February 20, 2018

The Unicorn Cooks: Instant Pot Braised & Glazed Crispy Pork Belly with Wok-Fried Noodles

by cns2020

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The Unicorn Cooks is a special blog series which follows Makes Unicorns Great Again owner Renée Gannon on her adventures in the kitchen. Renée is a passionate foodie and enjoys cooking in her free time. These posts will be a mash-up of photos, videos, stories, recipes (that barely offer quantities or amounts) and her own tips and tricks in the kitchen. She is especially fond of her Instant Pot and her Deep Fryer.  If you have suggestions for things you would like to see, shoot Renee a message! 

Instant Pot Braised & Glazed Crispy Pork Belly with Wok-Fried Noodles

I love pork belly, but for some reason, the thought of cooking it has always intimidated me. Until I got an Instant Pot, which is a great tool for cooking meats that require lots of time to be delicious, but with the bonus of having instant gratification because it’s so much faster. Pork belly, when done right, is unctuous, crispy, savory, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It is commonly used in a lot of Asian dishes and the flavors of the pork bode well with Asian flavors.
I wanted to try some kind of braised-n-glazed crispy pork belly over pan-fried noodles. I woke up one morning and emotionally committed to attempting this technically challenging cut of pork. I thought it would probably be great in the Instant Pot, having researched many recipes about how best to cook it that way.  I knew keeping it crispy while glazing it would be a challenge, but one that I was ready to tackle.

The recipe itself was wholly inspired by a trip to Boston’s Chinatown with friends for our annual Dim Sum retreat where we would catch up for a Sunday morning brunch around a table full of steamed and fried small-bites. Then, with full bellies and happy hearts, we’d wander the streets of Chinatown, popping into Asian bakeries and my favorite place, the Asian grocery store.  The Asian grocery store is like my version of Disney! I could spend hours browsing the aisles of weird and non-English-identified food products that were like nothing in American grocery stores. To my wife, this was hell, but for me, it was heaven. I have to practice restraint to not buy every food item I can possibly get my hands on.  This trip, I would focus on my pork belly dish (with a few randoms thrown in for good measure).
Fast forward to the actual dinner-making adventure.  This is how it goes down: I prep all my veggies first and foremost (mise en place, right Anne Burrell?)

Ingredients for the Pork Belly

3-4 green onions (we’ll use only the green parts)
1 inch ginger, sliced into thin pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 to 2 lb. pork belly
¾ cup water
¼ cup mirin
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
2 star anise
5 whole garlic cloves
2 tbsp of sriracha or chili garlic sauce
Ingredients for the wok-friend noodles
1 large bag or box of chow mein or low mein pan-fried noodles (prepare the noodles as it says on the packaging, in preparation for frying. Make sure they are dried and coated with a little oil).
Assorted veggies – this is where you can go hog wild, use as much or as little veggie as you like! Chop everything small, minced or shredded, to reduce cook time.
I used: Napa cabbage, carrots, celery, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, green onion, snow peas, bean sprouts and mushrooms.
Garnish: sesame seeds, sriracha, green onion


1. Pour all your liquids into one container (water, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, chili sauce). Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
2. Turn on your Instant Pot, and hit the saute function. Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil (more if needed). Sear and brown the pork belly on both sides, about 5 minutes each side.
3. Left up pork belly and deglaze your pot with the liquid from step one.  Put the pork belly back inside the liquid. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic and star anise.
4. Cover and lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Press the manual button and set to 35 minutes on high pressure.
5. Once it’s done, let it Natural Pressure Release (NPR) for 10 minutes and then do a quick release by releasing the pressure cooker valve.
6. Open the pressure cooker, remove your pork belly, set it aside to cool. Drain the liquid through a strainer into a separate container, let it sit for a few minutes so you can skim some of the fat off the top and then pour the strained liquid back into the Instant Pot.  This removes all the chunky stuff so you can make your sauce.
7. Turn on Saute and let your sauce reduce, makes sure you give it a good whisk every few minutes while it’s reducing. You want it to get to glaze stage aka ooey-gooey-stick-to-your-spoony. You can taste as you go, adding more sugar or any of the other liquids that you prefer, to taste.
8. While your sauce is reducing, and when the pork belly is cooled, you should cut it length-wise into about 2 inch chunks.
9. Prepare your wok with some oil and some of the skimmed fat from the pork belly. When the wok is screaming hot, fry up those delicious little nuggets of pork belly until crispy. Make sure you flip them halfway through. They take about 3-5 minutes per side. Beware of pork fat splatter (like, no for real, use a splatter guard)! Remove to paper towels so the fat can drain off a bit and cool.
10. Once your pork belly is done being crisped, add a little more oil to your wok until super hot. Add in the veggies you prepared for your noodles, give them a quick sear, only a couple of minutes so they remain crisp.
11. Add in your noodles to the wok and saute on high heat for a few more minutes. Add a little more oil to keep the noodles from sticking if you need to. Once done, remove pan-fried noodles from the wok and set aside in a large bowl.
12. At this point, your sauce should be reduced and think enough so it’s a glaze. Take the pork belly, add it into the sauce, give it a good coat so it’s fully glazed and pull them back out. That’s it, you’re done!
13. Now you can assemble your bowl. Veggie wok-fried noodles on the bottom, topped with braised and glazed crispy pork belly, garnished with sesame seeds, sriracha and green onion. Delicious! Enjoy with a lychee-flavored Ramune soda, or Saki (if you’re not drivin’).

Image by Renee Gannon