Cooking pork belly is pretty joyous. To think, if it wasn’t for Momofuku, I might not have ever discovered the joys of cooking pork belly at home. I don’t know any other food that can make me sigh the way deliciously cooked pork belly does.
The Pork Belly Ssäm definitely fell into the sigh, so good category. A crispy grilled exterior gives way to a fatty, melty, meaty interior. Take a piece and wrap it up in butter lettuce, add a smear of tangy, fresh, slightly spicy mustard seed sauce, and you’re in pork belly heaven.
Pork Belly Ssäm is probably the easiest of the ssäms: no ghetto sous vide, no 6 hour roast, no sausage making. A slab of pork belly is dressed with Chang’s favourite sugar-salt rub, left in the fridge overnight then roasted in the oven before grilling.
I always rinse off the salt and sugar just because I tend to find the meat salty if I don’t. I also don’t roast the way Chang suggests. Instead I roast the belly covered (with parchment paper) at 250˚F for an hour, then uncovered at 350˚F for about half an hour, or until the top gets nice and golden brown.
After the belly’s been roasted, you need to put it in the fridge to chill it before slicing. You can slice without chilling, it just won’t be super-pretty. I was hungry, so I put the belly in the freezer, which firmed it up fast.
Then, just fire up your grill, or your grill pan, which is what I did. I love my grill pan. This is the first time I’ve used it, but I know we’re going to be good friends. I rescued it from my in-laws, who bought it some time ago just to make homemade naan. They made the naan once, and the pan has been languishing in their cupboards ever since. I should invite them over for some homemade naan soon as a thank you for the pan.
My in-laws are hilarious, they get obsessed with a certain kind of food and eat it over and over and over again (ok, admission: I’m exactly the same way). Currently they’re obsessed with naan; they eat it daily.
If naan is their current obsession, mine would be cross-hatched pork belly. This is first time I’ve made crosshatch grill marks! I need to practice though: mine came out a little funny. Luckily, I’m pretty sure you can cross-hatch anything, so I should have plenty to practice on.
The cross-hatched belly is served with mustard seed sauce, which is made from pickled mustard seeds, dijon, Kewpie mayonnaise, green onions, and diced pickled cucumbers. I was a little wary of it, just because the pickled mustard seeds tasted a little funky on their own, but once they were in the sauce, they were great: kind of like little mustard poppy seeds. I happen to love whole grain mustard, and this sauce is like a fresh version.
This was a delicious dish to herald in Spring, because it reminded me of sunny days, barbecues and Summer; that’s my favourite thing about Spring, the fact that it leads right into Summer. I can’t wait until I can pack up the barbecue, head down to the beach and eat Pork Belly Ssäm outside.