Grilled Filipino Adobo Pork Belly | Wine Enthusiast
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Grilled Filipino Adobo Pork Belly

Courtesy Jammir Gray, executive chef, Compline Wine Bar, Restaurant & Merchant, Napa

Jammir Gray’s father did most of the cooking when she was growing up in the Bay Area port city of Vallejo, California. But it was her Filipino mother who showed her how to size up farmers market produce and taught her to net a live fish from a tank. This pork belly recipe uses adobo, the traditional vinegar-soy sauce marinade, which plays a large role in the Filipino household, says Gray. Be sure to start the dish 24 hours before you plan to serve it to allow the marinade ample time to work its magic.

Pickled papaya
Pickled papaya / Photo by Jenny Huang / Food styling by Michelle Gatton / Prop styling by Nicole Louie

Ingredients for Grilled Filipino Adobo Pork Belly

10 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped rough
1 cup cane vinegar or unseasoned rice-wine vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
½ tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
¼ cup brown sugar
4 dried bay leaves
2 pounds skinless pork belly, cut to ½-inch strips
Cooked white rice, for serving
Pickled Papaya, for serving (ingredients and directions below)

Directions for Grilled Filipino Adobo Pork Belly

In small bowl, mix together garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, peppercorns, brown sugar and bay leaves until sugar dissolves.

Pour into sealable plastic bag, and add pork slices. Seal bag and toss gently to ensure marinade covers pork. Place bag in refrigerator to marinate, 8–24 hours.

To cook, heat grill to medium. Remove pork from marinade, and reserve liquid. Grill pork for 2 minutes, brush with reserved marinade and flip. Repeat twice for each side, until pork begins to caramelize. Remove from grill. Serve alongside rice and pickled papaya. Serves 4.

Ingredients for Pickled Papaya

2 cups rice vinegar
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
1 firm green papaya, seeds removed, julienned thin
1 carrot, julienned thin
1 small red pepper, julienned
1 small red onion, sliced thin

Directions for Pickled Papaya

In medium pot over high heat, combine vinegar, sugar, ½ tablespoon salt, garlic and ginger.

Bring to boil, and stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer about 15 minutes. Add black pepper.

In large bowl, toss vegetables with remaining salt. Rest for 1 hour, then rinse under cool water. Drain vegetables, and squeeze off excess liquid. Place vegetables in container, and add just enough pickling mixture to cover. Set aside for at least 24 hours before using. Refrigerated in airtight container, pickles will keep up to 2 months. Makes 4 servings.

Wine Pairing

Matt Stamp, MS, is a partner at Compline. Though the venue boasts wines that span the globe, he recommends something local for this dish.

“This Filipino-style pork belly doesn’t have spicy heat, but it does have a lot of rich, full flavor and even a slight sweetness in the marinade,” he says, “Go for California Zinfandel. Martha Stoumen is making some pretty and lifted examples of the grape. Try her Venturi Vineyard Zinfandel, made from organic and dry-farmed Mendocino fruit.”

In that vein, Steele Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel and Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel, both from Mendocino County, would also work well.