Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Recipe Review: Crispy Pork Belly

from My Vietnamese Kitchen by Uyen Luu

 By: Mr Robot

Give me a new cookery book and odds are the first thing I’ll make will involve pork belly. It’s one of my favourite things in the world anyway, and the prospect of a NEW favourite thing is pretty much irresistable. So it was with Uyen Luu’s My Vietnamese Kitchen – an excellent, stimulating book that’s become something of an obsession lately.

Having spent the customary couple of hours monkeying (point...Oooh...point....Oooh Oooh...point...OoohOoohOooh-pointpointpoint) I trotted down to the butcher. A vast slab of meat, my good man, and don’t even think about scoring it. Pigs away.

The recipe itself is simple but very effective. I’m always up for a new crackling technique, and this one starts with poaching the pork belly for 5 minutes in bicarbed water. Then there’s patting dry and rubbing the skin with a mixture of lime and salt, and then starting the roasting skin-side down before flipping it later.

As I say, that’s a new one on me (it may be tiresomely obvious in the Asian world – I don’t know enough either way) but it works an absolute treat. In fact it’s joined the sainted Kerridge at the top of my What To Do With a Lump of Pig list – no matter what you’re doing with your pork belly, this is a damn good way of roasting it if you want the kind of crackling that makes you weep with joy.

While the lime and salt business is going on skinside, there’s a marinade for the meaty bit – spices, soy, fish sauce etc – that gets half an hour or so. If we had any niggle with the recipe at all it’s that this element got a little lost; certainly you don’t want to overpower the pork but next times I make it (there will be many) I might be inclined to marinate it a bit longer.

Then it’s just served up with some rice noodles and a dipping sauce.

Whatever you do, DO NOT SKIMP ON THE DIPPING SAUCE. Give it at least as much love as the pork itself - as with many of these recipes, it absolutely makes the dish: salty, sour, sweet, punches of chilli and garlic . . . . hard not to dribble just thinking about it.

The rice noodles carry the sauce flavour beautifully, which cuts the fattiness of the pork, while that amazingly crunchy skin gives vigorous counterpoint to splidgy meat and soft noodles. It all goes round and round like circular stairway to heaven.

Overall cooking time is about 2 to 2 ½ hours but actual work time is only about 40 minutes or so. At the end you’ll have one of those dishes that triggers cries of delight at the first taste, and tears of regret at the last. Guaranteed.

If you were hoping to blag a free recipe here you’ll be disappointed – we don’t do that. These cooks need to make a living just like anyone else so if you like the look, buy the book

All images (c) PP Gettins

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