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Balinese Suckling Pig

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The young pigs that are typically served in Bali are large enough to serve a whole lot of people, sometimes weighing as much as 150 pounds. This recipe calls for a 12- to 15-pound suckling pig, and it is adapted from a recipe I got from Heinz von Holzen, chef-proprietor of Bumbu Bali Restaurant and Cooking School and author of several inspiring cookbooks on Balinese cooking. I have also used the recipe for a pork roast. And although not nearly the same experience, it was very good nonetheless. The most important thing is that you get the skin just right, without burning it—admittedly not an easy task, but one made a whole lot easier if you have a rotisserie function on your oven, and definitely also possible with a normal household oven as well. You would get the most authentic result if you cooked the pig over a charcoal fire—but that demands constant attention for several hours and a mastery of the grill. Instead. I bake the pig in the oven at a moderate temperature (325 degrees F for 3 hours) and then finish it on the grill. Make sure that there are hot coals on only one side of the grill. so you can get the skin nice and crispy and get that nice smoky aroma without burning the skin. Adding a teaspoon of liquid smoke to the turmeric water is cheating a bit. but it will do much the same. The stuffing should be quite hot and then eaten only in moderation.

Serves8 to 10 as a main course

Cooking Methodroasting

CostSplurge

Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealdinner

Moodadventurous, festive

Taste and Texturecrisp, hot & spicy, meaty, rich, spiced

Ingredients

  • 1 12-to 15-pound suckling pig
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt
  • 6 ounces fresh turmeric, finely chopped, or 5 to 6 tablespoons powdered turmeric
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 1 ½ pounds cassava leaves, blanched and chopped, or spinach, chopped
  • 1 pound shallots, chopped
  • 10 to 20 plump cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces galangal, peeled and finely chopped, or 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 8 to 15 bird’s-eye chiles, depending on how hot you would like your stuffing
  • 10 stalks lemongrass, crushed and chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
  • Vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Remove all the oven racks except the bottom one, and preheat the broiler.

  2. Rub the pig inside and out with the salt. Set aside.

  3. If you have fresh turmeric. combine 2 ounces of the turmeric with the water in a blender and process until smooth. Strain the liquid and reserve it. If using powdered turmeric, combine 2 tablespoons of it with the water and mix well.

  4. In a small skillet, toast the shrimp paste over high heat until dry and crumbly. Make sure to use your kitchen fan—this process gives off a powerful smell. Transfer to a bowl, add the cassava leaves, shallots, garlic, galangal, chiles, lemongrass, coriander seeds. peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves, and the remaining fresh turmeric or 3 to 4 tablespoons powdered turmeric, and mix well. Stuff the pig with this mixture and close the cavity as well as you can, either sewing it with trussing string or using wire. (If you don’t have steel wire at hand. you could use the wire of a paper clip.) Brush the skin of the pig with turmeric water.

  5. Brush the oven rack with oil (or. better still, wrap the individual bars with foil before heating the oven and brush them with oil). This will prevent the skin of the pig from sticking to the roasting rack.

  6. Place the pig on the oven rack and broil for 20 minutes, Take the pig out and brush with turmeric water. Turn the pig over and bake for another 20 minutes. All ovens have slightly different broilers—pay close attention so that it does not bum the skin.

  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 1½ hours, brushing the pig with turmeric water and turning it a couple of times. At this point, the pig should be cooked. If it will be some time before you plan to serve it, reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and leave the pig there for up to 2 hours—it only gets better that way

  8. Just before serving, you might want to give the skin a final crisping. This can be done by using the broiler, or, preferably, if you have a convection oven, simply by increasing the temperature to 450 degrees F and baking for an additional 15 minutes. Pay close attention so the skin does not burn—during this process, you should not leave the kitchen, or even the immediate vicinity of the oven.

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