One of my favorite comfort foods is a Korean dish made of pork belly and kimchi; it’s also one of Sam’s favorites. After a couple of disappointing experiences at neighborhood Korean joints around our place, I decided I needed to make the dish at home for our first formal dinner guests. Like most Korean food, there is little exact measurement going on in cooking. So, in the recipe below are estimates. You can adjust according to your preferences and taste. Maangchi has a more precise recipe (without kimchi and rice cake).
- 1-2 lbs of black pork belly
- an equal amount of overripe kimchi (or whatever amount of leftover kimchi you happen to have) with the kimchi liquid.
- 2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil
- ~ 1/3 cup of korean pepper paste
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2-1 inch knob of ginger, minced
- brown sugar or korean-style corn syrup to taste (~ 2-3 tablespoons)
- 1-2 cups rice cake of any shape
- green onion
- served with cooked firm tofu and romaine lettuce
- I also added some bulgogi juice (because I was also making bulgogi and thought some added beefy sweetness couldn’t hurt)
Cut the pork belly into 1-2 inch sections. Heat a large pan, add sesame oil to coat the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and sautee for a few minutes. Add the pork belly until nearly fully cooked. Add the kimchi and additional oil as necessary to prevent the kimchi from sticking to the pan. As the kimchi is becoming more translucent (5-10 minutes), add the pepper paste and corn syrup/sugar. Continue to cook and adjust the amount of pepper paste, kimchi liquid and corn syrup/sugar to taste. The kimchi should be softer and translucent when finished. At the end, add the rice cake and green onion and cook until the rice cake has softened, but is not too gelatinous. (I thought I purchased cute rice cake balls to find that I bought weird 8-shaped rice cakes that looked like two balls stuck together. Though I was grossed out at first, our dinner guest pointed out that the shape made for an easier grip with chopsticks. I was pleased by this discovery and grew to love the mutant balls.)
Place the tofu in a pot of boiling water, boil for a few minutes to cook. Remove from the pot and cut into rectangles. Serve with the tofu (to cut the spice and salt) and romaine lettuce leaves to make ssam (kind of like tacos with lettuce).
Korean food is tough to make from scratch – that would require a lot of pickling and fermenting. So, I do as my mom did growing up, buy pre-made ingredients from the Korean market and assemble. Apart from the porkbelly and kimchi, fried egg, and bulgogi (in the bibimbap) everything else was bought pre-made.
Recently, I partook in one of the best hot pot experienced I’ve ever had, whether in a home or at a restaurant. I took no responsibility for the cooking, but I needed to share my joy. The broth was made with homemade chicken stock; it smelled and tasted like drippings for gravy. Also, I discovered fish balls with roe filling. Now, I cannot go back – my expectations for fish balls are now infinitely higher. This has little connection to the porkbelly and kimchi, but I thought perhaps there’s a dinner party theme, as an excuse to showcase the wonder: