for Jeffrey Ho
This is weak-at-the-knees food for me: absurdly easy to cook, lip-smackingly luscious to eat and, because you can get most of the cooking out of the way well in advance, perfect for carefree entertaining.
While it takes time – and lots of it – to make, your actual hands-on time is miniscule. It happens in three simple stages. First, an overnight brining, then a quick, hot blast in the oven followed by some low-n-slow braising. Finally, you slice it up and serve it however you need.
I serve it most often as chopstickable chunks along with some rice and steamed bok choy, some extra hoisin and Sriracha on the side. It also makes the basis of heavenly burger-style sandwiches, especially on pillowy steamed Chinese mantou buns.
Its real utility is that you can park it in the fridge in for a day between the cooking and the serving. When it’s time to eat it needs nothing more taxing than 15 minutes in the oven to get it on the table; the instructions for doing it this way are included at the end of the recipe.
Pork belly is sometimes sold on a base of rib bones. Ask your butcher to slice them off (I suggest you follow my example and take the ribs home to be tucked in with the rest of the pork as a gorgeous cook’s treat). I allow for 250g (½ pound) pork belly per person in my recipe below. You can start with a larger slab of pork for more people, anything up to about 2kg (4½ pounds), keeping the other quantities the same. As long as you have a roasting tin big enough to accomodate the meat, everything will be fine.
Hoisin and honey pork belly
The low-n-slow way to meltingly good pork belly.
100g (¼ cup) coarse salt
70g (¼ cup) sugar
60ml (¼ cup) hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
5cm (2-inch) piece of ginger, sliced
2 star anise
The next day, take the pork out of its brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Place it in a roasting tin and let it come to room temperature while your oven heats up to 250°C (485°F).
Meanwhile, pour 500ml (2 cups) of recently boiled water from the kettle into a measuring jug. Stir in the hoisin, honey and add the ginger and star anise to let them infuse. Spoon a little of this liquid, just a couple of teaspoons, over the top of the pork and roast it in the hot oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Remove the pork from the oven and turn the temperature down to 160°C (320°F). Pour the remaining hoisin-honey mixture, along with the ginger and star anise, into the tin around the pork. Cover the tin tightly with foil and return to the oven for 2 hours.
Remove the foil – be careful as a lot of steam will have built up beneath it. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let the it rest for 10 minutes, uncovered, before slicing and serving.
Alternatively, you can take the whole piece of pork out and let it cool down completely before wrapping it in foil. Pour the cooking liquid into a covered container and refrigerate both for up to a day.
To serve, set your oven to 200°C. Cut the pork into thick slices. Discard the solid fat from the top of the cooking liquid. Put 4 tablespoons of the jellied cooking liquid on a rimmed baking tray and top with the sliced pork. Heat in the oven for 15 minutes, turning the slices in the cooking liquid just before serving.