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Author Notes: This is my rendition on caramelized pork belly I've had at various Asian restaurants. But the flavor here has more of a Jamaican jerk twist on it's Asian heritage. Coffee, to me, adds a unique flavor profile when using as an ingredient in braising liquids. It's also a delicious ingredient in dry rubs for meat . In this recipe, instead of a rub, I took the dry ingredients and converted them into a jerk-inspired glaze. It's going to be dark, almost sludge-like. But it's tasty. While braising, the key is finding that perfect point during the braise time where the meat retains form so that it can be cubed, yet hasn't quite reached the fall-apart tender stage, so you'll need to be attentive. If, like I did on my first attempt, it reached that fall-apart stage, I just cut it into pieces, skewered it the best I could, glazed and roasted it to bubbly caramelization. The remaining times I got it just right to be able to skewer and grill the pieces. This is a versatile dish. It serves wonderfully as an appetizer/finger food for a gathering. It can also work as an entree served with stir-fried vegetables alongside rice or noodles. Here's some variations: use lamb belly instead of pork belly; in place of Coke or Pepsi, use Dr. Pepper. —Pete
Serves 8-10 (for appetizers)
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless pork belly
- Coarse sea salt
- Chinese 5 spice (enough for rubbing onto meat surface)
- 3 cups cola (or more, depending on pan size)
- 3 cups brewed coffee (preferably dark roast)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 - 2 whole star anise
- 2 cups cola
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey (or agave syrup)
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion (white and green parts)
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
- 1 habanero pepper, coarsely chopped*
- 1 tablespoon or more herb blend (thyme , oregano and rosemary worked for me)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (or parsley)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 tablespoons crushed, dark roast coffee beans, (crushed because they’re easier to strain out afterward)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- * Seed the habanero to make it little milder. Or substitute a milder pepper to suit your taste. Optionally, use ¼ tsp cayenne; or no hot pepper at all.
- The pork belly should be cut into 1 ½ - 2” wide strips. If the pork belly has rind (skin), remove it using a sharp filet knife. With rind side against a cutting board begin to slice the rind away from the belly. With your non-dominant hand, grab hold of the rind and pull while slicing away from you, angling the knife down towards the rind. Continue until rind is removed. You will want to leave behind a layer of fat. You can skip this part and slice the rind off after braising, but why leave behind some great pork skin when you can make chicharones with it!
- Pat dry the pork belly with paper towels. Season the pork belly with coarse sea salt and Chinese 5 spice powder, rubbing it into the meat and fat. Refrigerate, uncovered, for minimum of 2 -3 hours.
- Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Pour 3 cups brewed, dark roast coffee, 3 cups cola, ½ cup brown sugar into a small, shallow roasting pan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 or 2 star anise (optional, you can simply sprinkle some extra Chinese 5 spice into the liquid). Place the pork belly, lean side down, in the pan. The meat should be at least half submerged. Add more cola/coffee if needed. Cover tightly with foil. Beginning at about 2 – 2 ½ hours, check the meat for doneness by poking with a skewer. It should be tender but not quite to fall-apart-tender stage. (You’ll be cubing the meat and grilling it next, you don’t want the meat flaking apart. BUT, if, like me, you went too far, all is not lost, just read on). Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 1 hr.
- Remove the cooled pork from the pan. (Reserve the braising liquid). If not already done, using a small, sharp knife, pare away the rind from the meat, leaving a small layer of fat. Cut the meat into 1 ½ “ to 2” chunks (or some reasonable facsimile thereof) and individually skewer each piece with a short wooden skewer.
- While the meat is cooling, make the glaze: Place the 2 cups cola, ½ cup of the reserved braising liquid, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, and ketchup into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the green onion through allspice, return to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer/barely a slow boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, add the crushed coffee, stir and cook another 10 - 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the solids from the liquid. Wipe out the saucepan of any small pieces. Using a fine strainer, strain the liquid back into the saucepan (this will remove all but the finest of coffee bean pieces). Reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency. Stir in the lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm. (It's going to look like sludge, great tasting, but sludge-looking).
- Brush the marinade onto the individual pork belly chunks, making sure all surfaces are covered.
- Finish it all off by either roasting or grilling: If roasting (especially if the meat is fall-apart tender), heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place the pork chunks on the baking sheet and roast until the surface is caramelized. Brush more marinade on while roasting if needed. Optionally, grill each side until nicely caramelized. Brush more marinade on while grilling if needed.
- Place the finished pork belly chunks on a serving platter and serve with any remaining glaze on the side. If desired, for presentation, you can sprinkle sesame seeds on the meat. Or chopped parsley or cilantro. Or crushed peanuts.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe Made with Coffee