There are quite a few food-related stories from my childhood that I have long forgotten, yet have remained firmly entrenched in the memories of the rest of my family (they never fail to remind me, and everyone else, about these supposedly "true" tales).
For instance, one of my aunts claims that I once poked my index finger through an entire carton of eggs that my grandfather just brought back from the market (since there's no memory of an ass-whoopin' that my grandpa would have surely given me, I don't believe this story for one second).
Also, according to my younger brother there was a time that I was so pissed off at him that I allegedly dumped a family serving of shrimp onto my own plate and quickly ate them just so he wouldn't have any (again, because I have no recollection of the smackdown my shrimp-loving father would have certainly laid upon me had this really happened, I don't believe this story either. And besides, I wouldn't have eaten ALL of the shrimp--leaving only one lone shrimp behind sounds more like my style).
And then there's the yarn that my mom often spins about how when I was a wee lad I used to eat only the chicken skin off of my chicken, or just the pork fat from my pork and not the meat. Although the image of a 5-year old stuffing his face with animal blubber is kind of disturbing, I do have some faint recollection of this actually happening (perhaps because a violent spanking wasn't involved, I didn't have to repress anything in the deep recesses of my brain).
Although these memories of fat indulgence were fuzzy at best, they all became crystal-clear after recently making my own adobo from fatty pork belly. After my first bite of jiggly pork fat layered between meat and skin, the memories of my lard eating youth came rushing back like an Anton Ego/Ratatouille-like epiphany.
Needless to say, it's been a while since I've eaten pork belly adobo.
After making pork belly adobo for the first time, I learned a few things: my mother wasn't making things up (I now really do remember gleefully feasting on fat as a kid), pork belly is wonderfully delicious (duh!), and pork belly is terrifyingly guilt-inducing (you're ingesting pure FAT!). I mean, I've probably never had a better adobo in my life, yet I've probably never felt so guilty before either.
As such, my Pork Belly Adobo is taking its rightful place among the dishes of...
- Dish #1: Spicy Sizzling Sisig
- Dish #2: Pork Belly Adobo
- Dish #3: Paksiw na Lechon
- Dish #4: Lechon Kawali: Deep-Fried Pork Belly
- Dish #5: Longanisa
To make my pork belly adobo, I took many pointers from The Adobo Book that was gifted to me by Mila some time ago. Many of the pork recipes in this cookbook used pork belly (AKA liempo), all of them claiming that it was the best cut of pork to use for adobo--I now wholeheartedly agree. Also, like many of the pork recipes in The Adobo Book, I decided to use salt instead of soy sauce for this particular dish. Lastly, because pork and apples are a classic pairing, I used apple cider vinegar rather than the more traditional cane or coconut vinegars.
Sim Simma! Who got the keys to my bimma?
After simmering the pork with salt, vinegar, black pepper, bay, and garlic cloves for an hour, the pork belly becomes super lush and melty ("super lush and melty" are technical terms). The collagen in the skin also becomes sticky and breaks down--further enriching the adobo sauce.
Another tip I learned from The Adobo Book is to not stir the contents of the pot until the vinegar is "cooked", meaning don't touch until most of the acid has cooked off and the vinegar smells less acrid. I have no idea what stirring an "uncooked" vinegar would do to the finished dish, but who am I to argue?
I then fished out the pork with a slotted spoon, placed the pork on a cookie sheet and then under the broiler.
Brown and crisp
You don't have to broil the pork if you don't want to, but I wanted to get some browning and the pork skin crisps up nicely as well.
Despite a true fear of my heart exploding, I couldn't stop myself from eating wobbly bit after wobbly bit of luscious pork flesh. The crisp skin, luscious fat, and moist meat in each piece of pork belly were a wonderful melding of textures and flavors. As good as the adobo was on the first go-around, it was even better the next day after the leftovers were stored in a container in the fridge and the fat in the sauce had solidified into a protective cap of confit.
Pure, creamy fat.
I should also mention that the Ossabaw pork belly I ordered was superior in flavor to any pork I've ever tasted--there was definitely more of a "porky" flavor compared to bland, commercially raised pigs. Also, as you can see from the pictures above, the rendered fat also appeared pristinely pure and white (rather than an icky pale yellow), which was somewhat comforting to me. If the amount of fat in this dish is more than you can handle, you can look for pork belly with more meat than fat, or even use pork shoulder, but what's the fun in that?
Admittedly, I did discard most of the solidified fat from the sauce the next day before reheating the pork and sauce together. But I did save a couple of tablespoons of the rendered fat and used it to saute a diced apple (just until a little bit soft, but not mushy) and some brown sugar for a sweet and tart accompaniment to the next-day adobo.
Pork and apples
Even though I crisped the skin the day before, the skin in the leftover adobo again became soft and sticky and tender after reheating in the sauce--I preferred this over the crispy skin. The sweet-tart apples (I used winesaps) were a nice addition as well, so much so that I'm tempted to actually throw the diced apples into the sauce, rather than have them on the side, the next time I make pork belly adobo.
In my opinion, there isn't another cut of meat that melds skin, fat, and meat as perfectly and deliciously as does the underside of a pig. And I don't think there is a better preparation of pork belly than in a Filipino adobo.
Pork Belly Adobo
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons sea salt
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds skin-on pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 bay leaves
In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Place the pork belly, garlic, and bay leaves into a large Dutch oven, then pour the vinegar mixture into the pot. Place the pot over high heat, bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for one hour.
After one hour, taste sauce for seasoning--adding more salt as needed, or adding water if desired (though I don't think either is necessary at this point).
(Optional) Remove pork from sauce with a slotted spoon and place pork on a cookie sheet, broil pork until browned--about 2 minutes. Return pork to sauce.
Server over steamed white rice.