Not my own personal pork belly. That seems to be a lost cause. But I did have pretty good luck celebrating the Year of the Pig last week with the kind that comes from the underside of a hog.
"Stein, it's been a very long time since I've seen you so excited about a recipe," Nancy Leson said. And I was. My usual random food surfing had brought me to a site I'd not seen before. Woks of Life. "Sounds like a soap opera," Nancy cracked. But it was there I found the recipe for larou, Chinese cured pork belly, that would take me over a week to complete.
First the marinade: Ginger, bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar and the Chinese liquor, baijiu. I couldn't find any baijiu, though later Nance told me she has five bottles of it. (Five!?!) I just threw in a few shots of Old Overholt whiskey and called it a day.
Well, three days, actually. That's how long the pork belly strips soaked. Judy, from Woks of Life, says to then hang them up to air dry at 50-55°, but I felt better just keeping them in the fridge. I laid them out on a rack and left them in for the next five days, turning them over daily. Here's her full recipe.
I wanted this stuff for a sand pot rice dish, Hong Kong Style Clay Pot Rice, also on WoL. I've had a Chinese clay or "sand" stovetop cooking pot for years, but have never used it. I had some vague idea that it was supposed to be soaked before using. But of the sources I checked, some said for 24 hours, others two hours, and down to 30 minutes. Naturally, I checked with Nancy. She told me that Barbara Tropp, in her “The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking,” basically says don’t bother. I did anyway, and soaked it for 24 hours. The pot didn’t shatter and the results were very tasty.
But I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have tasted just as good steamed off in a rice cooker. Nancy and Barbara Tropp disagree.
Tip: If you do try this, remember to cut the pork belly strips with the grain. That way, when you slice the finished product crosswise you'll be cutting against the grain for max tenderness.
"Pork is my friend." –Tom Douglas