I really just came up with this dish after reading through the “Everything I want to eat” cookbook by Sqirl LA’s Jessica Koslow. In the book, there was this delicious pork belly bowl, and I wanted to make my own version of it. They paired the housemade bacon with a sorrel pesto, farro, ricotta cheese, pickled watermelon radish, a poached egg, and optionally, you can add avocado and kale to the bowl if you would like. Thinking about it, it really is such a quintessential Californian dish, using fresh produce, keeping the dish light and balanced, and really vibrant and colorful at that. So fun fact, I actually purchased that particular Sqirl cookbook while I was away filming, at a Barnes and Noble. It was just funny because we were basically all running to and ransacking the Barnes and Noble for their cookbooks because we all wanted to look at new dishes/restaurants for inspiration. A special thank you-shoutout to Wuta, because his teacher discount saved us a ton of money!
So for my rendition on a pork belly bowl, I wanted to have quite a few acidic elements to balance out the fact that we have a rich, fatty protein. Culturally, we have a combination of Middle Eastern meets Korean, which is unusual, but not unheard of. I wanted to tie in some more of the subcultures in California, and both Middle Eastern and Korean cuisine came to mind immediately, and it just made sense to me. So we have pickled heirloom cauliflower stems and leaves and a green apple kimchi. The apple kimchi is inspired by Beverly Kim-Clark’s recipe back in her restaurant wars challenge in season 9 of Top Chef(worst season ever, but ironically, some of the most talented alumnus). I just love apples and pork, and again, with such a fatty ingredient like pork belly, any acidic or spicy component really helps with balancing that out. The cauliflower pickle came from not wanting to waste the rest of the vegetable post-ricing, and because they also add nice pops of color to contrast with the brownness of the pork. I also chose to add sumac into the rice, as it adds a nice freshness to it that again, helps with lifting up the fattiness of the pork. The thing about protein-centric dishes is that you really do need to think of different ways to balance out the meat.
Roasted pork belly:
2 large strips of pork belly, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 cloves of minced black garlic
Season the pork belly aggressively. Start by rendering off the pork belly in a pan, skin side first, then turning and slowly cooking on each side. Reserve the fat as you will be using that to toast your almonds and other aromatics in. Sweat out the shallots, garlic, and black garlic in that fat. Transfer the pork belly into an oven and slow roast at 325 degrees F for at least 25 minutes. Mix soy sauce with black garlic, then brush on the pork belly 15 minutes into the process to help with the browning.
Green apple kimchi:
2 green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons gochujang or 2 teaspoons gochugaru
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons shallots, largely diced
Combine ingredients, except for apple, and bring to a slight simmer. Pour onto the apples and allow them to sit together for at least 10 minutes, but at most 2 hours. Strain before plating it.
Pickled cauliflower stem and leaf:
Leaves and stems from 2 heirloom cauliflowers
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Slice the leaves and stems of the cauliflower. Bring all ingredients, sans vegetables, to a simmer. Pour onto the vegetables and allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes.
Sumac cauliflower rice:
2 cauliflowers’ worth of florets, stems removed
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup shallots
1 teaspoon sumac powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
1/2 cup vegetable stock
Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until coarse and rice-like. Sweat out garlic, shallot, sumac, salt, and bay leaf in a pot with oil. Deglaze with cooking wine, mirin, and soy sauce, and allow that to cook off. Add in the cauliflower and stock and allow to steam until cooked all the way through, with the lid on and low heat, about 4-5 minutes.
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons salt
Melt salt and vinegar into the water and bring to a simmer. Cook the eggs in the liquid for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Strain and reserve for plating.
In a bowl, start with the cauliflower rice. Garnish the sides with the pickles, kimchi, and almonds, then top with the pieces of sliced pork belly. Finally, place a poached egg in the center of the rice.