Chashu is that delicious AF piece of pork belly you find in ramen and pork buns. Read on to find out how to make Smokey Japanese chashu, AKA smoked pork belly at home.
MMMM Smoked Pork Belly
Damn right homer! Japanese ramen, the real stuff not the instant stuff, is the greatest food that ever was or ever will be. It is known. Grilled cheese and tomato soup, a slice of apple pie with ice cream, a tall stack of waffles, everyone has their own comfort food; but when I’m in need of a good pick me up, a beautifully umami bowl of miso ramen with an embarrassingly large amount of toppings is mine. What are those toppings though?
What Are Those Toppings Though?
The topping options are endless but some standards are corn, menma (braised bamboo shoots), soft boiled egg, naruto aka fish cake (this thing 🍥), and a giant piece or two of chashu.
WTF Is Chashu?
Chashu is pork belly that’s braised in s sweet soy sauce mixture until it is tender and packed with umami flavor. But I you know what chashu has always been missing, at least for me? The smokey flavor of bacon. They’re the same cut of pig after all. Bacon smokes for about 3 hours and that’s what we’re going to do with this pork belly.
How Do We Smoke bacon?
Well you need a smoker! Duh!
And now I have a pellet smoker! This is my Traeger grill. I’m calling it Chris.
Chris Traeger! Get it?!
Well a Traeger Pellet Grill is a fascinating piece of equipment. You just fill it with wood pellets. Turn it on and wait till it starts making smoke. You can then set the temperature you want to cook at and let it go for hours. It’s that easy and for people who don’t want to watch a grill for 48 hours while trying to get that juiciest fall off the bone set of ribs, it’s perfect.
So Where Do We Start Making Smoked Chashu?
First thing’s first, go to the butcher and get yourself a 2 pound slab of pork belly. Traditionally chashu is rolled and tied with kitchen string, however you want to maximize the smokey flavor with as much surface area as possible.
Next, you need to marinate that meat and make sure it absorbs the chashu flavor. Find an oven save dish with deep walls that’s big enough to fit the pork belly and place the meat inside. In a mixing bowl, combine your marinade ingredients and then pour it over the meat. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 24.
Now It’s Time To Get Smokey!
Drop It Like It’s Hot
Do people still say that? Am I just old and lame? Well I know the answer to the second one. Anyway, this is going somewhere. I swear. In Japanese cooking, when you braise meats, you use a an otoshibuta or “drop-lid. They’re round wooden lids that are slightly smaller than the diameter of the pot you intend to use. Relax I’m not going to make you get one. You can simply subtitle aluminum foil. Just take foil and roll it up until it fits inside of the pot you’re using.
That’s all you need. A drop lid is placed directly on the surface of the simmering food. While the broth bubbles up, it hits the lid and falls back onto the food. This ensures even cooking and makes sure all the meat is covered by the braising liquid. Place your smoked pork belly in the pot, fat side up. Then cover it with the drop lid and place it back in the smoker. Turn it up to 275°F and let it cook for 2 more hours.
When the time is up, take your meat out and let it rest until it comes to room temperature. Slice the meat down the middle longways and then into thin slices. When you’re ready to serve, sear the meat in a skillet. You can add a bit of the braising liquid while you cook to add more flavor. Serve in ramen. It’s a great way to jazz up a bowl of instant ramen. You can also just serve it on a toothpick with hoisin sauce as an appetizer.