david chang

Pork Belly

March 3, 2011 · 1 comment

in asian food,food,recipe

In recent years, pork belly has become all the rage at high-end restaurants — from braised sliced pork belly for a bowl of ramen noodles to pork belly buns (such as the infamous pork belly buns at David Chang’s Momofuku’s Noodle Bar).  Pork belly has always been pretty popular in Asian cooking, so I’m excited to see chefs use it more and more at gourmet restaurants.

So, what is pork belly?  It’s basically the same cut of the pork where bacon comes from – the belly (duh).  But, unlike bacon, pork belly is not cured.

Besides its indescribable deliciousness, one reason I love cooking with pork belly is because it’s so easy.  Unlike some foods, pork belly comes out the best when it’s cooked simply — meaning, all you need is some salt and a stove or oven.  The natural flavor of the pork will work its magic for you.  Lazy people rejoice!

After its cooked, pork belly comes out juicy and crispy at the same time.  The word, unctuous, was made popular by pork belly (true story).   If you google unctuous, pictures of pork belly will result … and you will be hungry (so be forewarned).  And if you’re me, you’ll proceed to look up as many recipes as you can for pork belly and contemplate which ones you should make.

And when you arrive at the Asian market to find a slab of pork belly, and realize that they are only $1.50 – $2.50/lb., you realize your wallet will allow you to make more recipes than you initially thought!  So, the only dilemma that remains — what to make first???

Here are my five suggestions:

1.  Pork Belly Buns.

Photo courtesy of Marcus Nilsson

2.  Five Spice Braised Pork Belly

Photo courtesy of chezpim.com

 3.  Braised Pork Belly Noodles

photo courtesy of www.foodmayhem.com

 4.  Japanese Braised Pork Belly

Photo courtesy of www.justhungry.com

5.  Chinese Red-Cooked Pork (Hongshao Rou)

Photo courtesy of appetiteforchina.com

If you weren’t hungry before, you must be now.  I did warn you,  didn’t I?

Recently, I made Momofuku’s popular Pork Buns (which can be found in the Momofuku cookbook) as well as braised some pork belly for ramen noodles.  They came out amazing (I’ll post up my results soon).

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If you are passionate about food and cooking like I am, you know that a cook’s essentials are the keys to making consistently great food.   There are some essential tried-and-true items that should be staples to any kitchen repertoire.  Although they may seem pricier than what you’d find at your local Target or Walmart, trust me, they are well worth it and will last you a lifetime (if not longer).

A cook’s essentials are the foundation of a good meal.  Plus, they’re all so pretty to look at!  (I am vain — I like things pretty.   There, I said it.  I feel much better now for fully disclosing that.  …. I hope we can still be friends after this.)

Here are the items that top my cook’s essentials list:

1. Good set of knives.

Wusthof Classic

An old acquaintance of mine was a sous chef for the famous Thomas Keller restaurant, Per Se, in New York City.  I asked him what was a good set of knives.  He listed several high qualify brands (i.e., Wusthof, Global, Shun, and Henckels), but said that these are all great knives, so when looking for a good set of knives, you should base your purchase decision on your own personal preferences.

When I was first shopping for knives, I wanted a Global knife set, because that is what Giada de Laurentiis uses, and I absolutely love her shows.  I have all her cookbooks and I find her recipes relatively easy with great results.  I met her at a book signing, and she was just so adorable and down-to-earth.  Ok, umm, sorry for that tangent … I have a tendency to get this way when Giada is brought up.

Anyway, so I ended up choosing a Wusthof knift set instead because Global knives are on the lighter end for knives and I prefer a little weight on my knives.  So far, I really enjoy using these and am completely happy with my ultimate purchase decision.

2.  KitchenAid Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer in Pistaccio

Now, isn’t she just adorable?  My KitchenAid Stand Mixer is probably one of my favorite kitchen pieces.   It comes in sooo many different colors.  I really think the hardest part in buying this is to pick the color that you want.  I ended up getting this pistaccio color, and love it.  Besides it being so cute in my kitchen, it’s versatile and can do almost anything (especially with all the available attachments KitchenAid offers).   Also, these things last forever.  I’ve seen some KitchenAid Stand Mixers that are more than 20 years old and are still working perfectly.

3.  Le Creuset French Oven

Le Creuset 5 1/2 Quart Round French Oven in Carribean

Again, isn’t it so pretty (remember, I said I was vain?)?  I love this on my kitchen stove.  Unlike my other pots and pans, this one stays out and adds to the decor of my kitchen (yes, I like a lot of color in my kitchen).   Deciding on the color, size and shape was difficult for me … it took me 2 months of deciding (I wish I was joking).   After much (and then some) deliberation, I got the round 5 1/2 quart french oven Le Creuset in carribean.

I’m always surprised as to how much I use my french oven.   They are so versatile and can be used to make anything from soups, stews, and pot roasts, to braised short ribs, and to no-knead bread.  It has great even-heat distribution and heat retention, which will cook food uniformly.  Also, I love that I can use this on both the stove and in the oven, which is invaluable in cooking.   Plus, they’re so durable, they will literally last for decades.  Oh my, I’m gushing.  Sorry.

4.  A good set of pots and pans.

All-Clad Cooper Core 7-Piece Cookware Set

All-Clad is probably the best cookware available on the market.  A lot of chefs use it for it’s versatility and durability.  When I asked my sous chef friend, mentioned above, what he recommended for cookware, he said All-Clad hands down.  Knives, you can be flexible with, but for cookware, All-Clad is the best.  He also said that you don’t really need all the different pots and pans available.  You really only need the ones cooks use most often – sauce pan, fry pan, saute pan, and stockpot.  The All-Clad Cooper Core 7-piece Cookware Set is perfect for that.  They just make me happy.  But, if you don’t want to get the whole set, just yet, I recommend getting the All-Clad 12-inch Fry Pan with Lid — it’s honestly the cookware that gets the most use in kitchens.  :)

5.  Good cookbooks.

I love buying cookbooks … it’s kind of a problem.  But don’t worry, I’m working on it.

Here are some of my favorite cookbooks:

Everyday Italian:  125 Simple and Delicious Recipes by Giada de Laurentiis.
Oh, have I told you, I kind of love Giada?  These are some great simple and staple Italian food recipes.  All her other cookbooks are great too, but this was her first, and it’s a classic.

Everyday Italian Cookbook by Giada de Laurentis

The Barefood Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Something about her food is so comforting and delicious.  Maybe it’s her insistence on using fresh and quality ingredients.  Maybe it’s her generous use of butter (ding ding ding!).   Whatever it is, I’m on board!  Her recipes are great, and the pictures in this cookbook makes you want to make the recipe right away.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set) by Julia Child
Now how can we forget about Julia Child?  This is probably a good staple cookbook for those who love French cooking.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking by Anthony Bourdain
Sigh.  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have Anthony Bourdain’s life.  (Well, maybe not the part about being a man.)  Traveling around the world and experiencing amazing food, and getting paid to do it?!  Life is just not fair.  My only consolation is that I can live it vicariously through his show, No Reservations on the Travel Channel.  Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook is a well written book with both great recipes and great techniques and directions on how to create them.

Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

Momofuku by David Chang
If you haven’t been to be any of David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants in New York City, you should!  In fact, you should go right now!  No really, now!  If you have been to one, then you must understand this urgency (I’m not crazy.  Well … ok, that’s not relevant here).  This is a great cookbook where he has included step-by-step recipes to some of his most popular dishes (like the pork belly buns!  To die for!).  Be forewarn, David Chang has a tendency to swear and throw the F-bomb around generously in his book.

Momofuku by David Chang

Well folks, there you have it, my cook’s essentials list.  What’s in your cook’s essentials list that you’d recommend?

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