Tea smoked cured belly (bacon) 茶熏五花肉

Ever since I made tea smoked chicken I am hooked. The meat has such deep rich flavour and texture of  meat is so tender and juicy. I now tried tea smoked belly. As expected the flavour and texture is excellent. This is probably the best piece of porky I have made. The meat is cured with soy sauce and spices, the curing salt makes the meat a lovely pink colour.

1. Curing

1.5 kg pork belly with skin
1/2 cup light soy sauce
10g salt
1/3 cup sugar
4g #1 cure salt  (Prague #1 or insta cure #1)
1/3 cup Chinese cooking wine
1.5tbsp Sichuan peppercorn
1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
3 – 4 star anise (break up into small pieces)
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 small piece ginger, thinly sliced

Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Put meat in a ziplock bag, pour in the marinade and spread the spices evenly. Seal bag and leave in the fridge to cure for a week, turning the meat once or twice during the curing time.

2. Steaming
The meat will be cooked by steaming. Remove all the spices from the meat. Put meat on a rack in a steamer. Let the water come to a boil then lower the heat to low, steam for about 45 – 50 min. If using a much smaller piece of meat reduce steaming time by about 10 min. The meat is ready for smoking straight after steaming.

3. Smoking
I used the same stainless steel steamer for smoking. If using a steel steamer like mine, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned before smoking, any grease will leave a burnt stain. You can use a large pot or wok with a lid. Do not use bamboo steamer the smoke will damage it. Do line the smoker or whatever pot or pan you are using with several layers of foil to prevent leakage and save cleaning. Cleaning a nasty burnt pan is painful.

These are the smoking ingredients:
small handful of rice (about 2 – 3 tbsp)
small handful of dried loose Chinese tea (I used ti kuan yin 鐵觀音)
1 heap tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp any flour (wheat or rice)

Line the pan/wok with several layers of aluminium foil. Spread the smoking ingredients evenly. Put on a rack place meat on rack with the skin side up. Cover and turn heat on to medium low. Wait till you can see white smoke, turn heat down to very low. Slowly smoke the meat for about 30 – 35 minutes till the meat surface is dark brown. When done turn the heat off and let the meat cool inside the smoker. When cooled ready for slicing and serving. The skin is soft and slightly chewy and meat is rich and flavourful. The meat is good too after chilling and will keep in the fridge for a week or more. Once chilled the skin is chewier.

* for more details about smoking see this tea smoked chicken recipe.

Here I sliced the meat very thin and eaten with lettuce.

Other serving suggestions:
Noodle soup
Serve with rice
Stir fry
Stir fried rice
Sandwich meat

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