Basil, Carrot, Garlic
Pork belly is used frequently in Taiwanese cooking, but it is mostly served in stews. Although delicious when prepared in stews, I often crave the texture of crispy pork belly that can only be attained through searing or frying. For this dish, I decided to braise the pork belly first and quickly fry it before serving. The skin becomes crisp and chewy while the meat is meltingly tender. I served the pork with the carrots and garlic reserved from the braise and garnished the plates with fresh basil leaves.
The pork belly needs to be seasoned several hours before cooking, but it’s even better if seasoned with the rub the day before. The braised meat needs to chill overnight, so if possible, begin this recipe at least two days before serving.
2 Tbl freshly ground white pepper
2 Tbl freshly ground cumin
2 Tbl chili powder
2 Tbl Chinese five-spice powder
2 Tbl dried oregano
2 Tbl Old Bay Seasoning
2 Tbl Szechuan peppercorns
2 cups soy sauce
4 cups water
1 cup Chinese cooking wine
Recommended brand: Pearl River Bridge
1 cup brown sugar
5 star anise pods
3 bay leaves
1 Tbl cumin seeds
2 lb. pork belly, skin on
6 large carrots, medium dice
12 garlic cloves, peeled
6 large scallions, coarsely chopped
4 quarter size slices ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
Canola or peanut oil for frying
18 fresh basil leaves
Generously season pork belly on all sides with the rub at least six hours before cooking. Refrigerate.
Sear the pork belly over high heat, skin side down, until the fat is rendered. If possible, do this outside in a cast-iron pan on a grill because it generates a lot of smoke.
Add the carrots and four cloves of garlic to the pan with the pork belly, turning them around in the fat, for 10 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables to a sheet pan and finish in a 300° F oven until soft and golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
Move the pork belly to a deep pan and pour in enough braising liquid to completely cover the meat.
Add scallions, ginger, and remaining garlic to pan. Cover and braise in 350° F oven for approximately 4 hours, until meat is very tender.
Remove the pork belly from the pan and strain the braising sauce into a container. Chill the meat and the braising liquid separately overnight.
Lift off excess fat from the braising sauce. Don’t throw out this extra fat. It is delicious and can be used in future dishes. Any leftover braising liquid not used can be boiled, chilled, and saved in the freezer to be added to future braises.
Time of Service
Cut pork belly into 18 cubes.
Purée the carrot and 4 cloves of the garlic together. Warm the purée.
Warm the braising liquid. Adjust the seasoning.
Heat oil in a wok or deep saucepan to 375º F and fry the pork belly cubes until the skin is crispy.
Serve pork belly slices on top of the carrot-garlic purée.
Drizzle braising liquid over the plate and decorate each pork slice with a basil leaf.