Living in Miami Beach has exposed me to A LOT of Cuban food, all of which I absolutely love. One dish that I come across at pretty much every Cuban restaurant I dine at is a staple called Masitas de Puerco Fritas, or Fried Pork Chunks (there’s not a single word in that name that doesn’t make me swoon).
In love with blending cultural culinary traditions, techniques and flavors, I decided to replicate the dish but in a very different way. I use my Mediterranean Spice Rub as a marinade for the pork belly that is braised, cooled, breaded in seasoned panko and then fried to ensure that each piece is crispy and melts in your mouth when you bite into it. Served alongside my Piquillo Pepper Dipping Sauce, the flavors of this dish will transport you from one country to another and loving every moment of it.
Here is fusion food doing what it does best — tasting damn good! Enjoy!
Fried Pork Chunks a la Cuba
(recipe serving size – 8 pieces)
For the braised pork belly:
1 lb pork belly, cut into 8 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 tb Mediterranean Spice Rub, plus 1/2 tsp for braise
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
4 lemon slices
1 tsp of honey
Coat pork belly in 1 tb of the Mediterranean Spice Rub and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
In a small pot, season the chicken stock with 1/2 tsp of the Mediterranean Spice Rub and cracked black pepper. Add the pieces of pork belly, onion and lemon slices. Drizzle honey over the top. Place a lid on the pot, bring the braise to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the pork is fork tender (about 1 1/2 hours).
Remove the lid and raise heat to medium. Simmer vibrantly for another 1/2 hour. Remove the pork and refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the breading and frying:
1 to 2 cups of canola oil
1 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1 tb water
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tap kosher salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
In a shallow pan, heat about 3/4 of an inch of canola oil over medium to medium-high heat, making sure the oil does not smoke.
Create a dreading station using 3 separate bowls. Place the flour in one bowl. Beat the eggs and add the water to the second. In the third bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with the spices. Toss the cooled off pieces of pork belly in the flour first, coating them completely. Dread the the flour-coated pork in the egg and then transfer them to the bowl of panko. Move the pork around to make sure that the panko is covering every piece.
Test the oil by dropping a few of the breadcrumbs into the pan. If the breadcrumbs burn, remove the pan from the heat to let the oil cool slightly. Lower the setting on the stove and return the pan to the burner. Test the oil again before placing the pork into the pan.
Once the oil is ready, gently place each piece into the pan. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the panko has browned and the pork is heated through. Drain the pork on a wire rack or on a plate lined with paper towel. Sprinkle salt on the pieces while warm.
Bringing it all together:
Place the pork chunks on a small serving platter alongside a batch of the Piquillo Pepper Dipping Sauce. Garnish with fresh thyme and diced piquillo peppers and eat while warm!
- For a slightly leaner version of the dish, trim the fat from the pork after the pork belly has been braised and cooled. Instead of breading and frying, broil the pork chunks for 5-10 minutes, flipping them at least once, until a crust has formed.