Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Korean Pork Belly Day with Stir-fried Pork Belly with Kimchi...

When I saw March 3rd marked on a Korean calendar as Pork Belly Day I was completely curious. Probing further I found out that Koreans celebrate this day with pork belly dishes because the first part of its Korean word for pork belly is "sam" in Samgyeopsal, which means three (sam; 삼), and the rest of its word, layered (gyeop; 겹) and flesh (sal;살). Paying homage to this special cut of pork on the third day of the third month is brilliant! Popular in Chinese and Korean butcher shops resembling bacon, samgyeopsal has three visible layers: the outer skin, then a two-inch layer of thick fat and attached to that two to three inches of lean meat. You can get them with skin-on:

Or a premium cut, with the layer of skin-off which is usually more expensive. I often buy it skin-on and slice it off myself. Galleria Supermarket was having a pork belly promotion so I opted for the premium cut.

My favourite family Korean Samgyeopsal dishes are Stir-fried Pork Belly with Kimchi and simple Grilled Pork Belly to serve with a bevy of toppings and condiments. Stir-fried Pork Belly with Kimchi is downright delicious and simple to make, and always make a welcomed splash at our dinner table. The flavours and ingredients go so well together. 

Stir-fried Pork Belly with Kimchi
Makes 6 servings

1 lb. pork belly, with thick skin removed, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp. oil
3 green onions, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
3-4 garlic, minced
salt and ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. Chinese cooking wine
1 cup kimchi
2 tsp. soy sauce
a drizzle of sesame oil

Heat oil in skillet or wok on medium high heat. Add onions and stir-fry for two minutes to soften; add 1/2 garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. Add pork belly, stir-fry for one minute, then spread them around on skillet in one layer so the juices that run evaporate and the pork crisp and brown rather than steam. Let cook for two minutes or so, checking one to see if the bottom has browned. Then toss and let the other side of pork brown. 

Add cooking wine and toss for one minute before adding the kimchi. Stir-fry to heat through about one minute, then add soy sauce and toss to finish. Remove onto serving plate and drizzle with sesame oil.

Caramelized pork belly cooked up with garlic, onions and kimchi is one appetizing dish!

The most popular way samgyeopsal is enjoyed is unmarinated, lightly seasoned with salt and ground black pepper and grilled on a grill pan over the stove or a portable grill cooking pan at the table like bacon or cut up into pieces. The latter is the preferred cooking method by Koreans as it allows everyone to cook their own meat and they could eat it hot off the grill. The number of Korean BBQ meals I make, I should seriously invest in one especially since the kids are older and I don't have to worry like I did, that they would burn themselves. Ok, adding to equipment list to buy...

I like to grill the pork belly in long slices then cut up into bite-sized pieces at the table.

Two kinds of dipping sauces are often served. One is ssamjang, ha- another three word :), a paste consisting of gochujang fermented chili paste, soybean paste and sesame oil; the other is gireumjang, made with sesame oil, salt and a small amount of black pepper. 

I like to make a simple seasoned soy bean paste with water to thin.

Accompaniments are usually red or green leafy lettuce and sliced raw garlic, but also served with other things like perilla leaves, sliced jalapeno peppers, shredded lettuce and green onions, sliced raw onions, and kimchi. Garlic, onions, and kimchi can be either grilled with the meat or eaten raw with the cooked meat.

Popular lettuce and onion mixture to serve in wraps. See recipe.

Serve grilled pork belly with side banchan dishes of kimchi and other seasoned sides you can buy at Korean supermarkets.

My favourite way to wrap grilled meats from bottom to top is one piece of torn lettuce, one perilla leaf, pork belly slices spread with soy bean paste, green onion and lettuce mixture, garlic slices, and jalapeno dipped in sesame oil with salt and pepper. Lovely combination of flavours and textures beckoning you for another round...

A very happy eater! Étienne loves Grilled or BBQ meat wraps especially dipped in his favourite sesame sauce.

Here is another pork belly favourite Spicy Pork Belly Stir-Fry I make with Szechuan chilies and green peppers. Really delicious and also goes well in lettuce as a Chinese twist on Korean-style wraps.

I hope you've discovered some great pork belly dishes you can try at home with your family. Play with the spice levels and adjust the seasonings to your preference. You can always cook up a regular batch and remove part of it onto a plate before upping the spices and seasonings on the remainder in the skillet for the members who like it more hot and spicy. 

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