This was definitely one of the best sandwiches I have EVER eaten. Yup, SERIOUSLY GOOD. And relatively simple to make. The next time you have an afternoon merienda or picnic planned with friends who appreciate good food, or even a card game or televised sports event, consider serving these sandwiches together with ice cold bottles of beer. The recipe was predominantly that of Momofuku’s famous pork buns, but I tweaked it a bit, adding in pork cracklings to result in a sandwich that is soft, rich, juicy, sweet, sour, spicy, flavorful and with a bit of crunch. It may sound over-the-top, but it really did turn out nicely…
First make the roasted pork belly. This can be done a day or more in advance, and you will need a roughly 1.5-2 kilo piece of fatty pork belly. The original recipe calls for removing the skin, but I thought that was just a bit crazy, and I wanted to keep the skin and somehow use the skin in this sandwich… So take the slab of pork and slit the skin with a blade (I used a standard rubie shaving blade) but a really sharp knife would work too. Then rub the entire piece of meat with about 1/3 cup +1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt and an equivalent amount of sugar. Stick this in a non-reactive platter or even a large food safe plastic bag and let it hang out in the fridge for about 8 hours or so. Next, turn your oven up to roughly 430F, take the pork belly out of the fridge and pat it dry, removing any extra salt that is clinging to the meat.
Then stick it in a pan and into the oven for roughly 40 minutes, then turn the oven down to 250F for about another hour until the pork belly is done. Cooking times may vary due to the thickness and size of your pork belly. I used a pinoy belly, and they have a tendency to be thinner than some western equivalents.
When the pork is done, remove the pan from the oven, crank up the heat back to say 400F, then carefully remove the skin from the pork belly by running a knife just between the skin and the soft fat just below it. It should be really easy to do this, and try to get as little fat behind the skin as possible.
Stick the skin onto a rack over a pan and put it back in the oven for some 10-14 minutes or until the skin is really crisp and wonderfully golden brown.
Meanwhile, put a steamer over boiling water and steam some (store-bought) cuapao or momofuku style buns until soft and very warm to the touch.
The momofuku cookbook strongly recommends cooling down the pork and refrigerating it overnight. This makes cutting the pork a lot easier. I didn’t have that time so I went ahead and cut the pork about an hour after it was cooked, and the slices turned out quiet nicely…
Now for the super easy sandwich assembly… Start with a very generous shmear of hoisin sauce at the bottom of the sandwich. Add some 3 or 4 generous slices of pork (reheated if it spent the night in the refrigerator), a little more hoisin, some slivers of quickly pickled cucumbers, some chopped green onions and finally a shmear of chili sauce on the top part of the sandwich.
Sink your teeth into this amazing sandwich and feel the explosion of flavors from the salty sweet hoisin to the rich fatty pork, cool slightly acidic cucumber pickles to the searing spiciness of the chili sauce. The softness of the cuapao just envelopes this all and is the perfect pillowy neutral foil to the fillings. Absolutely wonderful.
I added several pieces of pork rind that added another dimension, crunch and it worked very well indeed. For about 1.5 kilos of meat, we made some 12-14 sandwiches and every single one of them were wiped out with unanimous votes in favor of this terrific dish. You must try this soon. I promise it is NOT difficult to do. :)