Whilst bacon possibly isn’t the first ingredient that springs to mind when you start thinking about Japanese food, you may be surprised at how often it’s used over there. It’s popular on izakaya (those small pub or tapas like bars scattered in every city) menus where items like scallops or asparagus come wrapped in bacon, grilled over charcoal on konro or hibachi grills and then drizzled with a soy-mirin glaze and we’ve even seen it used in okonomiyaki (the street food pancakes that we enjoyed in Osaka).
This recipe for curing bacon has a distinct Japanese hue to it, thanks to some inspiration from the (possibly insane) Scott Hallsworth of Korobuta fame.
This’ll yield around 800g. of “angels dancing on your tongue” bacon. Do it right and it should look like this
You’ll need to start with a 1kg piece of (boneless) pork belly. You can leave the rind on by the way.
1kg fine sea salt
80g Sichuan peppercorns
30g dried red chillies
570g dark brown or cane sugar
20cm piece kombu
Firstly, in a hot pan, toast the peppercorns. Toast not burn. Then blend — at a fine setting — all the rub ingredients together in a spice grinder. I’d suggest using a pair of gloves (or, if you use your bare fingers, don’t then touch any ‘sensitive’ bits of your body with them before you’ve washed them thoroughly!) to help rub the mix vigorously into the pork belly. You’ve got to give it a firm, almost Turkish baths type massage, whilst at the same time, you caress it, so all the cure is really well rubbed into all the nooks & crannies. Finish it off by adding an extra coating layer for good luck.
Next grab some muslin. You’ll need enough to be able to triple wrap the pork belly. Use some kitchen string, to bundle it up tightly and secure with a knot or two, just like you were wrapping a bow around a present. Now you’ve got to hang it by one of these bows from a shelf in your fridge. For 4 days. And it’s really important that the bacon isn’t touching anything. If it does, it can attract a build up of moisture, which’ll lead it to spoil. The aim here is to allow it to carry on drying out, which lets the flavours develop as it cures.
On day 5, unwrap your parcel, rinse off the cure then dry well with a paper towel or tea towel. Rewrap as before but in some fresh muslin. Now for an even longer wait…
Hang it once again from a shelf in your fridge for 2 weeks.
When it’s time to use, cut carefully into long delicious slices. Use up any trimmings in stir-fries, risottos, or just fry them until crunchy and blend it into a big, fat, porky homemade mayonnaise. Finest kind.