Although I don’t really claim to be an expert on any particular cuisine (there’s so much to learn!), I am particularly clueless about Latin American cooking. I mean, who knew that chicharrones referred to not only fried pork skin, but also this Peruvian pork belly dish?
I have a true love of all things pork, and I had a feeling I would really like these. Well, like would be a pretty big understatement. Pork belly fries up golden and crispy in it’s own fat and is plated with slices of sweet potato and a spicy mint and onion salsa.
Sure, it might sound strange, but the whole combination is just the right mix of hot, sour, salty and sweet. The mint-onion salsa keeps the fried dish from feeling too heavy and provides a dose of freshness with the chopped mint. It’s actually Peruvian street food that’s also commonly served for breakfast and lunch. All I know is somebody really needs to start up a Peruvian bar in Honolulu and serve this ASAP.
Chicharonnes- Crispy Pork Belly with Sweet Potato and Mint-Onion Salsa
Yield: 6-8 as an appetizer
* 2 to 2-1/2 pounds pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes (freezing the pork slightly will make it easier to cut)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* approximately 4 cups water
* 2 sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced and deep-fried
* 1 red onion, halved and sliced very thinly into half moons
* 2 Tablespoons kosher or sea salt plus a little extra for seasoning
* 2 Tablespoons lime juice
* 1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
* 3-4 Tablespoons roughly chopped mint leaves
In a large pan combine the pork belly, 1 teaspoon salt and just enough water to cover the pork cubes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the water has all evaporated.
While the pork is simmering, prepare the onion salsa. Place the onion slices on a plate and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of kosher or sea salt. Place another plate on top of the onion and weight it down with something heavy. Let sit for 15 minutes to draw out moisture from the onions. Place in a sieve and rinse with cold water to rinse off the salt. Repeat one more time with another Tablespoon of salt. Finally, rinse and drain, squeezing out as much water as you can. Place the onion in a bowl and add the lime juice, diced Jalapeno and chopped mint. Taste and add a little salt, if necessary.
Once all of the water has evaporated from the pan with the pork belly, continue to cook over medium-low heat, to render the pork fat. Continue to cook until all the sides are golden. Place the crispy pork cubes on a plate alongside the fried sweet potato. Top with a generous amount of the mint-onion salsa.
Adapted from The Food and Cooking of Peru