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Monday, August 22, 2011

Belly up

Pork belly and tuna tacos, theModular, Houston, TX

We've reviewed the incarnation of pork belly as gua bao. Until recently, the main American applications for pork belly are bacon, and as a way of hedging against volatile pork prices. Despite being a low priced meat, it is finding its way into high end applications. Though our local chefs find a way to dress up this formerly plebian meat in sous vide airs, elsewhere cooking belly sits on a long history of tradition. Behold, high end belly:

Meat appetizer plate at Bellagio, in Mandaluyong, Philippines. From left to right, pork belly, roast duck, char siu pork, and jellyfish salad. A classic combination, elegantly executed.

The pork belly close up. Crisp skin, and a fine layering of meat and fat. It's a work of art.

Of course, the unctuous luxury of belly doesn't have to end with the pork. Let's pair it with some raw tuna...belly.

Ohtoro maguro : tuna belly. The most expensive cut of tuna. Nagoya, Japan
Japanese filets of tuna grade them by their distance from the belly. The farthest away is maguro, common tuna - it's that brick red slab that most people are accustomed to. A little closer is chutoro maguro, and right at the belly, is ohtoro maguro - the flesh so marbled with fat it is a pale pink in color, and melts like butter on the tongue.

The two piece serving above (well, the other one was eaten quickly) cost 1000 yen - about $14. For two bites of fish. It's a zen experience - you simply chew on it, and marvel at a rare taste experience. 

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