I’ve noticed that there is so much media focus centred on bacon – bacon, of all things! Those salty, smoky rashers and slabs of pork belly that are part and parcel of a good, lip-smacking breakfast and are also key to adding flavour and savour to dishes like pasta carbonara or sautéed broccoli or creamed peas. Much of the bacon eaten here in the Philippines is supermarket bacon – either Purefoods-Hormel or Swift or CDO. There are some who go out of their way to hunt down artisanal bacon from prominent delis or particularly clever entrepreneurs, buying sticks of picnic-style bacon, smoked pork loin, or gammon.
Believe it or not, there is actually a way by which home cooks can add smoky goodness to their favourite meat dishes. This is what is known as tea-smoking.
Here, the pork is first soaked in a sugar-sweetened marinade for at least four hours before being roasted over a mixture of black tea and brown sugar. It’s an absolutely easy thing to do and the results are totally delicious.
I should note, however, that I made this in a turbo broiler (multifunctional convection oven), as it keeps the smoke in and cooks the meat to perfection. I’m still working out how to do this in a regular oven.
It may not be exactly like bacon, but it delivers on smoky goodness. It’s a treat with mashed potatoes, but also works well when tossed into hot pasta or served with fried or poached eggs for breakfast.
Tea-smoked Pork Belly
- 1 kilo pork belly
For the Cure:
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons ginger wine or ginger ale
- 2 star anise, broken
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 5 teabags black tea (Lipton is what I used)
- 5 additional teabags of whichever flavour of tea of choice (I prefer a mix of raspberry white tea and Earl Grey for a slightly fruity tang)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Combine the ingredients for the cure and pour over the pork belly. Allow to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Place the ingredients for smoking in a disposable aluminium dish and place at the bottom of the turbo broiler. Set the roasting rack over the aluminium dish. Switch on the broiler and set to 350 degrees; leave on for 15 – 20 minutes to torch the tea mixture to smoking point.
Place the pork belly directly on the roasting rack. Cook for 20 minutes, then turn over and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Switch off the broiler but do not as yet remove the pork. Leave it in there to absorb the smoke and develop flavour.
When the broiler has cooled completely, remove the pork and slice thinly. Serve at once.