Pork Belly is one delicious cut from the underside of a pig. When you purchase pork belly ask the butcher which kind of pig it comes from (yes, there are different types of pigs!). The most preferable type of pig is a Berkshire pig, which are fairly rare. These pigs are said to hold cleaner and more flavourful pork. These pigs also have a higher fat content and marbling which is best for long cooking. There are many components to pork belly, which makes cooking it and consuming it that much better. Pork belly requires a long slow gentle heat to tenderize the meat, melt the fat but also a higher heat to crisp the skin.
The method that was used to cook was to start by simmering the belly in a broth. This broth consisted of many ingredients, which were decided on based on how they could infuse into the pork belly throughout simmering. The ingredients were also based on an Asian flavour since the final product was an Asian dish. The pork belly must simmer in the water rather than boil. This will aid in tenderizing the meat gently rather than cooking it too quickly. I used this recipe: http://www.loudstellar.com/2014/06/chinese-style-crispy-pork-belly/ as a guideline. Once the belly has been simmered and is tender, remove it from the broth and pat it dry. Then score the layer of skin with a sharp knife, but not too deep…just to the top of the fat layer. Sprinkle coarse salt in the cracks of the skin. This salt has a reaction with the fat in the belly and aids in making the skin that much more crispy. It also give it that added saltines. From there, the actual meat of the belly needs to be seasoned and massaged in. Basic ingredients were used which would allow some caramelization and flavour. The Pork belly was cooked in the oven on a high heat at 400 degrees F for about and hour. The skin has a chance to get really crispy and the belly gets a nice coating of chewy meat. Once the meat is done, slice it and serve! OR….. Slice it, sear it. Then make a glaze with the leftover broth and spice rub ingredients. Reduce it down to a glaze consistency (coats the back of a spoon) and enjoy! I selected to both simmer the meat as well as cook at a high temperature because the belly can withstand both of these cooking methods. I added a searing method as well because it would allow for another layer of texture and flavour along with a glaze. I had to consider time as a factor when making this belly. I also wanted to be sure that I could slice it and sear it. An alternative method (when not pressed for time) is to nicely braise the meat. This requires the meat to be seared (for flavour and appearance) then it is cooked in a liquid of choice at a lower temperature for a long period of time. Had I braised the meat for hours, I would have had to wait overnight at least for the belly to hold its shape so it was easily sliceable into nice slabs. Pictured above, seared and glazed. Served on a rice bowl with crispy pork, bok choy, ginger and carrot mushrooms and red peppers.