I know... the middle of summer isn't really the season to be braising pork belly, but forgetting the soaring temperatures for a moment, this was so good I couldn't wait until the cooler months to share this with you. I mean look at that photo, and tell me you're not tempted to get your Dutch oven out of storage.
The glaze skirts the perfect balance between savory and sweet thanks to the addition of some Asian pear, and the heat from the gochujang is present but not overpowering. Because the pork is braised in the liquid before it's reduced into the glaze, it's much more complex in flavor than your typical barbecue sauce, and has umami in spades.
In terms of technique, there's really not much to it. The pork belly gets browned to encourage the development of umami-rich fond. It's braised with aromatics like garlic, ginger and scallions in sake and Asian pear puree with some gochujang and soy sauce until it's fork tender. Then you just skim off the excess fat from the braising liquid and reduce it until it forms a thick shiny glaze.
- Heat a heavy bottomed pot that's just large enough to fit the pork in a single layer over medium-high heat until hot. Add the pork belly with the fat-side facing down and let it brown (2-3 minutes).
- Once some fat has rendered out of the pork, add the garlic, ginger and scallions. Brown the remaining 3 large sides of the pork belly.
- Add the sake, Asian pear, gochujang and soy sauce and bring the mixture to a boil, dissolving the gochujang while flipping the pork around a few times. Cover the pot with a lid, turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and braise the pork for 90 minutes or until a fork is easily inserted into the middle of the meat. Be sure to flip the meat several times during cooking to ensure it's evenly seasoned.
- When the pork is tender, remove it from the pot and keep it covered to prevent it from drying out.
- Discard the vegetables and then skim off as much fat as you can from the surface of the liquid (you can save the lard for making other things like the kimchi risotto). Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a shallow wide pan such as a frying pan.
- Let the pork cool enough to cut easily without having it fall apart and then cut the pork into cubes.
- Reduce the sauce over high heat until it is thick and shiny. Return the pork to the pot and coat with the sauce.
- Plate the pork and garnish with minari.