This is a little experiment I did at home the other day. There has been a lot of chatter among chefs on what temperature and how long to cook pork belly to get the ultimate texture. Heston Blumenthal recommends cooking it sous-vide for 36-hours at a temperature of 144’F (62’C) while Nathan Myrvhold in Modernist Cuisine goes as far as cooking it for 72-hours. That’s a long time to wait for lunch so I decided to go with Heston Blumenthal technique first. I improvised a 12-hours pork belly cure that consisted of coriander, star anise, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon and salt. The next day I washed it off and vacuumed the belly with a mixture of sake, mirin and soy sauce, I placed the pouch in the Sous Vide Supreme and forgot all about it for about a day and a half.
Fast forward to the fine morning I was the proud owner of a handsome chunk of sous-vide pork belly. I put a weight on it overnight to compress all those deliciously fatty layers and get the skin as flat as possible so it would crisp up nicely. I opened the bag and scrapped the golden pork gelatin that was as clear as consommé from around the belly and added it to a freshly made dashi, and that became our udon broth.
Some hen eggs went into the Sous Vide Supreme at 147’F (64’C) for 45 minutes , I cooked the udon noodles in the broth with shiitake, enoki mushrooms and some leafy greens. And while that was happening I pan-fried a chunk of pork belly on the skin side and placed the pan in a low oven until meltingly tender.
All those components went into large bowls, with the custardy sous-vide eggs, slices of tender pork belly, and a healthy sprinkle of nori, dried shrimp and hot pepper. Lunch that was three days in the making was finally there, and if there was one word to describe it I think it would be… perfect.
Udon w/ 36-hours Pork Belly
- Serves 6
For the sous-vide pork belly:
- 2 lbs pork belly, skin on
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, coarsely ground
- 1 teaspoon star anise, coarsely ground
- 1 teaspoon cardamom, coarsely ground
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
- 1/2 stick cinnamon, coarsely ground
- 1/4 cup sake
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
For the dashi:
- 2 quarts water
- 5 squares (of 6-inches) of dried kombu
- 1 cup tightly packed bonito flakes
For the Udon:
- 6 handfuls of udon noodles
- 2 heads of enoki mushrooms
- 10 shiitake mushrooms
- 6 organic eggs
- some leafy greens such as bok choy
- nori / dry shrimp mix
- hot pepper
For the sous-vide pork belly:
- Rinse the pork belly and pat dry. In a small bowl combine the salt, and the ground spices. Coat the pork belly with the salt and spice mixture, place in a pyrex dish, cover and refrigerate for 12 to 18 hours.
- Preheat the sous vide water bath to 144’F (62’C). Wash off the salt cure in cold running water and dry the pork belly. Combine the sake, the mirin and the soy sauce. Vacuum-seal the pork belly in a large bag with the sake mixture. Place the bag in the water bath and set the timer to 36 hours.
- Remove the pork belly from the water bath and place in a bowl of iced water to cool it down quickly. Do not open the pouch. Refrigerate overnight with a weight on top.
- Open the bag and scrap off the pork “consommé” from around the belly and use with the dashi (see below).
For the dashi / udon broth:
- Place the squares of kombu in a pot, along with the two quarts of water. Over medium heat, slowly bring the pot of water to a near-boiling point. Remove the kombu. Add the bonito flakes. Wait for a few seconds until the liquid comes to a light simmer and turn off the heat. Let the bonito flakes sink to the bottom of the pot. Strain the dashi through a fine strainer.
- In a small saucepan melt the pork consommé gelatin. Strain and combine with the dashi to taste.
For the Udon:
- Preheat the sous vide water bath to 147’F (64’C) and place the eggs in the water for 45 minutes.
- Cook the udon noodles in the broth. Add the enoki mushrooms and shiitake and poach them gently in the liquid. Add the leafy greens.
- Pan-fry a chunk of pork belly on the skin side until crisp and place in a 325’F oven until tender throughout.
- Serve the udon + broth in large bowls. Top with mushrooms, greens, eggs, pork belly slices, nori and hot pepper.