Bastardized pork belly biriyani
” NO REASON NEEDED, NO APOLOGY GIVEN. “
I’m not religious. I don’t have to explain why there’s pork, or fat-laden pork belly to be exact, in my biriyani.
Some truths hold themselves to be self-evident. Very few gets realized.
I also don’t have to explain this recipe’s utterly impure pedigree, a zig-zagging parentage between Southeast Asian and Indian and even a little of Chinese, making it an indecent, inglorious, bona-fide bastard. Drifted increasingly untethered to any particular nationality or culture, I feel somewhat of a kindred spirit to such mis-bred type, comfortable, reciprocal, defiant even. From one bastard to another, we know what we like, no reason needed, no apology given.
Right is right. Good is good.
- 2.5 lbs (1150 grams) skin-on pork belly, cut into 2 1/2" (6.5 cm) cubes
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 7 medium or 9 small shallots, peeled and finely sliced
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 5~6 long green chilis or jalapeno, optional
- 3 large lemongrass, finely diced
- 2 tbsp chunks of galangal, finely diced
- 1 tbsp chunk of ginger, finely diced
- 3 small shallots, peeled and sliced
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- 7 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 3 tbsp balacan (Malaysian shrimp paste), or Thai shrimp paste
- 3 tbsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tbsp ground fennel
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 can (400 grams) coconut milk
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard
- 2.2 lbs (1 kg) basmati rice
- 15 whole green cardamom
- 12 whole cloves
- 4 Indian bay leaves (tejpata), use fresh bay leaves if unavailable
- 3 star anise
- 2 tsp ground turmeric + 2 tsp water
- Evenly toss the pork belly cubes with soy sauce then set aside (The soy sauce's purpose is more to give the pork belly a beautiful caramel color than to season).
- Cut the shallots into evenly thin slices, which I like to do with a truffle shaver set at the thickest setting, but you can do with a knife. Add the sliced shallots and canola oil in a non-stick pot (the oil may not seem enough but it's enough), then set over medium-high heat. Stir frequently and fry the shallots until all their moisture has been cooked off, and becomes light golden brown in color, about 10~13 min. Drain the shallots through a fine sieve and press on them to extract excess oil, then fluff them up with a fork. The shallots will darken into a golden browned color and crisp up. Set aside and reserve the frying oil. If using green chilis (for people who want spicy smokey bites in their biriyani), brush the shallot oil on the surface of the chilis and blow-torch until lightly charred and blistered all around, set aside.
- MAKE CURRY PASTE: I like to use an immersion blender with a tall container to make the curry paste, which I think produce the finest paste. But if you only have food-processor, you could do that, too. Either way, place the toughest ingredients inside the container first, which will be lemongrass, galangal and ginger. Give it a few run until they are coarsely ground. Then add shallots, bay leaves, garlics, balacan and two tbsp of the shallot frying oil, and continue to run the machine until everything is finely ground to a paste. Combine all the dry ground spices in another small bowl. Set aside.
- MAKE THE BRAISE: In a large dutch oven with a heavy lid (or other large heavy pot you got), heat 1 tbsp of shallot frying oil over medium heat (too high of heat will burn the soy sauce). Drain off excess soy sauce/liquid from the pork belly, then add them to the pot, turning every few minutes until they have given off some of their fat and acquired a caramelized color all around, about 15 min. Remove the pork belly with a slotted spoon and leave the oil. Add the lemongrass-paste and cook until the mixture starts to caramelize a little around the edges/bottom of the pot, about 3~5 min, then add the dry spice-mixture and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the pork belly back in, along with chicken stock, coconut milk, plain yogurt, fish sauce and brown sugar. Stir to mix everything evenly, then once the mixture comes to a simmer, put the lid on and maintain a simmer at low heat and cook for 1:40 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. At the end, the pork should be quite tender and the liquid should have reduced by about 1/4 but not too much. If you have lost more liquid, add a bit more stock. And please don't skim off the fat on the surface which is going to give a lot of flavor to the rice. Stir in the yellow mustard at the end.
- ADD RICE: At this point, bring another large pot of water to boil and add a hefty pinch of salt as if cooking pasta. Once the water boils, add the basmati rice, green cardamom, cloves, Indian bay leaves and star anise. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain everything through a large sieve.
- Use a large spoon and start distributing the boiled rice (keep all the whole spices) evenly into the pork belly pot. The goal is to have an evenly thick layer of rice across the plain. Halfway through, scatter the charred green chilis around, then top with the rest of the rice. Then spoon the turmeric-water in random spots on the top surface, and scatter 1/2 the fried shallots on top. Put the lid back on and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 25 min, turn off heat, and let side undisturbed for another 10 min.
- To serve, use a large spoon to flip the sauce-soaked rice from the bottom of the pot to be mixed with the lightly spiced and white, yellow rice on the top. This biriyani is great to serve immediately but even better the next day reheated in the microwave.