This falls somewhere in no-man’s land between an authentic Chinese dish and Cebu’s humba which has some vinegar and is really the “adobo” of the island. It’s simple to make, but takes some elapsed time. I was fooling around with the Chinese clay pots so I was using that as the jumping off point for this simple version of braised pork belly that turned out to be incredibly comforting and familiar without all the bells and whistles.
First take some good fatty boneless pork belly and cut it into really substantial cubes (it will shrink). Then season the pork with salt and pepper and brown it in a pan with some seriously hot pork lard (or in our case, some chicharon oil, the byproduct of making chicharon the good old fashioned way). Place the browned meat in a claypot, add a whole head or two of garlic (I didn’t bother to peel it, just lopped off the tops of the bulb and threw them into the pot) then add some soy sauce, a couple of tablespoons of muscovado sugar and a whole dried star anise. Add some water or pork broth until most of the pieces are covered with liquid, put the cover on and bring this to a gentle simmer where it should remain for say 2-3 hours until the pork is incredibly tender and the sauce is almost sticky with fat and natural gelatin…
You will probably need to add some water or broth during the cooking as it appears to be drying out. Note that there is no vinegar whatsoever in this version. The results were incredibly tender pork (even the skin had transformed into jelly) with a hint of sweetness and just the right amount of saltiness. Perfect with loads of steamed rice. This would be brilliant as a filling for some Chinese style siopao bread. Our cooks insisted we should try it with hard boiled eggs (a pinoy addition I think) and it tasted great that way as well. Throw in some banana blossoms and you lean heavier to a Visayan humba. But still without the vinegar. :)