case you need to add some back in during cooking. the pork should not be just floating around in the pot. they need to stay skin side down then later skin side up. bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover pan and braise for 30-40 minutes.
after 30-40 minutes, turn the pork skin side up, cover and braise for another 2 - 3 hours. a knife should easily pierce the pork when done.
NOTE...my broth did not reduce to 1/2 as one of the recipes said. i did not get the mahogany color on my pork belly...i was hoping for a deeper thicker braising liquid.
BUT... i did end up with a light, smooth Asian flavored broth that was a lovely compliment to the unctuous fatty pork belly nuggets.
for the broth i used a fat separator, then strained the liquid through cheese cloth...do it twice if necessary for a clean-clear broth. check for seasoning...you might want to add a touch of salt. your looking for savory, but with a touch of sweet.
as shown in the photos...serving it plain and simple with a bit of the braising broth really let the pork belly shine on it's own.