i have to admit that since i've come back from werope, i've been a little sluttish with my eating habits, and haven't been eating very healthily. so i thought i would clean out the fridge and freezer, stock up on some beautiful, locally grown hydroponic lettuces, various local and not-so-local organic veg, lots of fruit juices and herbal tisanes, and gain some smug satisfaction that not only had i cleaned out my totally disgusting kitchen, but maybe clean out my totally disgusting body.
...and then i found a ginormous slab of pork belly in the depths of the deep-freeze and i threw out the weekend's plans and had an all-out-no-holds-barred porkfestivus. yeeeeeeaaaaaaaah!!!!
well, no. not really. the slab was only 1.5 kilos; even though it was a major pork-out, i didn't have enough to feed the village and set atop a maypole, but did have enough for a few waymazing sammiches and then some.
the craving for the sandwiches came from not wanting to stand in line at san francisco's ferry building marketplace farmer's market for rolli roti's (in?)famous porchetta sandwich, and from local fave meskla dos's completely infamous PBLT (pork belly, lettuce, and tomato). i haven't had the SF sandwich, although i did overhear some visiting filipinos tell their friends they found it to be overrated in comparison to lechon throughout the philippines. i have had the meskla dos PBLT, which is made with thick, deep-fried strips of pork belly, lots of mayo, iceberg lettuce, and tomato on a slightly sweet hamburger bun. it was decadent and tasty, but i thought the bun, lettuce, and tomato were too soft to hold up against the robust meat strips, and there is an inherent chewiness to pork belly sliced and cooked this way, which is sometimes a little too much for me to appreciate. i enjoy it, but it's a workout to eat. of course, that didn't stop me from trying to cook it this way.
i watched the dudes at meskla dos make a PBLT, took notes on their method carefully: cut two inordinately thick slices off a massive slab of pork belly. chuck in deep-fryer until golden brown. slather an alarming amount of mayo on a soft white bun, top with slivers of tomato and half a leaf of lettuce, arrange deep-fried pork belly--which is twice the weight and over half the volume of everything else--on top, serve with a smile. i cut off two almost half-inch strips of pork belly from a partially frozen slab, sprinkled it with some sea salt and let it stand for about 10 minutes before frying it in an inch or so of oil, until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes). i left them on some paper towel to pointlessly drain off the excess fat as i assembled the rest of the sandwich: ciabatta bread was toasted, slathered on both sides with japanese kewpie mayonnaise, topped with a fistful of green oak and butter lettuces, and fat slabs of beautifully ripe tomato which i sprinkled with pink sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. the ratio of veg to meat was about equal in this, and the ciabatta, while light, provided more body that the soft bun, and the open-crumbed yet firm texture would soak up the inevitable mayo-tomato juice-pork juice sluice that would come. it did, and provided another dimension of crunchiness to this already crunchy sandwich. unfortunately, the pork belly's almost jerky-like texture still fought it out with its 'wichmates and left me struggling with a sandwich that distintegrated as i ate. i know some people enjoy the interplay but i prefer a slightly more harmonious structure.
i toyed with the idea of makin' mah own bacon, but that didn't last. i went for my tried-and-true: the easiest of peasiest nigel slater recipes for crisp belly pork roast. it involves a little bit of marinating, which gives the pork more flavour, a high roasting temp, which gives the skin its gorgeous and glorious crackling skin, and beautifully tender meat. the only difference between my method and the recipe in the link is that i omitted the five-spice powder, and only did a rudimentary scoring of the skin because dang, where did all my sharp knives go?!
the scoring also helps with cutting the meat into perfect-if-generous sized portions. plenty of tender, garlicky, almost sweet meat, with just a sliver of the rich and decadent crackling. this time the sandwich set-up was perfect: the toasted crunch of the bread played well with the tender crunch of the lettuces and the occasional shardy crunch of the crackling, and the juicy tenderness of the roast pork married with the juicy tenderness of the perfectly ripe tomato. the ciabatta soaked up all of the juicy that went astray and yet kept its structure whilst keeping things tasty and tidy. result! i may never go back to a regular BLT again, let alone a "normal" PBLT.
a note: i've read a few posts on other guam blogs that declare "good" tomatoes simply cannot be found on island. not true. they are everywhere when in season, and not necessary in the traditional beefsteak tomato form. the variety that thrives on island is the cherry tomato, which are copious and abundant and as juicy and as acidic/sweet as one would imagine. the best ones that come stateside are also cherry tomatoes, but also super sweet grape tomatoes. if you absolutely must have a larger variety, check with the korean and japanese markets for the air-flown variety from their respective countries--just be prepared to pay a premium. if you need romas, well, you'd probably be SOL on those, but canned san marzanos can occasionally be found in the usually suspected markets.