Monday, September 11, 2006

Pork Belly Futures

Pigs are smart, useful creatures, that also happen to be very tasty. Why pig meat is called pork is one of those questions that make you go hmmm. I once traumatised a friend by reading out loud the English part of a label from a tin of Greek Spam, "Pork Meat... Pork Meat... Pork Meat?!?". I just thought it sounded hysterically funny, but he thought I was being religious and hinting that it wasn't kosher - me, worry about kosher???? Not on your nelly! The question that leads on from this is "what the heck are pork belly futures"? Why are they always quoted on the stock exchanges through the world (except for certain obvious countries). Why should I care? All I know is they are incredibly rich and yummy and that's what I had for dinner last night.

Saturday's mission was to prepare the little bit of pork belly that I bought at Russian Store in the Carmel Market. It was still a bit bristly, so I turned on the gas and singed the skin really well - there is nothing worse than pork bristles - they are even worse than chicken feathers - yuck. Then it was rub-the-tummy time - scrubbing brush and knife under lots of running water - to get rid of any burnt bits of hair and icky stuff. Once that was done it was put, skin side down, into a pot of cold water that had star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, whole dried bird chilis, and a piece of kombu. I slowly heated this up until it was barely simmering, never letting it come to a boil, and skimming as needed. This sat on the stove for about 2 hours, then I flipped it over and cooked it for another hour until it was tender and almost, but not quite, falling apart.

I drained it, scored the fat, and put it into the oven for about an hour, basting occassionaly with the stock. For the last 15 minutes I left it alone and let the crackling get so crispy that the first test piece I took actually shattered when I dropped it. I let this cool off, and put it in the fridge overnight.

Sunday I came home after work and put it skin side down again (missing a big chunk of the crackling that I couldn't resist the night before) into a dry frying pan and started to heat it up slowly, letting the skin ooze more fat and get crispy again. While that was frying I made a sauce/marinade of garlic, nuoc mam, light and dark soy sauce, sugar, sriracha sauce, crushed dried chilis and some of the leftover cooking liquor. I then poured this over the belly, put a lid on the pan and let it simmer away until the sauce had almost completely evaporated. I flipped it over, added a bit more liquor and reduced this down again.

Waiting for the pork to finish and the sauce to reduce, I made some quinoa to which I added a chopped up dried Persian lime. By the time that was ready so was the tummy, both the pigs and mine. I took out the belly and let it rest while I chopped up some Thai basil and added it to the reduced sauce, loosening it up with a bit more liquor. Served with a green salad, this was a very tasty dinner and I am glad to have leftovers.

Desert was the kobo I got at the market on Friday, a dragon fruit relative and part of the cactus family. The flavour is almost perfumy, but not cloying or too sweet, more intense than a normal pitaya. The texture is a shattery crunch that was kind-of like eating wet sugar crystals or a slushy, but pleasantly so. Exept for the green salad this was an exotic and Far Eastern dinner and actually tasted more "real" than most of the Thai or Chinese meals I have had in restaurants here.

No comments: