I-Think-It’s-Asian Porchetta Sandwich

porchetta sandwich featured header

porchetta sandwich featured header

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Jason took a bite and asked me with his very “lardy” mouth, “Why is this Asian?”  Well… I suppose because… “The marinade.”  I answered affirmatively with secretly not-so-affirmative doubts.  I mean can I call it “Asian” because the pork marinade is mainly FISH SAUCE, and that there’s GINGER in the aioli, and that the chili is inspired by a HUNAN dish?  Yes.  Yes, I think I can.  So bear with me.  If there’s any dispute over how I name my articles, please do so kindly remember that I AM a self-proclaimed confused individual.  OR IF I’m just being self-consciously hypersensitive…  In that case, forget what I said and carry on.

Wait, but then again, I’m also very self-consciously aware of the word “porchetta”.  I admit that I maaaaaaaay have used this word because I like the sound of it… but who’s watching!?  TECHNICALLY, “porchetta” is de-boned whole pig being stuffed with herbs, rolled and roasted skin-on.  So I can argue that this is an “express” porchetta.  A quick’n easy version.  A I-have-3-dogs-and-a-house+a-blog-to-run version.  cheater!…Aaarrrgh… even the sound of “quick’n easy” annoys me slightly.  OK OK, I hereby solemnly swear that I will conquer a real (well, at least skin-on) porchetta in the not-so-far-away future just to prove that I can!  Happy, Mandy?

OK, so ALL THAT was me talking to myself really.  I just had a little Gollum moment…  Tell “it” to go away and never come back!

Anyways where was I?  Yeah, porchetta a.k.a roasted pork belly.  MY first impulse to roast a pork belly happened when we were still in New York, and the go-to thing to do in a nothing-to-do weekend was to drive to Mitsuwa, the Japanese supermarket in Edgewater.  There I saw the most sparkly, perfectly square, perfectly 5-layered meat + fat pork belly of the legendary “black pigs”.  I can’t possibly fuck this up.  I mean it CAN’T be fucked up.  A few grains of salt and pepper, thrown in an oven and it shall deliver.  That’s the thing about pork belly.  It has so much fat layered into the meat that it almost cannot be overcooked.  The Americans have just in recent years caught up to this cut of pork that has been popular in the East for the longest time and are wondering where it has been all their lives.  Enjoy, brothers.  Enjoy.

Pork fat in between 2 pieces of bread is already heaven, but let’s talk about the condiments.  What’s a respectable sandwich without some kick-ass condiments right?  I’m not going to include the “ginger aioli” recipe in this story because it’s already posted as a separate recipe.  There’s of course, slight variations in this one from the “basic” aioli so that will be noted in the recipe below.  And this “mashed chili” thing is adapted from a Hunan dish, traditional mashed and eaten with “thousand-year-old eggs”.  If anyone is smart and cool enough to have made the Chili Confit and have a jar of it tucked in somewhere deep in the fridge, feel free to use that instead for an even speedier assembly.

Servings: 3 ~ 4 sandwiches depending on how greedy one gets with the portion of pork belly….

Roasted Pork Belly:

  •  2 pcs of 5″x5″ or 13cm x 13cm pork belly square, with marinade:
    • 1 1/2 tbsp of fish sauce
    • 1 tsp of sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp of cane sugar
    • 1/2 tsp of black and white pepper each
    • 1 cloves of mashed garlic
    • 1 slices of ginger

Ginger Aïoli:

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp of coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp of grated ginger
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp of dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil

Mashed Chili: or replace with Chili Confit

  • 16 long stem green chili
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp of fish sauce
  • 1/4 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil

Quick-Pickled Carrots and Onions:

  • 1 cup of thin-sliced carrots
  • 1 cup of thin-sliced onion
  • 2 tbsp of sushi rice vinegar (or 1 1/2 tbsp of white wine vinegar and 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar)

1 Loaf of Crusty Bread

Some Baby Arugula 

Rub the pork bellies in the marinade and leave’em in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  Then take this time to prep everything else.

To make the ginger aïoli, please refer to the basic aïoli recipe.  The only difference is that when it’s ready to add the lemon juice, also include the grated ginger and Dijon mustard.  Then follow the procedure just like the basic aïoli.

For the mashed chili.  Wash the long stem green chili under water then place them directly on the stove on open flame.  Fire roast the chili while turning them around until the skin is roughly charred but NOT completely burnt.  Cut off the “stem head” of the chili, then chop roughly in big segments.  In a mortar, add the chili, garlic and sea salt.  Start pounding until the chili and garlic is mushed together.  Add the fish sauce, lemon juice and olive oil and stir to combine.  There will be some charred skin but it doesn’t bother me and don’t worry, it won’t taste burnt.  Just some nice “smokiness”.

The quick-pickled carrots and onions is exactly what it sounds.  QUICK.  That’s IF you have Japanese sushi rice vinegar.  It can be found in all major supermarkets or Japanese marts, and has a perfect ratio of vinegar and sugar that produces a foul-proof quick pickle EVERY TIME.  If it’s not available, then mix equal amount of white wine vinegar and sugar for a less fool-proof result.  Peel the carrots and slice it in strips using the peeler, and thinly slice the onions.  Add 2 tbsp of sushi rice vinegar and mix well.  Let it stand for 10 min.

When the pork belly is thoroughly marinated, preheat the oven on medium-broil.  If the oven doesn’t have a broil function then preheat at the highest temperature possible, usually around 500ºF/250ºC.  Place the 2 pieces of porky belly fat-side DOWN FIRST, with 4″/10cm of space in between, on a roasting rack with a pan in the bottom to catch drippings.  Slide into oven on the mid-high level, at 3″~4″ / 8~10cm from the broiler.    In my particular oven, it took about 10 min for the meat-side to get nicely caramelized.  When that happens, turn over the pork belly with the fat-side UP now.  Roast in the oven until the fat-top gets nicely caramelized and slightly charred, and dripping lard and oozing out aromas… Umph!  So that took my oven another 10 min approx.  Every oven is DIFFERENT.  They will deceive you!  So please base the cooking time on the caramelization of the pork.

Let the pork rest on the rack out of the oven for at least 10 min.  Use a scissor to trim off some burnt tips.  After rested, slice them thinly against the grain of the meat.  Drool…  Some juice may run out but just drizzle it back to the pork slices and let the meat soak it back up.  OH boy…

QUICKLY slice the loaf of bread and brush with olive oil.  Toast them in a flat pan (or in the oven) until lightly toasted and crusty.  I personally think that a flat pan produces a better grilled bread than the oven.

Smear the ginger aïoli on one bread (goodness…) and the mashed chili on another (oh man…).  Layer on the pork belly (as much as liked… a lot!), then the pickled carrots and onion, then the arugula.  Top it off and slice it in half!  OH man!  Can’t talk anymore.  Can’t believe I have to take pictures!!  Gotta eat this.  Bye!!!

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