Pork belly is a workhorse ingredient in South Louisiana kitchens. Cured and smoked for bacon, brined and pickled for salt pork, or sliced and fried for grattons, the belly of the pig has always been a part of every Cajun cook’s repertoire. But while Acadiana cooks have relegated pork belly to a few cultural favorites, the rest of the culinary world has moved it to a center-of-the-plate, star attraction like this Pork Belly Tacos recipe.
I am not sure when or why this fatty piece of the pig wound up as a stellar entrée listing on white-tablecloth menus across the globe. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s the Asian connection where pork belly has been a mainstay of Chinese and Korean menus for years. And I think restaurant chefs these days are utilizing inexpensive cuts of meat with upscale interpretations as a smart value strategy for reducing food costs on restaurant menus.
Whatever the reason, it’s time to belly up to this cut with a Cajun recipe for Pork Belly Tacos using familiar Louisiana ingredients like Barq’s root beer and Steen’s sugarcane molasses in a dish that elevates the taco experience. Marinated, glazed, lacquered, and bronzed, this pork belly turns out moist and meaty with a crackling crust.
Get creative with this cut. It’s a low-cost investment, and when done right like these Pork Belly Tacos, it is as impressive as any Cajun recipe on the Acadiana Table.
- 1 (2.5 to 3-pound) pork belly
- 2 cups apple juice
- 2 cups root beer soda
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup sugarcane molasses
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage
- 2 tablespoons julienned carrots
- 2 tablespoons thinly diced celery
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 flour tortillas
- ½ cup thinly sliced bread and butter pickles
- ½ cup diced green onion tops
- With a sharp knife, score the top fat layer of the pork belly in a criss-cross pattern making sure to stop before penetrating the meat.
- In an ovenproof dish, prepare the marinade by adding the apple juice, root beer soda, soy, Worcestershire, and molasses. While stirring, add the ginger, sugar, salt, and pepper. Submerge the belly fat-side-up in the marinade, add the rosemary sprigs, cover with aluminum foil and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Remove the dish with the pork belly from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Pour off most of the marinade into a saucepan leaving only enough in the dish to immerse the belly about ½ -inch deep. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for 3 hours checking every 30 minutes to make sure there is still enough cooking liquid to prevent burning. Remove from the oven and pour off any remaining cooking liquid into the saucepan.
- While the pork belly is cooling, make the glaze. Over medium-high heat, bring the saucepan containing 1 cup of the remaining marinade/cooking liquid to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer.
- In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and water and stir together until the cornstarch dissolves to make a slurry. Pour it into the pot and turn up the heat to high. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and stir as it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and keep at room temperature until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Brush the glaze generously on the pork belly in the ovenproof dish and making sure to penetrate between the layers of fat. Place in the oven fat-side-up. Keep a close eye on the meat and watch as the top fat layer begins to bronze and lacquer with the root beer glaze, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let it burn.
- Remove from the oven and brush once again with the glaze. Move the belly to a cutting board and slice into bite-sized portions.
- For the slaw and sauce, add the cabbage, carrots, and celery to a mixing bowl. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the sauce to the slaw and mix to combine. Pour the remaining sauce into a serving bowl.
- For the tacos, move the tortillas to a microwaveable plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high until steaming hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Add a generous portion of slaw to the bottom of the taco and top with several pieces of pork belly. Drizzle over some of the remaining root beer glaze and the white sauce. Garnish with sliced pickles and green onion tops. Serve with ice-cold beer.
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