16 Jan2014

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Who would have known how popular a localized version of Italian porchetta would become in just 3.5 short years? In Cebu, everyone and their uncle are now claiming theirs is the “original” which is a ludicrous claim considering the Italians have been doing a version of this for eons. Of course adjusting ingredients, using bamboo poles, roasting over charcoal are slight variations on a theme, but when I wrote this post entitled “Liempo on Bamboo a la Marketman” on February 13, 2010, I already suggested it be called a “Boneless Lechon” and it was the pre-cursor for a Zubuliempo or now called Boneless Zubuchon which we offer in our restaurants. Today, hundreds of these pork bellies are sold every week in Cebu by dozens of different purveyors and in outlets sprouting in Manila and elsewhere (including abroad in the U.S., etc.) and I am just truly amazed how something can catch like wildfire… As far as I can tell, this is NOT a terribly important innovation, but I DO KNOW that when I first published my post in 2010, it pre-dated most if not ALL commercially offered versions in the Philippines as far as I can tell…

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It’s incredibly simple to do, and you may want to attempt one for your next large family gathering, as a single large boneless pork belly can easily feed 20-25 people. You can even do this in a Vancourver backyard in summer, or in Washington, DC or Stockholm for that matter. Here’s a detailed how-to for all the folks who email me monthly asking how to do it. I have posted similar instructions before, but here it is again, with some other tips and suggestions to make it better than ever. First, go to a reputable butcher and buy a whole pork belly. Actually, that means a HALF pork belly as you only want one side of the stomach/breast of a pig (literally including half of the teats). The last time I made this S&R only had “bone-in” belly and it was frozen solid, so I had to take it home, defrost it in a fridge, and de-bone it myself. I relish every opportunity to butcher meat these days as it’s a skill I do not possess, so I like to practice. But if I were you, save yourself the grief and apprehension of wrestling with the bones and buy this boneless to begin with. Trim the meat so you have a nice rectangular piece; trimmings can be used for your sautés or other dishes.

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Next, I brined the meat in a water and salt solution for roughly 4 hours in the fridge. I used a plastic turkey brining bag to do this. You can use a batya or large pan if that fits in your fridge. If you are lazy, don’t bother to brine, but I am telling you, brining makes a tasty difference. Others rely on copious amounts of MSG to fool your tastebuds, but we absolutely do not. Why use a powdered product when natural fresh ingredients are readily available and provide so much wonderful flavor? Every time I make made one of these boneless pork bellies for home consumption, I try a new set of ingredients to stuff it with. This time around, I pulled out lots and lots of FANTASTIC fresh lemongrass delivered by Gejo from his farm just hours before. I used native shallots from the Ilocos region, young garlic from up North, native garlic, white onions, green onions, muscovado sugar, etc.

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Peel the garlic and onions, chop up some of the lemongrass, take out some ripe but still sour tamarind paste, kikkoman soy sauce (no MSG), chills, etc. Into a pan or pot, add some vegetable oil, and sauté the various ingredients adding salt and pepper and whatever else you feel like until your kitchen is perfumed with an amazing aroma, then turn the burner off.

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Remember to bruise whole stalks of lemongrass to release the oils — resulting in better flavor and aroma. I just think bashing it is a bit therapeutic. :)

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Here’s how much stuffing I made for a 6 kilo boneless belly. Be generous with the ingredients, they will perfume the meat. Notice how I have left lots of pieces whole or in large chunks. Once cooked, these will be picked at by diners, and the soft garlic spread on the pork, chilis cut for added spice, sweet onions eaten like a condiment or relish.

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Take your pork out of the fridge and the brine an hour or so before you stuff it. Dry the pork WELL with lots of paper towels or a clean cloth kitchen towel. You want the pork to come to room temperature. The cooler your pork, the longer it will take to cook. Spread your cooled stuffing onto the non-skin side of the belly and spread evenly, leaving 2-3 inches from the edge clear all around the outer edge of the belly. The reason you cool the stuffing is because you want to avoid growing bacteria with hot stuffing, cool meat, and hours before the meat reaches bacteria killing temperatures. So it’s best to cool the stuffing beforehand. Wrong advice. Apparently, it is better to stuff the pork with HOT stuffing rather than cooled sautéed ingredients. So please adjust accordingly.

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Place a bamboo pole down the middle of the belly, and with helping hands, sew up the belly, preferably with abaca twine, which miraculously does not BURN despite the intense heat of hot coals. I prefer to use a bamboo pole that doesn’t heat up as much as metal, and which we think this keeps the meat moist and succulent. But feel free to use a metal pole if that’s what you have.

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A tight suture is ideal, and here my Chief of Stuff does a particularly good job of sewing this belly up nice, neat and taut. For home cooks, I have done less exacting versions as you can see from previous posts indicated down below, and frankly, they all seem to come out okay, but keep in mind that you don’t want much of the marinade/ingredients to leak out if possible.

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The fat at the tightly sewn seam seems to fuse when it is placed over high heat, forming a nice seal of sorts. Yipes, that sentence had too many “s” words — sewn, seam, seems, seal and sorts.

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Next, we “prick” the skin for that characteristic blistered look. This helps to crisp up the skin, but it does not result in a smooth lechon like finish many people are accustomed to. If you don’t have a menacing pricker like the one in the photo above ($3 from HK food store suppliers, more expensive in Divisoria), use a razor blade to make shallow slits all around the belly. This will also help the skin crisp more. It will look more like a Nigella or Jamie Oliver version. Massage some olive oil onto the skin and season generously with salt.

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Place over hot coals, and rotate slowly for approximately two hours total. Go into zen mode, or arrange for two or three relievers and access to good music nearby so they don’t expire from boredom. Three of us cooked this beast of a belly, though I have to admit I couldn’t have done more than 20-25 minutes of rotating duty out of the two hours cooking time total.

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Oddly, I think the key is not a constant pace of rotation. Instead, picking up from dozens of lechoneros I have observed over the years, the key is to adjust the speed of rotation to evenly brown and cook the belly or lechon. So you might linger longer in one area until it evens out, then turn slowly to keep all areas cooking nicely… Don’t be afraid to adjust your coals, moving them closer or further away as necessary. you don’t want to cook the skin too quickly and have the insides raw.

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…after 20-25 minutes it looks like this…

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…perhaps 45-50 minutes into cooking…

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…an hour and a half into cooking…

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…and shortly before taking it off the flames. Please note that the skin looks perfect at about 1.5 hours, but unfortunately the meat isn’t cooked through yet at that point. Use a meat thermometer to check that the meat at the thickest part is at 160F before taking it off the heat. Let it rest for 20-25 minutes before slicing. This particular one tasted absolutely DELICIOUS. It could have used a little more of everything stuffed in, but if you took some of the stuffing and spread it onto the meat slices, it was very, very good. I used some of reader Moni’s dried thai chilies and they provided a nice hint of spice wile the tamarind also gave a familiar taste profile but nicely blended with the other ingredients. You too can do this at home. Leave me a comment below if you have further questions.

Here are some previous related posts to help you along if you would like to attempt this on your own…

Liempo on Bamboo a la Marketman
The Mad Dash to offer Boneless Pork Belly in Cebu
Five Roasted Pork Bellies (smaller pieces, but you get flavor ideas from this one)

By the way, you CAN do this in an oven, you just have to adjust cooking times and take care not to burn the skin before the insides are cooked. For a festive meal, this is far more economical and less work than lots of other fiesta dishes I can think of. Enjoy!

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Fleeb says:

    “As far as I can tell, this is NOT a terribly important innovation, but I DO KNOW that when I first published my post in 2010, it pre-dated most if not ALL commercially offered versions in the Philippines as far as I can tell…”

    I think I can still remember that time when apparently BIR and DTI were “patenting recipes”. :P

    Jan 16, 2014 | 3:39 am

     
  2. netoy says:

    You are just too cruel! I am reading this at lunch time and my mouth is just drooling… Absolutely looks delectable! Thanks for sharing.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 3:56 am

     
  3. Malou says:

    Thanks, MM, for this recipe and step-by-step guide! I will definitely attempt to do this in the summer.

    My quick question is this- where can I get that huge needle (karayom) that looks like a construction nail?

    Jan 16, 2014 | 4:13 am

     
  4. Sister says:

    You might want to use the cooked stuffing HOT as recommended with a turkey to minimize growth of bacteria while bringing the meat past the 160-165 F needed to kill salmonella.
    If you use a stainless steel rod it will conduct heat to the middle of the roast and it will cook from the inside outwards as well as it does on a commercial rotisserie. Hardly anyone makes porchetta at home in Italy, you see long lines outside the local deli at 5 pm waiting to purchase porchetta for dinner/sandwiches.
    For cooking at home try using a covered roaster with an inch of water on the bottom and the meat raised on a rack so the porchetta steams for the a couple of hours before uncovering and crisping the skin. Same procedure for a duck or turkey or even a large roasting hen. Turn the porchetta over several times to brown evenly.
    If you have a cooperative butcher you can bring the cooked aromatics and have him tie it inside the pork belly if the operation looks daunting to you. Your porchetta looks absolutely scrumptious.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 5:19 am

     
  5. betty q. says:

    THANK YOU, MM for the tutorial! This is definitely on the agenda this summer. It is a good reason now to buy that big mama of a roaster fueled by charcoal and with a rotisserie I saw at Rona.

    Mga Mrs in Vancouver….no need to go to HK for the pricking gadget. I bought mine at Chinatown on Pender between Gore and Main but can’t remember how much I paid for it. I bought mine about 2 or 3 years ago.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 5:26 am

     
  6. pixienixie says:

    Ah yes, the boneless lechon. I wonder what happened to that genius kid? :)

    Anyway, do you need a special needle for suturing meat? If so, where can I find one? Pig skin is tough… and last time I checked there’s no big-a** needle in my Happy Home needle book….

    Jan 16, 2014 | 6:32 am

     
  7. ling says:

    oh my!

    thanks MM!

    hmmm … i think i would include this recipe on my father’s birthday on the 31st …

    Jan 16, 2014 | 8:25 am

     
  8. Monty says:

    The “genius” kid actually put up a branch in MOA. I’ve tried it and it was tasty, but was served quite cold. They actually put their meat in a glass enclosure with light bulbs inside presumably to keep it warm. Unfortunately they used cfl instead of incandescent bulbs, maybe to save on energy cost. Cfl bulbs don’t run hot compared with incandescents, which is why they’re very efficient. Ergo cold meat but saving the planet in the process. Pure genius.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 8:41 am

     
  9. Hershey says:

    This is such a manly food! I like it! Am just curious Market Man, how long will the crispiness of the pork belly will last?

    Jan 16, 2014 | 10:29 am

     
  10. pixienixie says:

    Hahaha Monty! Really, they have a MOA branch? I’ll have to do some backtracking to find out the name of the resto and then I’ll try it out too out of sheer curiosity. :D Thanks for the info.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 10:44 am

     
  11. anonymous paul says:

    nice looking pig. and nice watch.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 12:28 pm

     
  12. Mimi says:

    I have the same skin prick gadget. Got it from dry goods auntie at a local market for S$13. It is not on display, but she had it somewhere in the shop. I had to explain what I wanted as she did not understand me at first.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 12:52 pm

     
  13. Marketman says:

    Hershey, it depends, but we have re-heated the chilled cooked belly in our oven and it crisps up again! And yes, very caveman like food. :)

    Jan 16, 2014 | 1:12 pm

     
  14. Marketman says:

    anonymous paul, COS’s watch? It’s a Seiko with a non-Seiko blue nylon strap. :)

    Jan 16, 2014 | 1:31 pm

     
  15. Cris J. says:

    Hi, MM. Just a thought – why not “motorize” the bamboo turner .. :)

    Jan 16, 2014 | 1:57 pm

     
  16. Marketman says:

    Cris, J., yes you can do that. We have a rotisserie for such attempts… but that will go at a constant pace, hence the disappearance of the human intuition… I know, I know, we live in a mechanized world, but there is something so satisfying about using human effort instead…

    Jan 16, 2014 | 2:24 pm

     
  17. Coolasa says:

    I *discovered* a butcher who sold the boneless pork belly for $1.99/lb. However, they have increased their price to $4.99/lb in a matter of 5 months due to its demand (mainly by Asian immigrants in the area) ! Law of supply and demand in action huh! Anyway, I marinated mine in 7up for 8 hours prior to its cooking. After wiping it very dry, I sprinkled salt and pepper and spread minced fresh lemon grass, put in two fresh lemon grass stalks (bruised of course), and one star anise in the center then rolled it. I do not have the luxury of an open pit so I used the rotisserie of my grill. It came out good but there is a huge difference in the gas grill and the wood burning pit. I have been serving the boneless lechon in lieu of turkey on holidays.

    By the way, thank you Mr. Marketman for your posts. You have been an inspiration since I started reading your posts. Male version of Martha Stewart? hehehehe

    Jan 16, 2014 | 9:15 pm

     
  18. betty q. says:

    MM…how about cooking your Peking Duck like your porchetta…I posted a comment under your duck post. maybe you can roast 2 at a time!

    Jan 16, 2014 | 10:55 pm

     
  19. grace says:

    I made this for Christmas using my oven with assistance from your previous posts. Used butcher’s twine to put it together. My guests loved it – they thought they died and went to heaven.

    Jan 17, 2014 | 12:59 am

     
  20. besYS says:

    Thank you again MM for your generosity – imagine, giving away your famous Boneless Zubuchon recipe and with technique pa!!!
    If we do this in our homes or in any gathering, I’m sure magwawala na naman si “genius boy” kasi sila raw ang original at bawal gayahin!! Whatever!!
    LOL!!

    Jan 17, 2014 | 4:23 am

     
  21. Marketman says:

    besYS, my porchetta experiments have been published since 2009 or earlier, so this isn’t really new. I also detailed our lechon chronicles and lechon recipes long before we thought to open a restaurant. The more people who cook well at home, the better… I think the strong trend is to eat out but it’s probably healthier and more economical to eat at home… Also, with more than half of market manila’s readers living abroad, I enjoy helping them get a taste of home in a foreign setting whenever possible. grace, so glad it worked for you, the oven version turns out pretty darn good as well. bettyq, a roasted duck (over coals) has been on my list to do… someday soon perhaps, but I have to remember, low heat, low heat…

    Jan 17, 2014 | 5:21 am

     
  22. Risa says:

    I made 4 porchettas over the holidays and it left me all porked out (not a bad thing there).

    I followed a Bon Appetit recipe using belly rolled around a loin and roasted in the oven. I found that the skin will be more crisp-tender (as opposed to crisp-hard) if dried out well for two days in the fridge.

    On two of the four porks, I also rolled a boneless pork shoulder which made for a less fatty roll. As I didn’t have a roasting rack, I perched them on whole garlic heads that roasted in the process. My new bestfriend is a meat thermometer! I took them out at 140 and it continued to cook to 150 while resting.

    Easy peasy overall. The hardest part really is just rolling and tying that slippery darn thing.

    Jan 17, 2014 | 1:04 pm

     
  23. MP says:

    I showed the pictures to my hubby and he said: i don’t mind dying right after I’ve had those … Hahaha…

    Jan 17, 2014 | 1:13 pm

     
  24. Marketman says:

    Risa, here’s a “secret” that seems to work. If you don’t want the skin too crisp-hard, wipe the surface of the skin with a clean rag with vinegar (say apple cider or even del monte vinegar) before drying/cooking. For some reason, the vinegar reacts with the skin and helps to make it crisper. I didn’t invent that trick, I read about it or saw it somewhere and it works for me…

    Jan 17, 2014 | 4:22 pm

     
  25. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    I agree with your comment of human intuition. Your comment on No Reservations about the lechonero’s expertise versus the use of gears speaks to me. I often find Bay Area lechon skin to be crispy, but dermis rubbery and meat under or overcooked.

    That liempo btw, I’d eat that like a big corn.

    Jan 18, 2014 | 2:07 am

     
  26. Roderick says:

    Thanks for this recipe… We had this last christmas my brother ordered it from his friend… But I think your version is more DELICIOUS… Can’t wait for your peking duck version…

    Can you also share your recipe for the lechon sauce? Thanks again…

    Jan 19, 2014 | 3:35 pm

     
  27. Jun B says:

    MM, after numerous attempts, my oven version of this takes an hour and a half @ 350F, and about half an hour @ 450F, eyeballing the last ten minutes to make sure the skin does not burn.

    Jan 20, 2014 | 2:55 pm

     
  28. Tracee says:

    Hi MM, could you tell us where do you get your abaca twine? My mom and I wanted to do something like this last Media Noche, but we don’t know what to tie the pork with so we just made something else instead.

    Jan 22, 2014 | 8:05 pm

     
  29. joey @ 80 breakfasts says:

    That photo will haunt my dreams!! That crackling!!! Are you opening in Manila already? Or maybe I can mail order? Siiiigh…I’ll be patient :)

    Jan 22, 2014 | 10:52 pm

     
  30. Marketman says:

    joey, no, not open in Manila and it’ll be a while I think… Tracee, we buy the abaca twine in a Cebu market. If you are doing this in the oven, just tie with kitchen twine or thick string. But if roasting over coals, you need something that won’t burn easily…

    Jan 22, 2014 | 11:00 pm

     
  31. marsh says:

    MM, how do u make the skin crispy but not hard as a rock? i tried rubbing vinegar on the skin- as u have recommended, before loading it into the oven and cooking it at 400 degrees, it came out delicious but skin is not edible at all..it was so hard…some say its the pig’s fault…?

    Jan 23, 2014 | 1:45 pm

     
  32. Marketman says:

    marsh, hello, may I ask, are you cooking this in the Philippines or abroad? I sometimes find that pork bellies abroad can come from really big/older pigs and when roasted can indeed get really hard. So yes, it could be the particular cut of belly that you got. In Manila or Cebu, we use relatively young bellies (or so I think) from the size and amount of meat/fat, and we do use the vinegar tip I gave, plus we accupuncture it. Alternatively, you can slit the skin with a very sharp razor blade, like in the second photo of this post, here. Try it again, you may be lucky the second time around.

    Jan 23, 2014 | 1:59 pm

     
  33. marsh says:

    thanks MM! i am from manila and i bought two types of belly from the local supermarket, the liempo (boneless) and the belly with the bone(deboned after). i experimented with both, though i didn’t find much difference in flavor between the two, except for the skin of the bone-in belly is thicker. anyway, how deep should i slit the skin? just so thinly up to the skin? or slit up to the fat part, or through the meat?

    Jan 23, 2014 | 4:18 pm

     
  34. Marketman says:

    marsh, slit about a quarter of an inch deep only, to the fat, not to the meat. Also, make sure you dry the surface of your skin very well before putting in the oven or over the coals… I do sometimes come across tough skin, but it is infrequent.

    Jan 23, 2014 | 4:36 pm

     
  35. marsh says:

    thanks again MM! will try to do this again, following your tips…maybe next week…??? the family might get a heart attack from eating too much belly haha!

    Jan 23, 2014 | 5:05 pm

     
  36. Eva Mondragon says:

    MM – Is there any store in Manila or Makati areas where I can buy the meat pricker that you used in pricking the pork skin? I use an ice pick for this purpose, which is not very efficient.

    My sister is going to visit the Philippines next month. I will ask her to get one for me if I know where to get it. Also, what is it called?

    Thank you.

    Jan 24, 2014 | 4:03 pm

     
  37. betty q. says:

    Eva Mondragon…maybe I could be of assistance…if you are in the US or elsewhere, try going to your local Chinatown. Find the store that sells housewares, kitchen supplies. Best way I could describe the gadget to the guy…I told him I want to make roast pork and poke the skin with lots of needles like in acupuncture. Better yet, ask MM if you can use his picture of the gadget, print it and take it with you to show the seller.

    Hope that helps!

    Jan 24, 2014 | 10:23 pm

     
  38. Eva Mondragon says:

    Betty, thanks for that suggestion. I was wondering if that gadget was a Filipino invention. I have a very heavy round brass with dozens of very thick needles on them, but the needles are very short – only about a fifth of an inch. A Japanese friend of mine gave it to me for Ikebana flower arrangement. To tell you the truth, I actually used it once to tenderize some steaks. But, I never did it again…it occurred to me that all the cooking utensils, pots, and pans (that I own or know of) are never made of brass. And those with brass in them are always lined with copper, steel, or aluminum. So, it maybe a food safety issue.

    Jan 26, 2014 | 8:04 pm

     
  39. JojoKulit says:

    I will definitely make this when I go to Puerto Rico ,where I proudly share pinoy recipes…. There is nothing I enjoy more than cooking for people who want to learn about our culture. Thanks for the recipe!….and of course I will give the credit where credit is due!

    Jan 28, 2014 | 1:45 am

     
  40. april says:

    been thinking of this since your previous post on this. would be great for my mum’s 62nd next month. how many kilos roughly is the pig’s belly half side MM that can feed those 20-25 people?

    Jan 28, 2014 | 8:36 am

     
  41. Joseph says:

    Eva Mondragon, I saw one in Pioneer center in Pasig. It’s in the catering supplies area. But it’s too pricey. I don’t think it should cost that much. Maybe it is cheaper in other stores.

    Jan 30, 2014 | 9:50 am

     
  42. Des says:

    So so cool to finally know what this dish is called! I saw porchetta in a food fair here in France last Christmas and immediately caught my interest (my French companions couldn’t care less). It was on display still with the pig’s head! Nagulat talaga ako, sa isip-isp ko: lechon apparition! Anyhoo, they were serving it cold like ham, I tasted it, ok lang din, nanibago siguro ako kasi nga lechon na malamig! Hehe. Definitely delighted to know I can find the crispy, super malinamnam looking version in Pinas. Thanks!

    Jan 31, 2014 | 4:49 am

     
  43. wahini00 says:

    i’ve roasted a few bellies in the last couple of months and found that the best outcome was to start it in a cold oven and maintain a temperature of 375. i’ve has crispy, not hard skin every time.

    Feb 3, 2014 | 8:31 am

     

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