I confess, I am always attracted to a good-looking slab of pork belly. At the supermarket I will ask the guy behind the counter to hold up the slab for me so that I can scrutinize it from every angle. I look for a nice layering of meat and fat, as well as a fresh pinkness. The most attractive slab comes home with me.
For this recipe, choose a solid, thick slab of pork belly with meat and fat evenly matched. Use a belly cut that has been trimmed of ribs, the one that’s usually turned into bacon. The cloves and star anise will give it a savory, oriental flavor. The aroma of braising pork will fill your kitchen with a fantastic smell.
1 kilo pork belly slab
Rock salt (for cleaning the belly)
4 large cloves of garlic
Thumb sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced into medallions
6 pcs. cloves
1 inch piece of cassia or cinnamon bark
2 pcs. star anise
Fresh cracked black pepper
Pinch of chilli flakes, to taste
2 Tbsps. Shiaoxing wine
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup Kikkoman soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup water
Wash the pork belly well under running water. Take a handful of rock salt and rub it on the skin to slough off any impurities. Wash the pork belly again and then dry with paper towels, set aside.
In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients except the water and cooking oil. Place the pork belly into the bowl and coat all sides with the marinade. Let the pork belly marinate for at least 30 minutes.
In a deep pot, heat up some cooking oil, just enough to sear the pork belly. Brown the pork belly on each side, turning over to make sure all sides are seared. Put the pork belly skin side up and then pour over the marinade and 1 cup of water. Turn up the heat to high until the liquid is briskly boiling, then turn to lowest setting. Cover the pot and let simmer for 2.5 hours.
Half way through the cooking, turn the pork over, skin side down. Make sure there is enough liquid remaining so that the pork is not scorched. In the last 5 minutes, turnover pork so that it is skin side up, braise with the remaining liquid. At this point, the pork will have turned red from the braising liquid, and the resulting sauce will be thick and syrupy.
Remove the braised pork belly and transfer to a serving plate, slice into half inch squares. Spoon over the remaining sauce.