Salty, spicy and highly aromatic, humba is flavored with seasonings and spices that are found in Filipino and Chinese cuisines. There is still an ongoing debate as to the true nationality of the dish.
Some say that humba is the Visayan version of pork adobo. Others claim that it is the local adaptation of the Chinese red-braised pork belly. I don’t know which is more accurate (I tend to side on the second theory) but there is one thing that I am sure of: humba is the better filling for cua pao.
Humba is a braised pork dish. It starts with a slab of pork belly which is patted dry and seared in hot oil. The seared meat is then braised in a mixture of fermented black beans, soy sauce, garlic, shallots, star anise, cinnamon, palm sugar, oregano and pepper. The meat is slow cooked until tender, scooped out of the sauce and allowed to rest. The humba is sliced, the strained and reduced sauce is poured over it and served with rice.
Or you can use humba as filling for cua pao.
Buy manthao from the grocery (or Asian section of the grocery), steam the bread until soft and springy then stuff it with slices of humba, crushed roasted peanuts and sliced scallions.
Whichever way you serve humba, it is delicious.
- 1.2 kilograms slab of pork belly
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons black bean sauce (see notes below)
- 3 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
- 1 whole garlic
- 4 shallots or 2 small onions
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4 tablespoons shaved palm sugar (or substitute brown sugar)
- 1/3 cup rice wine
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 4 cups broth , preferably homemade
- sliced scallions , to garnish
Pat the pork belly dry with paper towels.
Heat the cooking oil in a wide thick-bottomed pan. Lower the pork in the hot oil, skin side down (watch out as the oil will spatter) and cook over high heat until the skin is well browned. Flip the pork belly over and brown the opposite side. Scoop out the pork belly and set aside.
Reheat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the black bean sauce, oregano, garlic, shallots, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns and palm sugar. Pour in the rice wine. Swirl the pan around and allow the mixture to boil for a minute or two (watch carefully to prevent the sugar from burning).
Push the spices and herbs to the sides of the pan. Lower the pork belly carefully back into the pan, skin side up.
Pour in the broth and soy sauce. Bring to the boil, set the heat to low and simmer for an hour. Flip the pork belly over and cook for 45 to 50 minutes. Turn off the heat. Leave the pork to soak in the sauce for another 15 minutes.
Take the pork belly out of the pan and lay on a cutting board. Leave until cool enough to handle. Cut the pork belly into slices (thick or thin, that's up to you) and arrange on a serving plate.
Strain the broth and boil until reduced by half. Taste. Adjust the seasonings, as needed. Pour the sauce over the sliced pork belly.
Serve the humba sprinkled with sliced scallions.
Black bean sauce is available in jars at the Asian section of groceries. If unavailable, use rinsed and ground fermented black beans (tausi).