I have always thought of pork belly as something that should be cooked in huge vats to be served up to tables full of rosy-cheeked children. Unfortunately (thankfully, come to think of it) I don't have any of those so I just bought to two little slabs you see above.
The few times I've pork belly I've done it with garlic, fennel seeds and chilli, which is good with all things porky, and I think would be great minced pork in meatballs. However, today I wanted to try something more Asian, inspired by Chez Pim's five spice braised pork and Eat Like A Girl's spiced roast pork.
So, peppercorns, dried chillies, fennel, a little piece of star anise and cinnamon were pounded in the pestle and mortar (the biggest, toughest-looking, best pestle and mortar, incidentally) and then smeared over the two pieces of belly. Ideally I would have left it to marinate for a a few hours but I didn't have time and it didn't seem any the worse for it.
I briefly seared the meat on both sides, then added about three tablespoons of fish sauce, two of brown sugar and enough water to just cover. Turn the heat down as low as possible and leave to simmer very gently for at least two hours. The water will evaporate a bit; this is part of the plan.
After about two and a half hours my house smelt amazing - sweet, salty and pungent - and the meat was beginning to fall apart. The liquid had reduced down to a few very intense spoonfuls made unctuous by rendered-down fat. I ate it with rice, lubricated with these juices, and with steamed spinach to cut through the richness. Any leftovers are amazing for breakfast, reheated and shredded, then piled on to toast which you have dunked in the fat.