Saturday, June 23, 2007

Roasted Pork Belly, I win!

For the last party we hosted, many things went wrong. I stepped on glass and cut my big toe and in an attempt to keep my oven extremely clean, I removed the door of my oven but I could not put it back. The one thing that went right, and I’m really chuffed about, is the win that I bagged in this head-to-head sio ba (roasted pork belly) competition that I had with my mother.

I was pottering about the kitchen preparing my brine for my pork belly before I headed off to work, when my mother was overseeing the seasoning of her pork belly and explaining that she was going to salt and season hers with five-spiced powder, then freeze it and then toss it in the oven for a good roasting. She then enquired what I was doing with that pot of water I was preparing and then I explained, ‘I making brine for mine to sit in for three days for a good soaking, rinse it off and then toss it in the oven to get super crispy crackling and succulent flesh.’ To which she replied, ‘oh, I think mine will be better.’ I was horrified and wound up by her arrogance, so I challenged her, ‘ok let’s have a sio ba competition!’ ‘Sure, I’m sure I’ll win’ was my mother’s famous last words.

The day before my pork belly came out of the brine, my mother cooked her pork belly, and to be fair, it tasted good but the crackling was not crisp. So after tasting her, I puffed up my chest and said, ‘well, I guess mine is going to be better and my crackling is going to be real crackling.’

On cooking day itself, I removed the belly from the brine, laid it on a bed of diced onions and started it in the oven. As I was clumsily moving around the kitchen, in one smooth turning motion, I have managed to elbow a bottle of vodka off the kitchen island and stepped on the shattered glass. My big toe started bleeding and bleeding and then things started to go horribly wrong. However, even though I was then the walking wounded, I kept my focus, and commanded Mia, who was cooking with me for the night, to check on my pork belly to make sure everything was alright, because I have to win this competition.

My night started to get better when it came out of the oven, it looked beautiful. The pork rind had blistered and was a rich golden brown in colour and it flesh was firm but juicy, and it smelled pretty damn awesome. I sliced my competitor a healthy chunk, hobbled up the stairs and served it with some grace and veiled smugness, and half an hour later, I received a text message on my phone with a short but sharp reply, ‘you win’. I win I win. My crackling was superior but I would admit, my pork belly was a little salty, but it goes down well with drinks, so I can get away with this one this time anyway the bottom line is that mine is better. I won, hurrah!

Brined Pork Belly, Roasted

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*Photo courtesy from Mia

2 kg piece of pork belly, with rinds and bones
2 onions, peeled and chopped
A splash of olive oil
A pinch of coarse sea salt

2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups coarse sea salt
12 juniper berries
12 cloves
12 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
3.8 litres water


1. Start the bring three days before, bring all the brine ingredients together in a pot, and bring to a boil so the sugar and salt melt. Decant into a container and allow to cool, when fully cooled, brine pork belly for 3 days.
2. After 3 days, rinse, then score the rind gently with a sharp knife.
3. Place the onions on the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay the belly on top. Rub the rind with a little oil and then the salt. Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree C for 1.5 to 2 hours; check it from time to time so it does not burn. Finish the belly under the broiler for about 20 minutes.
4. The end product should be a crispy rind on top of soft and giving fatty flesh. Lift off onions and serve.

*Recipe from The Whole Beast: nose to tail eating, by Fergus Henderson


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a terrific story, and the crackling does look very yummy.

3:20 AM  
Blogger EPL said...

Hey,you appear in the Straits Times today!!Interesting read!!

5:09 PM  
Blogger YASPOWER said...

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10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pork belly looks fab!
Interesting read...reminds me of how I compete with my Mum to roast the best turkey every X'mas.
I brine my turkey before roasting :-)

10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have a question... have been dying to try out a pork belly recipe too but have a little trouble sourcing around here since the pork tends to be, for want of a better word, porkier... where would you recommend to go to purchase a whole belly for a similar project?

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't stop drooling at that photo.

2:35 PM  

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