Spicy Pork Belly

Oh god. OH dear god. Oh oh lord.

It’s taken a while to get used to being back in Pensacola…the land of Walmart’s and rednecks. We went to New Orleans last weekend for Halloween and dressed up as Walter and Lebowski from…well The Big Lebowski. Man, New Orleans is a weird place. This was our 4th (maybe 5th?) time there and it just gets weirder every time. We saw all sorts of costumes…mostly Wayne’s World, Dexter, and some woman who was completely naked but painted…so that apparently made it ok.

I love  Sundays. It’s the day of actual rest after my Saturday, which usually consists of heavy sleeping and napping. Trying to teach students how fractions, coordinates, variables, decimals, etc., is exhausting…it’s also my recharge day of everything. I have time to cook and time to realize that my job is far better than sitting in a cubicle working for a boss.

Today we did our crazy day of shopping and boy, was it a successful one. While meandering Publix (supermarket of Florida), we stumbled upon the pork section. And we saw it. We saw pork belly and all of a sudden, the rest of the market or world didn’t exist. I did my quick ocular pat down of the sliced pork belly: did it have white fat? was it nice and pink? how thick is it? 3 out of the 5 packages passed the test and now, it will end up in our bellies in a matter of hours.

Be very careful when buying your pork. I have seen terrible quality packages of pork belly before: yellow fat, discolored flesh, too much fat. You want the fat to be really white, flesh to be super pink, and a nice layering of fat versus flesh.

Pork belly is truly an underrated cut of meat. Yes, I know, bacon is pork belly, and yes bacon is amazing. But there’s a lot more to pork belly than just bacon. In Korea, pork belly is barbequed over hot coals and the results are always mind blowing. The fat itself is like pork butter. The meat is just…delectable. Ok, now I’m 2 beers in and I’m going to talk forever. Pork belly is really special. If it’s prepared correctly, it is insanely flavorful and addicting. The fat, the meat, the flavors, are irresistible. Pork belly is so good that it’s great by just dipping it in salt and pepper.

There’s two ways I prefer to eat my pork belly: marinated and un-marinated dipped in sesame oil, pepper, and salt. The marinated version is to die for: the combination of red chili paste, brown sugar, garlic, and sesame oil searing over hot coals is mouthwatering. I prefer to cook my pork belly very thoroughly for a couple reasons. First, my stomach can’t handle a whole ton of pork fat so I try to render it out as much as possible. Second, allowing the pork belly to cook longer allows all the flavors to really caramelize and also creates a really nice texture in the pork belly.
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If you look in the photo above, I intended to make another marinade consisting of miso and rice wine vinegar with the pork belly. Then I remembered “Portion control” and decided not to make even more pork belly. But, if you have enough eaters and pork belly, try the miso version out as well.

Another underrated and also relatively unknown ingredient that I think should be used more often is the Korean chili paste. Fermented, spicy, sweet, and tangy, it adds loads of flavor to anything. I always add it to my barbeque, whether it’s pulled pork or ribs. The spiciness is subtle but packed with flavor from the fermentation of the paste. If you haven’t tried it yet, do it now. You will never live without it ever again.

If you can find this cut of pork, PLEASE try this. You won’t regret it. If you can’t find pork belly, I would definitely substitute any cut of pork with a bit of fat in it. And please try Korean chili paste. If you haven’t had an extensive experience with Korean food, this is the place to start.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 pound of sliced pork belly (I used strips that were about 1/2″ thick)
1/2 cup Korean red chili paste
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, diced finely

1. Place your pork belly into a large mixing bowl. If you bought really long strips, I would suggest cutting them in half. Ours were only about 6 inches long.
2. Add in remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly until each piece of pork belly is coated.
3. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.
4. Grill thoroughly until most of the fat has dripped off. However, it is entirely up to your preference in how well done you want your pork.

Serve with rice and kimchi. Enjoy!

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