Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus braising and chilling time for the pork.
Note: Adapted from Chef Judy Han of Mendocino Farms Sandwiches & Marketplace in Los Angeles. The restaurant uses Kurobuta pork belly, also known as Berkshire or black pork; Kurobuta pork is generally available at Asian markets, Vicente Foods in Los Angeles and can be found online at www.berkshiremeats.com. Start this recipe two days before making the sandwiches to allow sufficient time to prepare the pork.
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups sake
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
3 pounds skinless pork belly, preferably Kurobuta
1. Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix together the garlic, ginger, sake, brown sugar and soy sauce in a large, nonreactive, oven-proof pot or casserole. Add the pork and just enough water to cover the pork completely. Cover the pot with 2 layers of foil (and the casserole lid, if using) and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until the pork is fork-tender.
2. Remove the pork from the braising liquid and place in a nonreactive dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
3. Cut the pork belly into lardons (1 inch-by- 1/2 inch-by- 1/2 inch). Place them in a large, heavy-bottom sauté pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until their edges slightly crisp and the fat is mostly rendered, about 10 minutes. Strain and discard the fat. Set aside the meat; you will have about 4 cups, more than is needed for the sandwiches in the final recipe. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate; reheat before using. The meat will keep for 5 days refrigerated.
Chipotle aioli1 tablespoon chipotle purée (blended from canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
1 cup mayonnaise
Combine the chipotle purée and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. (This makes about 1 cup aioli, more than enough for the sandwiches.)