Speedy and I had this spicy pork dish for lunch several days ago and I would have posted the recipe right after the meal were it not for my procrastination over choosing a name for it. I didn’t want an overly long name yet I wanted something that would capture its essence. I finally decided on “pork with sambal sauce” which is what it is in simplified form. It is actually crispy pork belly (lechon kawali — yes, the pork skin is a crackling) braised in sambal sauce.
The process of making the dish had me procrastinating even more as I wondered whether to post a separate article about how I turned the pork rind into crackling. I so hate frying because of oil spatters so I’ve been cooking crispy pork belly in the oven for years. Then, I remembered how my father cooked pork adobo. He would cook the pork in vinegar, add oil to the pan, arrange the pork pieces in a single layer with the skin touching the hot oil. He would cover the pan, let the pork skin fry over medium heat until crisp, throw out the oil and add the usual adobo ingredients. The texture was just unbelievable.
With memories of my father’s pork adobo lingering in my mind, I decided to cook this pork with sambal sauce in a similar way.
- about 600 g. of pork belly (bone-in and uncut), boiled in salted water until tender then cooled
- about 4 tbsps. of cooking oil
- 2 tbsps. of finely chopped garlic
- 2 tbsps. of sambal oelek
- 2 tbsps. of fish sauce
- 2 tbsps. of honey
- ¼ c. of bone broth, preferably homemade
- For best results, chill the boiled pork before cutting. The meat helps retain its shape better that way.
- Cut the pork between the bones so that each piece has a bone in it — spare ribs style.
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. If not using a non-stick pan, heat the pan before pouring in the oil — a little trick to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan.
- Pour in the oil and heat it up.
- Now, here’s the part to ensure that the oil doesn’t spatter. Turn off the heat. Arrange the pork pieces in the hot oil, single layer, skin side down. Cover with a heavy lid — something that won’t fly off once the oil starts to spurt. Switch on the stove and set it at medium heat. Cook the pork for about 10 minutes or until the skin is brown and crisp. If you need to check whether the skin has browned, turn off the heat first, wait for the oil to settle down, remove the lid and check. If the skin needs more frying, put the lid back on, switch on the stove again and continue cooking.
- When the pork skin has turned into crackling, you have the option of browning the sides too. After the browning process, pour off the oil.
- Switch on the stove again. Add the garlic and sambal to the pork. Pour in the fish sauce, honey and the broth. Stir.
- Over medium heat, braise the pork just until the sauce thickens and reduces. Turn the pork pieces over halfway through.
- Serve the pork with rice and a side salad (I recommend the Thai cucumber salad). Yes, the pork skin retains its crispness even after the braising process.