Braised Pork Belly or Filipino Humba Recipe
5 cups water or enough water to cover the pork belly
3 lbs pork belly, trimmed of thicker layers of fat
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¾ cup white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 cup palm sugar
2 tbsp salted back beans
1 tsp ground black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 star anise
¼ cup peanuts, roasted with skins off
In a stockpot, place the water and pork belly. Bring the water to a rolling boil, leaving the pork to par-boil for at least 10 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and leave the belly in the water until cool. Remove the pork from the pot and place in the freezer to quickly chill. Reserve the boiling liquid or broth and place it in a refrigerator for later use.
In large mixing bowl, combine all the other ingredients. Mix well until the palm sugar has completely dissolved. This mixture will serve as both marinade and braising liquid.
Once the pork belly has achieved a comfortably sliceable consistency, remove it from the freezer and cut the belly into three-inch squares. Place pork cubes in the marinade and keep in refrigerator overnight.
An hour or two before braising, remove both the marinating pork belly and the reserved broth. Scrape off the layer of fat that has formed above the broth.
In a heavy pot, place the pork belly, the marinade and broth over high heat. Once at a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and let it cook for at least two to three hours or until tender. Watch the fatty layer of the belly. If it begins to jiggle as it braises, the pork is tender and is ready to serve. You can also use a more conventional technique which is to poke the pork with a fork.
Once the pork is tender, remove the braised belly and set aside. Discard the bay leaves, turn up the heat under the braising liquid and reduce it to a slightly viscose-like sauce.
Like most braised meat, Humba makes great leftovers. Store the braised pork with the sauce in an airtight container in the freezer. To reheat, transfer to a heatproof serving dish and steam until warm through.
Serving this dish can be as simple as placing the braised pork in a bowl and pouring the reduced sauce over it–with bowls of steaming hot rice on hand. Or you could do it my way. I divide the pork belly into bite-size pieces, carefully pour the sauce (including the peanuts and black beans) over thin slices of pork and serve it with a side of ensalandang mangga or a simple chopped salad of mangoes, tomatoes and white onion–sharp sour flavors to contrast with the sweet fatty pork.
We may not be able to claim this dish as singularly our own. But our version, Humba, speaks to things that Pinoys love: our enjoyment of rich, vibrant and contrasting flavors, our obsession with all that is pork and our deep-seated passion for food that reminds us of home.