Pork belly is already extremely popular in Chinese and Korean cuisine, but recent years has seen this fatty cut of meat take off in European nations as well. This is particularly evident in the menus and repertoires of great British chefs who are starting to make pork belly a highlight of their cooking.
Pork belly’s claim to fame resides in its nuanced texture and flavour. It has a structure unlike any other cut from the pig - it consists of a layer of meat, a layer of fat, another layer of meat and a final layer of fat, creating an unbeatable balance of moist tender meat, rich chewy fat and crispy skin.
Pork belly began its rise when high-end restaurants around Britain started to feature this cut of meat on their menus. Nowadays it’s no surprise to find dishes like “baked Lincolnshire pork belly”, “slow roast Gloucester Old Spot pork belly” and other preparations of pork belly – even pork belly sandwiches – on the menu of restaurants like London’s Opera Tavern, where confit of pork belly is listed amongst its signature dishes.
As pork belly became a familiar feature at restaurants, so too did it at grocery stores and butchers. British butchers like The Ginger Pig in London and Wilsons Butchers in Leeds put it high on their list of offerings, giving customers the chance to buy it sliced or a full joint to make at home.
Of course, pork belly really took off when it started to appear with regularity in the media with many great British chefs touting this delicious cut on television and in the popular press. You have chefs like the Hairy Bikers showing viewers how to make roast belly of pork, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall showing River Cottage fans how to make all manners of pork belly, from rillons to roast.
Print media, too, has played its role, with journalists like Nigel Slater offering some creative uses for pork belly like his salad of Broccolini and Roast Pork, while food magazines like delicious have featured dishes like crispy pork belly and stuffed belly, thus expanding pork belly’s reach and making it as popular as it is today.