One of my most favourite things to eat is pork belly. Yes, for the crackling but also for its delicious fat marbled meat. David Chang's recipe from the Momofuku book focuses on the meat and is in essence very simple; using just three ingredients skinless pork belly 1.35kg, 45g coarse sea salt, 70g sugar. It's the processes that transform the humble cut adding depth of flavour and with the accompaniments, which do take a little more effort, the dish is now a firm favourite. So here is Pork belly ssäm, ssäm meaning wrapped, here it is wrapped in lettuce leaves, dressed with mustard seed sauce and served with sliced radishes.
Marinate: Firstly find a roasting pan / oven proof cooking vessel that fits the meat nice and snugly, rub the sugar and salt mix all over. Cover with cling film, leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours hours but no more than 24.
Heat on: Preheat the oven to 230˚. Discard any accumulated liquid and put the belly in the oven for 1 hour, basting halfway through. Then reduce heat to 130˚ and cook for another half hour. It should now be a little firm but still a little jiggly! Decant the fat, (cool) and save the fat for cooking and meat jelly for fortifying soups etc.
Wrap: Once meat is cool, wrap it in clingfilm and leave in the fridge to firm up - just so its easier / neater when sliced. Meanwhile scroll down and make accompaniments...
Slice and Finish: After chilling slice into 1cm thick slices. Now you can finish off with the attractive char lines on a barbecue or just on a griddle pan.
Accompaniment 1 + 2 = the Mustard Seed Sauce
1 : Pickled mustard seeds makes 260g:150g yellow mustard seeds, 350ml water, 350ml rice vinegar, 100g sugar, 1 tbsp sea salt, simmer all of these together until seeds are plump. Usually takes 45 mins, constantly stir and add water if it dries out. Keeps in the fridge for months.
2 : Quick pickled cucumbers makes 250g: 1 large cucumber cut into 3mm discs, combine with 1/2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp of sea salt. Let stand for up to 10 mins, adjust seasoning to taste. These are for immediate use.
Combine: (1) 6tbsp pickled mustard seeds, (2) 3 tbsp diced pickled cucumbers, 3 tbsp Dijon mustard,1 tbsp Chinese hot mustard, 3 tbsp mayo (Kewpie recommended), 3 tbsp of thinly sliced spring onions, sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Results: I could gush about this all night long, there is an unexpected depth of flavour, unexpected purely because the meat was only in salt and sugar. The sauce is sharp but mellowed by the creaminess of the mayo, texturally a pleasure to eat and all wrapped up in crunchy lettuce leaves for easy, maximum mouth stuffing! Alternatively I would imagine all of this would be exquisite in a warm baguette, and if you were to have any meat left over (!!) popped in a lazy midweek fried rice would be a happy addition. Don't be put off by the steps, they are all easy and a perfect meat project for a rainy half a day.