Monday, January 5, 2009

Five Spice Pork Belly with Steamed Buns

Five Spice Pork Belly
Pork belly has been one of my favorites ever since I was a little girl, way before everyone jumped on the pork belly bandwagon. I can’t imagine a more perfect piece of meat - 2 to 3 inches thick, 50% meat, 50% fat, and rind on top. Effing amazing. Not something I dare to eat everyday but once in a while I treat myself when I go to the Asian supermarket to stock up on groceries.

Last time I tried to roast pork belly, there was a freakish chemical reaction between the wine in the pan and aluminum foil, ruining my pork belly. I never liked chemistry. Who knew the acidity of the wine would dissolve the foil onto the pork? After that tragic incident, I stuck to my usual Shanghai style red braising. But I longed for that crackling crisp rind. This time, I tried slow roasting (with no aluminum foil!), hoping that the gentle heat would slowly render the fat as it essentially confits the meat underneath. The meat was so tender, it was nearly falling apart sitting on the cutting board. Unfortunately, I think I roasted it for too long because the rind became too hard to eat, toothcrackingly hard. Bummer! Next time, I’ll try a different temperature and time.

I thought I was really onto something here serving slices of pork belly like Peking duck with hoisin sauce, cucumber (I skipped the cucumber slices and made a salad with it instead), and sliced green onions, on steamed Chinese buns (toilet seat lid buns because that's what they look like to me. Is that too much info? I'm weird). Apparently, I was not the first person to think of this ingenious dish, one that's very famous in NYC. Well, color me embarrassed...*smacks forehead*

Five Spice Pork Belly

Five Spice Rubbed Pork Belly
serves 6

2 pounds pork belly
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C shao hsing rice wine
3 whole star anise
4 green onions, bottom half (the white part)
5 slices of ginger
1/2 tsp five spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp packed brown sugar

Score the pork belly rind in a diamond pattern.

Cut the green onions in half lengthwise. Smash the ginger with the flat side of your knife. Add the soy sauce, star anise, green onions, and ginger to saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off heat, cover, and let the flavors infuse while the mixture cools. When the soy sauce mixture is cool, add the rice wine. Pour this mixture over the pork belly. Keep the marinating pork belly in a Ziploc bag or a large container in the fridge for 4+ hours, up to overnight, flipping the belly over once.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Mix the five spice, salt, and brown sugar in a bowl.

After marinading, wipe the pork belly dry with a paper towel and rub it with the five spice mixture. Strain the ginger, green onion, and star anise out of the marinade and spread this on the bottom of your roasting dish. Place the pork belly on top and roast at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Turn the heat down to 300 and roast until the skin is crisp, about 1 1/2 hours? (really rough estimate here because I roasted for 2+ and my rind was all hard).

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then slice. Serve over rice, noodles, or with steamed buns with cucumber slices, green onion slivers, and hoisin sauce.

Plain Steamed Buns (a more detailed post about these buns will come later)
3 C all purposed unbleached flour (bleached flour will make whiter buns)
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 C heavy or whipping cream
1/2 C water, more if needed

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, yeast, and baking powder in a large bowl.

Mix the cream and water and heat until the mixture is warm to the touch (around 110 to 115 degrees F) and add to the flour mixture.

Bring the dough together. Turn onto a clean work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and just a little bit sticky, adding more water if necessary. Do not overknead this dough, you just wanted to bring the ingredients together and make a uniform dough.

Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it somewhere warm to rise until doubled, about 2 hours. I usually put the dough in the oven with a bowl of just boiled water on the bottom rack.

When the dough has risen, gently turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and cover one portion. Roll one portion of the dough into a long log. Cut a piece off the log and gently roll it into a long oval. Fold the oval in half (the long way) and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover and set aside to rise again for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours or until the buns have risen more and feel soft and poofy with gently poked. Steam for 10 minutes.


Unknown said...

Wow, this brings back a lot of memories. Great job Amy!

Anonymous said...

Great a couple of hours before dinner and I am drooling over my key board.there's nothing like pork belly and five-spice!

Anonymous said...

I love pork belly, too and this is a great way to cook it. My simplest way cook them is to just rub salt on the belly and grill it. Perfect with rice.

Passionate Eater said...

I read your "toilet" buns recipe multiple times. Praise you Amy for writing up an easy to follow and fun recipe for those buns!

gaga said...

This looks great! It's one of my favorites and yours look delicious!

jomiel said...

The buns are actually "purse buns"--think of the old fashioned purses with the clip on top.

I love these pork buns, especially with salted mustard greens in the pork... mmm


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