Alex has been requesting pork belly adobo for some time and tonight we finally got around to making it. I found all sorts of interesting recipes online (including one by Manila Machine that used pineapple chunks that I found on Tastespotting's blog), but opted to just make something up. When we made our chicken adobo we used rice vinegar (in lieu of Filipino cane vinegar which we don't have), so this time I decided to use apple cider vinegar to see how that would change the flavor of the adobo. Next time we will probably use white vinegar. I think the apple cider vinegar made the adobo a little sweeter than it would have been if I had used white or rice vinegar. I also opted to leave out the coconut milk and dried chilies and stick with a straight up pork belly preparation. I think that chicken is often benefited from the addition of spices and other ingredients to impart more flavor, but I think with pork belly you can get away with doing less because the flavor of the pork itself should also shine.
The pork belly was very yummy and crazy flavorful - with a nice sour tang from the vinegar, but some sweetness as well to balance it all out. While you don't have to crisp up the outsides of the pork belly, I tend to like my pork belly with some texture to it beyond the gooey texture of pure fatty goodness. We did it in a cast-iron skillet, but you could also throw the pork pieces under the broiler for a few minutes to achieve the same effect. And if you prefer your pork belly to just be unctuous and delicious, feel free to forgo the crisping process entirely. I think in this dish it would be equally delicious either way.
Recipe after the jump!
Pork Belly Adobo Recipe
1 lb. pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes (ours had been pre-cut by the Asian butcher into 1/2-inch thick slices, but cubes would be better)
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp cane sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar (white vinegar works too)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup scallions, whites and greens, chopped
Place the pork belly, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and cane sugar into a large Dutch oven. Add vinegar and soy sauce. Add water until the pork is almost entirely submerged. Place the pot over high heat, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for one hour.
After one hour, taste the sauce for seasoning–adding more soy sauce as needed, or adding water to dilute vinegar if desired. The sauce should be somewhat tart from the vinegar, but you can adapt it to suit your own palate. Now if you want to crisp up the exterior of your pork belly, which is entirely optional, remove pork belly from the braising liquid onto a paper towel-lined plate. Heat a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp peanut oil. Dry the pork belly off as best you can with paper towels so it doesn't cause the oil to splatter too much. Brown pork belly briefly on all sides to get a nice sear. Once pork belly is browned, remove it to another paper towel-lined plate.
Serve pork belly, drizzled with some of the braising liquid, over steamed white rice. Sprinkle scallions over the top as garnish.