This recipe started as my other cooking projects do: with the realization that I had never cooked with fermented black beans, called tausi in Tagalog, before – despite its central role in Filipino dishes such as humba (pork belly braised with soy sauce, vinegar and fermented black beans) and totsong isda (often simply called ‘isda sa tausi’, a popular karinderia item of milkfish or tilapia stewed with black beans).
Of these five recipes for humba from five different cookbooks, none have exactly the same ingredients. Ditto for each recipe’s procedure!
I would have to go my own way with this recipe, I figured, while keeping the dish’s balance of sweet and salty intact. After looking over the recipes above, I decided on two requirements for my take on humba: a minimal list of ingredients (that deliver maximum depth of flavour) and a significantly shorter cook time.
Enter the pressure cooker! It’s the perfect meal for a Sunday night – largely hands-off, so you can do whatever you want for an hour and a half while your pressure cooker steadily releases puffs of anise-scented pork belly into the air. Pop a few bottles of your choice craft brew, and let those melt-in-your-mouth slabs of pork remind your dinner companion why you’re a great person to keep around.
Ingredient list and measurements adapted from Yasmin Newman’s recipe in 7,000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours (hands-off for about 30 minutes, and minimal stirring for another 30)
Makes: A hearty dinner for two, plus delicious lunches
1-1/2 lbs pork belly, skin-on, preferably from an Asian butcher
1 tbsp bacon fat (from the jar you should have in your fridge)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp fermented black beans (tausi), rinsed
3 star anise
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp rice flour
Steamed white rice, to serve
Chopped green onions, to serve
- Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over high. Cut pork belly into two (roughly) 6-inch slabs.
- Once pan is scorchingly hot, drop the slabs of pork belly, skin side down, onto the pan; sear for 6 minutes on each side. Set aside on a cutting board to cool.
- Combine chicken or vegetable stock and water into a 4-cup liquid measure, and toss brown sugar, black beans, star anise and bay leaves in. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
- Combine soy sauce and vinegar into a separate 1-cup liquid measure. Set aside.
- Heat the bottom pot of your pressure cooker over medium-high. Melt bacon fat; add garlic and onions and saute until onions soften, about 5 minutes.
- While the onions are cooking down, head back to your slabs of pork belly, which should be cool enough to handle (as only the outer portion of the slabs have received heat). Cut each slab further into 2-inch thick slices, across the grain so that each slice retains a portion of the seared skin, fat and meat.
- Once onions are soft, nestle the pieces of pork belly in with the aromatics. You should have enough to cover the bottom of the pot.
- Add both cups of liquid mixtures in; swirl to ensure even distribution.
- Attach the pressure cooker lid to seal and bring your pot to pressure over high. Once your cooker hisses and hits pressure, drop the heat to medium and keep your pot at pressure for 30 minutes. Ensure your pressure stays constant for about a minute before walking away!
- Once the timer rings, remove your pot from the heat. Use the quick-release setting on your cooker to de-pressurize the pot. Leave for 10 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, take out the pork belly pieces and set aside.
- Take out a colander and strain the sauce back into your 4-cup liquid measure (the liquid will have reduced enough to fill the cup). Discard the strained solids.
- Using the 1-cup measure, take approximately 1 cup of the hot liquid out. Dissolve rice flour into this portion to make a slurry.
- Pour all liquid back into the pressure cooker and heat over high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce reduces by half, about 20 minutes.
- To serve, cut each slice of pork belly into 1/2-inch chunks. Fan pieces out over a bed of steamed white rice and drizzle the sauce over top. Sprinkle with green onions.
I call pressure-cooked humba a sucess!