One of my favorite memories growing up on the islands was visiting my uncle, who owned a very popular bar in the southern part of Trinidad. If you’ve ever been to the islands you know that not only are the bars “open” (not enclosed as in North America), it’s usually a hub of activity on a Friday evening. At his bar, most of the oil workers would congregate after a long weeks work and enjoy beverages with their friends. Loud music, people trying their best to be heard over the music and the occasional arguments was the norm.
As you would find “tappas” if you went into a bar in Spain, in Trinidad and Tobago our version is called “cutters” but pronounced “cuttas”. Usually deep fried meats, black pudding and slices of cheese in some cases. Served either on it’s own with lively hot sauces or made into a sandwich using a over-sized dinner roll.
I can still remember the smell of the frying pork we would get (they lived directly above the bar) as it made it’s way up the back stairs. Fatty, crispy.. but so full of flavor. Though this is not his recipe, I’ve asked around and came up with this version.
Let’s cook “cuttas” …
2 lbs pork belly
3 tablespoon salt
1 cup vinegar
3 cups of oil (one that can take high heat)
In a fairly deep pot, place about 4-5 cups of water (try to average so the water will cover the piece of pork in the pot) and bring to a boil. Add the pork, 2 tablespoon salt and about 1/3 cup of vinegar. Allow to simmer on low to medium heat for about 45 minutes or so. Try to have the pork completely covered with water at all times.
Remove from the pot of water after about 45 minutes or so, then using a knife, make cuts on the skin of the pork (see picture below) in a diamond shape. I went in about 1/4 inch or so. Then brush with the remaining salt and vinegar throughout the piece of pork.
IMPORTANT. I screwed up this part, so please learn from my mistake. Place the oil into a DEEP pan. Something like a wok would be great, since it’s nice and wide. When I first made this recipe I ran into hot oil splashing all over the stove and kitchen, since I used a basic non stick (shallow) frying pan. What a mess! If you can… try making this outdoor if your BBQ has a side burner. Not only do you have to deal with the oil splashing about the kitchen.. the “fry” smell does take a while to leave the house.
Here’s a pic of the pan that caused all the problems for me…
Be very careful when placing the pork into the hot oil. BTW, heat the oil on high to medium heat, just before you see smoke. Timing will vary at this point, since I didn’t measure the temperature of the oil, so yours may vary. The idea is the get the skin golden and crispy. Yes, you will have to flip the pork as it fries.
When it’s reached the desired color you like (ensure it’s nice and crispy), remove and cut into bit size pieces. I almost forgot the dipping sauce. this is so simple…
2 tablespoon ketchup
1 table spoon soy sauce
1/4 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce (you can control the heat here..add more if you wish)
Here’s how Tehya (our middle daughter) makes this simple sauce. Combine everything in a small bowl and get ready to enjoy. I did say it was simple! Add a little crushed ginger if you’d like to take things up a notch or two.
There are several different recipes and preparation methods for crispy fried pork on the islands, many of which are influenced by the huge Chinese community.
Thoughts? Leave me a comment below.