Pork belly is cheap, robust, easy to cook and very tasty, especially when roasted. The thing to realise about this cut is that the point of cooking it has little to do with the meat and everything to do with the skin. Crackling is the real draw here.
To give a roast pork belly an Oriental twist, season a 1kg belly, skin scored by the butcher, with two teaspoons of five spice powder, mixed with a similar amount of salt. Rub the seasoning into the meat, but avoid the skin side – keep this dry and clean, apart from a light sprinkling of plain salt. Let the joint sit in the fridge, uncovered, for at least a couple of hours and preferably overnight so that the skin dries out thoroughly.
To cook, heat the oven to it’s maximum temperature, add the joint on a wire rack over a roasting tin and immediately turn the heat down to about 180c. This initial blast helps the heat to penetrate the meat quickly, and starts to crisp the skin. Roast for about an hour, but check after fifty minutes. The seasoning will make the meat look very dark – don’t worry, it isn’t burning. Check that the skin is suitably crunchy before taking the meat out, and if it isn’t, crank the heat up to 220c and roast for another ten minutes.
When the meat is ready, take it out of the oven and let it rest somewhere warm.
The roast belly is excellent with a quick and simple stir fry. There is nothing difficult here, and you’ve probably made something similar thousands of times already.
Cook some egg noodles in boiling, salted water, whilst stir-frying a chopped red or yellow pepper in a red-hot wok with a little groundnut oil added. Add some broccoli florets, and a chopped garlic clove. Stir until cooked but still crisp.
Add the drained noodles to the wok, along with a few splashes of light soy sauce and mix.
Cut the belly into thick slices, crunching straight through the crackling. If the meat is still on the bone, some careful carving might be needed. Serve a slice of belly pork on top of a pile of noodles, or chop the pork up into bite-size chunks, serve over the noodles and eat with chopsticks.
The pork and five spice powder create a powerful smell that tends to linger in the kitchen for quite a while. For at least a day afterwards, you can pretend you’re in Chinatown.
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