Babi Pangang, a stowaway recipe for spicy roasted pork belly

Some recipes live a life of their own and obtain fame in a country far away from where a dish is supposed to have originated.

So it is with Babi pangang, a famous dish in the Netherlands widely available in Chinese and Indonesian restaurants.

In itself, the name Babi panggang is Malay for roasted pig.  In Indonesia, the people are for almost 90 per cent Muslim and do not eat pork.

But there are people, like the Batak of North Sumatra, that do eat pork and have dishes of charcoal roasted pork with sauces of blood or with spicy sambal.
The Chinese have roasted pork dishes such as char siew.
The “Dutch” dish of babi pangang is probably an invention of Chinese cooks who worked in the Netherlands. It consists of cooked pork meat that is later deep fried and served with a sweet-sour sauce. The sauce contains Indonesian ingredients such as Ketjap Manis – a thick sweet soy sauce.
The advantage of the dish for restaurants is that the meat can be cooked far in advance in large quantities and be finished quickly upon ordering. The meat can be a cheap cut such as pork belly, or the slightly more expensive pork chops.
I do not have a deep fryer and used the grill.
Here in France, there are many shops selling Chinese, Japanese or Vietnamese ingredients but Indonesian ingredients are rare. It seems there is a small shop in the Indonesian embassy.
The Japanese soy sauce is thinner than ketjap.
You can buy ready to use babi pangang sauce and marinade in the Netherlands or order it online. The problem with the marinade is that it burns during the roasting.
In “my” recipe, I first cooked pork belly (poitrine de porc) in a spicy liquid and let it cool before roasting. I made it over several days, keeping the cooked meat in the refrigerator.

Ingredients
for the meat

  • One kilo of pork belly
  • Four litres of water
  • Ground ginger, galangal, kurkuma and cumin
  • Kaffir lime leave
  • Star anise
  • Salt

for the sauce

  • 20 cl of soy sauce
  • Two tablespoons of molasses
  • One tablespoon of tamarind
  • One tablespoon of sambal (red pepper paste)
  • A small tin of tomato puree
  • Three tablespoons of brown sugar
  • A dash of yusu (or lemon juice)

Steps

  1. Put the water in a large pan and add the ground spices, a broken up star aniseed, the lime leave, salt and the meat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat low and cook for at least an hour.
  2. Take the meat from the pan and put it on a bed of paper towels on top of a carving board, then put more paper towels on top, another carving board and something heavy, like a cast iron pan. This is to make the meat flat again, it will have bent during cooking as the skin and fat side does not shrink as much as the meat side.
  3. Once cooled, put it aside or in the refrigerator. You can remove the skin.
  4. Make the sauce by putting the ingredients in a blender. If it is too thick then add some water, if it is too thin then add some more molasses.
  5. Put the sauce in a pan and heat the sauce while stirring from time to time.
  6. Put the meat on a pre-heated barbecue grill or under a pre-heated grill in the oven. Brown the meat on all sides.
  7. Cut the meat in thick slices, arrange them on a platter and add the sauce.