Roasted Pork Belly with Green Papaya Salad

“You had me at hello pork belly”

Edacious One (aka me)

The pork belly pictured above is served with a green papaya salad. Find that recipe here. This post talks about roasting the pork belly.

I don’t often write very much on my blog because I have a hard enough time recording recipes on the fly when I am cooking, and then trying to remember where I scribbled the recipe and then transcribing it onto the blog. But for pork belly. I make an exception.

My favourite cut of any meat is pork belly. I mastered a crispy pork belly long before I started adding salads to my main dishes. I have been using the same recipe for at least 8 years and I am the “on-call” person when friends attempt the dish (A.S. – I am looking at you). The last time I made pork belly, I was in a hurry. I didn’t dry the pork belly overnight in the refrigerator and I cranked up the heat in the oven to decrease the cooking time. The result was a cripsy but slightly dry pork belly.

Without the overnight refrigeration, the pork skin had a difficult time crisping up. I like my pork crackle “shatteringly” crispy and will only remove it from the oven when every single inch has puffed up and charred in some places. I then scrap the blackened bits off and start hacking away at the slab of meat with a cleaver. The overnighter in the fridge aids in drawing moisture away from the skin, allowing it crisp up in the oven with less effort. The same theory applies to chicken, duck, fish and even beef steaks. Moisture on the surface of meat is a no-no if you want crispy skin/ surface. That is why recipes ask you to dab at the meat with a kitchen towel to dry it before searing it on the stove.

Drying out the skin is the first tip. The second is adding some acidity to the skin to help it crisp up. This tip came from my mom who was making pork lardons one day and she added 1 tbsp of vinegar to the wok when the pork lardons were almost done. The lardons stayed crispy for a much longer time compared to the ones she made without vinegar. With that in mind, I set about reinventing my pork belly recipe. My goal was to get a melt in your mouth juicy pork belly with a crust so crispy that you’d want to serve it at your wedding, your child’s wedding, Christmas, Thanksgiving…. I think I’m 80% there.

Crispy Pork Belly

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg pork belly
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp table vinegar

Utensils Required

  • Mortar and Pestle (optional)
  • Aluminium foil
  • Baking tray
  • Pastry brush

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 120C/250F.
  2. Pound the garlic in a mortar and pestle with 1 tbsp of salt until it becomes a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, finely mince the garlic instead.
  3. Score the rind of the pork belly lengthwise every 1 inch if the butcher hasn’t done it for you. This makes slicing the pork much easier when it’s done. If you are handy with a cleaver, you can skip this step. It is near impossible to cut through the pork belly without the rind breaking into shards without using a cleaver.
  4. Dry the pork with a few kitchen towels
  5. Rub the pepper, garlic paste/ mince (and 1 tbsp salt if not already added in step 1) on the underside and sides of the pork belly. Do not put the garlic on the rind.
  6. With clean hands, rub the remaining 1 tbsp of salt on the rind
  7. Cut the onion into 4 large sections of equal thickness (onion ring style). Do not separate the rings in each section.
  8. Prepare a baking tray lined with aluminium foil folded up on 4 sides (you will need to wrap the sides of the pork).
  9. Place the onion ring section on the bottom of the aluminium foil and put the pork belly on top of the onion rings, skin side up.
  10. Bring the sides of the foil together and cover the sides of the pork belly, ensuring it is snug against the pork. Leave the top (rind) totally uncovered.
  11. Put in middle rack of oven for 4 hours.
  12. Brush some vinegar all over the top of the pork rind.
  13. Increase the oven temperature to 220C/430F to roast the pork belly for a further 45mins – 1hour.
  14. The pork belly is done when the rind of the pork belly has puffed up and is crisp throughout.
  15. Rest the pork belly for 10-15mins before cutting.
  16. For the extra mile, you can pan fry the pork on both sides once you have sliced it lengthwise.
  17. Serve it as a single piece like a steak, or chop it up into smaller pieces if it goes into a salad, like the aforementioned papaya salad. Click here for the papaya salad recipe.

Note:
Some parts of the rind may char before other parts of the rind have puffed up and browned. The charred bit can be easily scrapped off with a knife after the pork has rested. It is better to ensure all of the rind has puffed up and browned nicely rather than removing it too early.

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