Chipotle Chilli Pork Belly & Pineapple (Tacos al Pastor)
This dish, in Spanish, means tacos in the style of the shepherd. Not entirely sure why, perhaps due to its rustic nature. Either way, its a dish that tastes far from just rustic. A combination of rich belly pork, slow-cooked in chipotle chilli until tender and spiced, grilled to crackling-crisp, and served with sweet, juicy chunks of pineapple. Sounds like a scream!
Apparently this dish was developed by Christian Lebanese migrants in Mexico, who brought their style of cooking meat, that being, on an upwards spit and simply shaved onto the plate. You might know it as 'shawarma' if you like Lebanese food, it's nearly the same thing. You'll find this preparation still being used in Mexico today, though with pork and completely different flavourings to shawarma. Cooked in grassy cumin, hauntingly smokey chipotle & ancho chilli and a sweet burst of pineapple, this flavour is quite far from it's Middle-Eastern heritage, but the succulence is still there.
Now making a dish like this at home can be tricky. Not everybody has a kebab spit knocking around their kitchen, at least I think so? The best way of preparing a dish of this nature is in the oven, slowly, with a flavourful piece of meat. Pork belly is the best contender. It braises slowly in the oven it a flavourful liquid, and then meets a blistering hot grill afterwards to harden the crackling on top. The resulting meat is tender, yet crisp with crackling, sweet with pineapple, and delightful rolled up into a burrito with brown rice and soured cream. Save this for a rainy weekend, when you're not going anywhere, and treat yourself to this exquisite meat feast. You'll hope for more days like it!
TACOS AL PASTOR
- 1kg Pork Belly
- 50g Chipotle Chilli Paste
- 25g Ancho Chilli Paste (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 3 tablespoons (75g) Soft Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds/ground cumin
- 300g Pineapple Chunks (canned, drained)
- Tortillas, Rice & Soured Cream to serve
- Preheat the oven to 160C.
- Take a large oven dish, ideally something with a lid. Place the belly pork, fat-side upwards, into the dish.
- Take a measuring jug. Add in 50g of chipotle paste, 25g of ancho paste (if using), 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cumin (seeds or ready-ground) 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper and stir together. Add 250ml of water to the jug and stir until you have a dark red liquid.
- Pour the dark red liquid around the belly pork in the dish. Be careful not to pour the liquid over the belly pork or splash any onto the fat on top, as this needs to stay completely dry to make crackling. Once the dark red liquid is in, fill the jug with some water and top up the liquid in the dish until it reaches about 2/3 up the belly pork.
- Cover the dish with a lid, or with foil, and place into the middle of the oven. Cook on 160C for 2 hours.
- After two hours, preheat a grill to the highest temperature. Remove the pork from the oven and remove the lid. Carefully remove the belly pork and sit on a foil-lined tray, without getting the fat wet. Place the pork under the grill, fat-side up and grill for 5-10 minutes until the crackling becomes dry and crispy, then remove. Be cautious as it can burn fast.
- Tip your 300g pineapple chunks into the pan of cooking liquid that the pork was cooking in and stir.
- After your pork belly has cooled a little bit, you can slice, if it isn't already sliced, and add back into the cooking liquid and pineapple. Leave to sit for half an hour to allow the pork to re-mingle with the flavour.
- Serve straight away over brown rice and scooped into soft tortillas with soured cream!