I love a bit of pork belly, but I don’t cook it at home that often. I’m not really sure why, but as soon as I taste that tasty, unctuous meat and get my teeth round that crackling, I vow to do it more often.
This recipe gives the belly the Eastern treatment using Szechuan pepper and Chinese five spice. Despite a lot of the fat rendering out during the cooking process, it’s definitely not the healthiest meat, but when it tastes as good as it does, who gives a toss.
Ingredients (serves 2)
For the pork
750g pork belly joint
1 tablespoon Szechuan pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 teaspoon sea salt
For the greens
200g baby pak choi
1/2 red chilli, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon Light soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
6-8 Spring onions
First up, score the skin of pork belly all over in a diamond formation with as sharp a knife as you’re got. You want to cut through the skin, but not down to the flesh, around 3 millimeters deep.
Put a kettle on to boil, place your belly joint on a wire rack in your sink, and when it’s boiled, pour the water all over the pork’s skin. The skin will contract a bit making the scoring more prominent. Now pat the joint dry and set aside.
Pop a dry frying pan on the heat, and toast off the Szechuan and black pepper corns. When you can smell them, pour them in a pestle and mortar and grind into a powder. Now add the five spice and salt to the mortar and give it another grind to mix everything together.
Flip the belly joint over so it’s skin side down, and then rub the spice mix all over the pork meat. Set aside to marinate somewhere cool for at least 2 hours. You can leave it overnight in a fridge, but make sure the joint is at room temperature and check the skin is still dry before you cook it.
After a couple of hours, set your oven to 200 c and get your pork out. Some moisture will have leeched out of the meat, soaking into the spice rub. This is totally normal, and will help the rub stick. Now get a roasting tray which you can place a wire rack over and place the joint on the rack skin side up. Some of the rub will fall off, don’t worry about that. Now boil a kettle, pour the boiled water into the tray (avoiding getting the meat wet) until it is half full, and then put it in the oven.
Cook the joint for 20 minutes before turning the oven down to 180 and cook for another hour. Whilst the pork is cooking, cut the pack choi lengthways, slice the garlic and chop the clillies.
After an hour, take the pork out of the oven and remove from the rack. Turn the oven up as high as it will go, and then get your frying pan on the heat with a small amount of vegetable oil in it. When it’s good and hot, pop in the joint skin side up. You’re doing this to seal on the remaining spice rub to the bottom of the joint. After a minute, pop the joint back in the oven in the pan for 15 minutes.
Now cook your greens. Get a wok on the heat, add a few drops of sesame oil, a glug of vegetable oil and then fry the garlic and chilli. Before they brown, drop in the greens and stir fry for a couple of minutes, coating the veg with the oil. Then add the light soy sauce, water and cook for another couple of minutes.
You’re now ready to eat. Take the pork out of the oven, pop the greens in a bowl, cut the joint into chunks and serve straight away with steamed white rice.