You read that right. Pork belly banh mi. I first had a banh mi taco at the Peached Torilla taco truck. Holy crap. So succulent, so moist, so so good. I have to get it every time I go. So that got me thinking: how can I make this at home?
Me and Google? Tight, yo. Even after they changed how you search. I found this recipe from White On Rice Couple. They do a lot of food photography and have plenty of delicious recipes. Now that I have the recipe, how do I get a damn pork belly? Many searches for “pork belly austin” got me such responses as “You have to buy an entire one and talk to a butcher.” and “good luck, I had to order mine online.” Well, crap. Then a random post on facebook (ugh) lead me to The Meat House.
The Meat House has all kinds of meat, fresh and frozen (elk? yup. lamb? yup. ostrich? you betcha). And in one of the freezers was a nice one pound pork belly slab. Oh my yes. I picked out a $10 slab and it sat in my freezer for weeks. Finally, I decided to dig out this recipe and give it a try.
Braised Caramel Pork Belly Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe
Trust me. You want this.
1/2 pound Carrots
1/2 pound Daikon
4 tablespoons Vinegar (white or rice wine)
3 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Salt
4 cups Warm Water
Cut a carrot and a daikon radish into thin strips, kind of like match sticks. Mix salt, sugar, water, vinegar until everything is dissolved.
Put the sliced (julienned!) veggies into a sterile jar and pour the liquid on top.
Let sit for 3 days or as long as you can stand. I let mine sit for as long as it took for the pork belly to cook. With strips this thin, they should be “acceptable” pickles in a short time. Obviously the longer they sit, the better they are.
Note: There was no way I was going to julienne a pound of carrot and daikon for a couple of sandwiches. I cut at most half a cup total, then eyeballed the brine.They turned out fine. I was looking for a pickle taste and a crunch. I got it. Hooray for winging it!
3 Tbs sugar (edit: I used 2 Tbs or sugar and a tablespoon of local honey)
2 Tbs warm water
Add sugar and water to heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook on medium heat until it turns a golden brown.
DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED. It will go from nice golden brown syrup to horrible burned sugar in a split second. As soon as the mixture turns to a medium golden brown, immediately remove pan from heat.
If the mixture is still too thick (remember, you’re not making candy, you’re making a syrup), SLOWLY and CAREFULLY add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes more watery consistency. Adding water will make it bubble and splatter. That crap hurts. Quickly mix with a wooden spoon so that there are no hard lumps. When finished, set aside. When I was ready to add the caramel sauce, I had semi soft candy. Sigh. If this happens to you, add a little water and heat until all is melted again.
Now on to the meat!
2 lbs cubed pork belly (about 1 inch cubes)
2 large shallots, minced (about 3-4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoons oil or butter. I like butter.
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
about 1 or 1.5 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Melt butter/heat oil in a medium to large saucepan or large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for about a minute. Add garlic and cook until both are fragrant and translucent.
Add the precious, precious pork belly. Cook for 10 minutes or until all edges are seared and browned. At this point, it should smell AWESOME.
Add fish sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point, it should go from AWESOME to OH MY DEAR GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL??? That’s the fish sauce. Which is salt, water and anchovy. Yup. Cost? About a buck thirty-nine at the local Asian market for a 24 ounce bottle. Now it is possible that I got some horrible brand (they had a bottle for $8. Sorry, but $1.39 beats $8). But they all had the same ingredients. Anyway….
Add enough water to cover the belly. Add peppercorns and cook on low for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add caramel sauce and continue cooking on low (this is called braising!) for 45 minutes to an hour. Open doors and windows to get that garlic fish sauce smell out. Stir occasionally.
How to put your sandwiches together:
Baguette (Vietnamese if you can get it, regular french if you can’t. I was told that in a pinch a Mexican bolillo roll or ciabatta roll will work)
Pork liver pate
Slice the roll/baguette lengthwise and add your fixins. I added some avocado because I had one about to go bad. This…oh this tasted so good.
Things I learned:
- My belly was too fat (pork belly!). Need to find one with more meat. Guess where I can find that? The Asian market. As I was looking for fish sauce, I wandered around the meat section. They had pre-sliced belly that was much more lean. It’s possible they had a slab as well, but I didn’t look. I really like the cubed style. But if I can get more meat for my money, then I’m all there.
- Fish sauce can be cheap.
- Fish sauce frigging stinks.
In short, I loved it. Aelerelean was not as enthused. Too much fat and he can’t eat organ meat so pate is right out. I would totally make it again with leaner belly.