A few weeks ago, I bought a pig from Slagel Family Farms. Not to love and cuddle, as one does, but to eat. (I still might cuddle with it, though.)
So there’s my pig. Well, there’s my half-pig. And ok, only half of that half-pig is mine, since I split it with a pig-loving friend. Isn’t he handsome? Who, Rob? Well yes, but, the pig, isn’t he handsome? (Yes, he is a he; I asked. Rob obliged and dug around until he found out for me. Rob is the best.)
As the butcher deftly yet gently broke down our hog, wasting nothing except for some inedible glands, he taught us many things. He taught us that if you’re doing it right, a saw is needed only for the bones, and everything else can be done with a $27 knife, as long it is very, very, very sharp. He taught us that hogs are broken down differently in different countries. He showed us parts we hadn’t heard of before and suggested different ways to prepare certain cuts. He taught us that your energy shouldn’t be spent sawing with the knife, but rather pulling the meat so tautly that the knife takes hardly any effort to separate the muscles from themselves. Easier said than done, and he sure made it look easy.
(“I have sequestered frozen rhubarb,” I thought to myself. )
And I will make it again. And again. Although I was looking forward to discovering new ways to prepare my Slagel Farms pork belly, I'm not sure I will ever need a different pork belly recipe again. It's that good. The rhubarb gives it tangy smack, the chiles add perfect heat, and greens add fresh crunch. But the pork is the star. I'm hooked, Slagel Farms!
• 1kg pork belly, the best quality you can afford, boned, rind removed, cut into 3–4cm cubes
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• groundnut or vegetable oil
• 375g medium egg noodles (or ramen, or chow mein noodles)
• 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
• 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
• 2 punnets of interesting cresses (such as coriander, shiso or basil cress)
• a bunch of fresh coriander
• 2 limes
for the marinade
• 400g rhubarb
• 4 tablespoons runny honey
• 4 tablespoons soy sauce
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled
• 2 fresh red chillies, halved and deseeded
• 1 heaped teaspoon five-spice
• a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
Pick the pieces of sauce out of the pan and put to one side. The sauce left in the pan will be deliciously tasty and pretty much perfect. However, if you feel it needs to be thickened slightly, simmer on a gentle heat for a bit until reduced to the consistency of ketchup. Season nicely to taste, add a little extra soy sauce if need be, then remove from the heat and put to one side.
Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Get yourself a large pan or wok on the heat and pour in a good drizzle of groundnut or vegetable oil. Add your pieces of pork to the wok and fry for a few minutes until crisp and golden. (You might need to do this in two batches.) At the same time, drop your noodles into the boiling water and cook for a few minutes, then drain most of the water away. Divide the noodles into four warmed bowls immediately, while they’re still moist.