Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with all kinds of cooking shows: reality cooking shows like Come Dine with Me and competition shows like MasterChef and Chopped to food documentaries and travelogues like Bizarre Foods America. I love them all. In fact, on my bucket list, I would love to host, be a judge and compete on a number of proper food shows.
Anyway, all this preamble is related to this post. I promise.
Ever since I started watching these shows, I have come across variations of crispy succulent pork belly. The quest to achieve that super crispy skin with the juicy layer of meat under the skin has rued many a contestant. I have watched competitors get eliminated for serving less than crispy skin and have seen renowned food critics and Michelin star chefs come to tears and wax lyrical when they are served the 'perfect' pork belly.
I have never had it anywhere but I have been curious. I mean the way pork belly is described, it appears to be food for the gods. So imagine my delight when I went grocery shopping and found a decent piece of pork belly - about 200g for N320. I am sure its been sold in the stores for ages and I never paid attention but this time I had a light bulb moment. I would attempt this much talked about dish.
I remember that it has been said on almost all the shows, that the key to achieving success with pork belly, is time in the oven and simple seasoning. I used a sharp knife and made slits in criss cross lines across the skin and used salt and black pepper generously all over the piece of meat and placed in an oven dish skin side down into a pretty hot oven - about Gas Mark 4 and left it to do its thing for the first 20 minutes.
When I went back to check on it, it was already crisping up. I turned it over for another 20 minutes and then flipped it back skin side down for the last 20 minutes. When it was done, I let it rest for 5 minutes before using a very sharp knife to cut it into pieces.
So verdict: Its crispy that's for sure. The mix of crispy crunchy skin with the melt in your mouth meat is interesting but I found it way too fatty and while it can be addictive, I felt my heart's arteries clogging up. I am disappointed since I simply cannot see the appeal. Now and again sure, but I would not serve this at a dinner party or in a competition for money.
So there - Off my long list of recipes to try. I have an idea I would love to try with pork belly though - stuffed and rolled and sliced - like a roulade. One day.
So crispy crunchy pork belly - its been real.....