Thursday, 3 December 2009

Harissa Roast Pork Belly (Recipe)


Of all the fruit, the mango's the best;
Of all the meat, the pork's the best;
Of all the leaves, lahpet's the best.

Traditional Burmese saying

I love pork. I think it's partly genetic (see above) and partly because it's so versatile - not only can you roast it, fry it, grill it, bake it, mince it, stew it, steam it etc, you can turn it into miraculous "other" things like ham and bacon.

My absolute favourite cut of meat is pork belly; I use it in my favourite noodle dishes, but it's also divine when roasted. Sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a crisp slab of crackling nestling on a layer of sweet, smokey fat.

This recipe is inspired by a spiced roast pork recipe from the lovely Niamh at Eat Like a Girl. I like the smokey heat of North African dishes, so I decided to use a combo of harissa and ras-el-hanout which worked really well. I also used fruit sugar which is finer than normal sugar and really melts into the meat.


Harissa Roast Pork Belly

  • 1 kg pork belly
  • 1 tbsp harissa (I used Belazu rose harissa)
  • 1 tsp ras-el-hanout (I like Bart's)
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp fruit sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of MSG (optional - look, I'm Burmese and I like the stuff)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 tbsp cornflour

Preheat your oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Score the skin on your pork belly using a sharp knife like a Stanley knife, if it hasn't been done already.

Place the pork on a rack in a roasting tray, skin side up, and pour boiling water over the skin, so the grooves in the skin open up a little. Pour away the water and remove the wire rack temporarily so the pork is sitting in the tray.

Blot the skin dry with kitchen paper, and then rub the ras-el-hanout, salt, sugar, pepper, MSG if using, and olive oil all over the meat, making sure to work it into the grooves of the skin. Next rub the harissa all over the pork.

Put the wire rack back into the tray, place the pork on top, skin-side up, and then drizzle the vinegar over the skin. This is a Chinese trick to help make crackling crisper - don't know if it actually does anything, but it makes me feel better.

Pour the wine and water into the tray from the side, not touching the meat (this helps keep the pork moist by steaming it very gently).


Roast at 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2 for two hours, before switching to the grill function to crisp up the crackling - this shouldn't take more than about five minutes and you should watch like a hawk to stop it burning.

When the crackling is all puffed up, turn the oven off, move the pork onto a chopping board and let it rest for ten minutes. Meanwhile, pour the rendered fat away from the roasting tray and quickly reduce the remaining juices with the cornflour to make a lovely porky gravy.

Finally, chop the belly pork into slices - I use a Chinese cleaver to keep the crackling neat - and serve with the gravy and whatever else you fancy; we had ours with creamy mashed potatoes and sprouts and it was spanking gorgeous.



  1. A slab of roasted pork belly is such a wonderful thing.i am convinced that the fat must have significant health benefits, I don't care what people say. Psychological benefits, at least!

  2. I have drowned in my own saliva. This sort of food porn should have a over 18 rating ;)

    I too put water underneath my pork belly. It really does keep the meat moist.

  3. @Helen - Fat is what makes the world go around!

    @The Ample Cook - Heh, maybe I should have put a warning : ) Yes, the steam bath is a good idea because it's so easy for pork to dry out.

  4. That looks great. Oh, what I'd do for some pork belly right now!

  5. I'm craving pork belly too! And I definitely agree with meat line of that Burmese saying. Not so sure about the fruit or leaf lines though. ;)

  6. @Lizzie - I'm going home to a roast pork sandwich - I saved the crackling separately in an airtight bag so hopefully it's still crunchy :)

    @Su-Lin - Heh, pickled tea is an acquired taste :p

  7. Pork belly is my favourite cut of meat too - when I was a kid I used to take pork cracklings to school in my lunch box, everyone thought I was weird!

    Wonderful recipe, and good tip about the vinegar, I will try that next time, thanks.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  8. @Luiz - You were just ahead of your time - I also used to get stick for bringing "exotic" food to school when I was little :)

    Hope the vinegar tip works (if not, apologies in advance!)

  9. Fantastic! I'm definitely going to try this!

  10. All the dishes here are looking very attractive and insist to make and eat.Adding pork is very good.When you serve, squeeze the clementines on top of the meat, sprinkle cinnamon and pour pan juices over the slices.
    Army rations

  11. Mimi,
    I am sorry I am late with this. But that was the pig of wonder and delight.
    Mwah xx

  12. @Paul -Fab :)

    @Peter - Clementines and pork? Not tried that one.

    @AudreyGillan - Haha! Thank you x

  13. I made your recipe recently. It was just fabulous. :-)

  14. Oh my. Have been hankering for this ever since I saw the link. The gleam in my eye must have been really obvious as the butcher gave me 2kg as 'enough for 4 greedy people'. It was my first time in there, He must know the sort.

    I added a couple of chopped preserved lemons to the mix. Oh lushness. I am turning into my own pork belly. I can't stop picking at it

  15. @LaFlafster - Oh, nice addition - harissa and preserved lemons have such an affinity!

    And what a well-trained butcher you have :)


Thanks for taking the time to comment!