Crisp-fried pork belly with sticky tomato shrimp paste sauce

Crisp-fried pork belly (Binagoongan)

Photography by Jana Liebenstein

In this collection of more than one hundred recipes, Yasmin Newman takes a culinary journey through the Philippines and uncovers an intriguing notion of 7,107 islands where the people’s love of eating is as big as their hearts.

Despite the Philippines’ location right in the middle of Southeast Asia, most people know very little about the country and even less about the cuisine. For Filipinos, food is more than a pleasurable pursuit; it is the cultural language. It can be seen through the prism of its unique and colourful history, with influences from Malaysia, Spain, China, Mexico, and the US adding to the cuisine’s rich texture.

Divided into thirteen chapters—Dipping sauces; Breakfast; Soups; Everyday food; Seafood; Party food; Barbecue food; Rice and noodles; Vegetables and salads; Bar and finger food; Snacks; Desserts; and Drinks—7000 Islands is a beautifully illustrated guide to Filipino food and an insight into the culture and history of the Philippines.

7000 Islands: Cherished Recipes and Stories from the Philippines is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.


Crisp-fried pork belly with sticky tomato shrimp paste sauce (Binagoongan)

Filipinos’ devotion to their mother’s or cook’s food is notorious. It is always the best and, often, the only version worth eating. My cousin Bunny lives in Manila, about 200 kilometres from the family home. On trips to the capital, my tito and tita bring care packages of Bunny’s all-time favourite, binagoongan, which she stashes in the freezer to portion out until their next visit. I hear this kind of story all the time.

Filipinos go gaga for binagoongan. It combines two of their most cherished foods—deep-fried pork and bagoong (shrimp paste). The key to this version is the guisado base of garlic, onion and tomato. Don’t rush the process, particularly with the tomato; you want to slowly cook it down for a sticky, almost caramelized, finish.

 

Serves: 3–4

600 g (1 lb 5 oz) boneless pork belly, skin on

1 onion, quartered

6 garlic cloves, smashed

3 bay leaves

2 tablespoons fine salt

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

vegetable oil, for deep-frying

1 handful chilli leaves (optional)

steamed rice, to serve

 

Guisado bagoong (Sautéed shrimp paste sauce)

250 g (9 oz) cherry tomatoes

60 ml (2 fl oz/ ¼ cup) vegetable oil

6 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons sautéed shrimp paste (bagoong alamang)

1 long green chilli

2 red bird’s-eye chillies, thinly sliced on the diagonal

 

To par-cook the pork, place it in a large, deep saucepan and pour in enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil over high heat, skimming any scum from the surface. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 1 hour, or until fork-tender. Transfer the pork to a shallow dish and allow to cool. Strain the cooking liquid, discarding the solids and reserve 250 ml (8 ½ fl oz/1 cup) to make the sauce. Discard the remaining cooking liquid.

To deep-fry the pork, fill a large, deep saucepan or wok one-third full of vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 180ºC (350ºF). Pat the pork dry using a paper towel and cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) wide lengths, then into 1.5 cm ( ½ inch) pieces. Working in batches, gently lower the pork into the hot oil and deep-fry for 3 minutes, or until the meat is golden and the skin is crisp (ensure the oil returns to 180ºC between each batch). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Break pieces in half and set aside.

To deep-fry the chilli leaves, if using, return the oil to 180ºC. Deep-fry the leaves for 20 seconds or until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

To make guisado bagoong, halve five of the tomatoes and reserve. Cut the remaining tomatoes into quarters. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring until soft. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the quartered tomatoes and cook, stirring and mashing them for 10 minutes, or until completely broken down and starting to caramelize. Add the sautéed shrimp paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Stir in 190 ml (6 ½ fl oz/ ¾ cup) of the reserved pork cooking liquid, bring to the boil, then add the deep-fried pork belly, green and red chillies and the reserved tomato halves. Cook for 3–4 minutes, or until the pork is warmed through. Add the remaining pork cooking liquid according to your preferred finish of wet or dry.

Transfer the binagoongan to a serving bowl, garnish with fried chilli leaves, if desired, and serve with steamed rice.

Recipe excerpted with permission from Hardie Grant.

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