Pork Belly Geerah Recipe

Marinate pork belly overnight in a tangy, spicy mixture of vegetables, herbs, and spices, then braise until juicy and tender in this comforting Trinidadian curry.
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Photo by Farideh Sadeghin 

Liming — or to “coast a lime” — is a Trinidadian national pastime. “Pastime,” though, doesn’t quite capture the importance of liming. As an activity, it doesn’t look like much: just hanging out, swapping stories with friends, dancing, playing music, often in parks, yards, malls, and on the streets of Port of Spain, or wherever the Trini diaspora lands. But it’s also an enactment of cultural identity, an exercise in storytelling, a historical resistance to colonialism, and an excuse to eat. When I visited Trinidad recently with my grandfather, Papa Winston, we went liming. To see him return to the streets of his youth, to the activities of his youth, with me alongside him is a memory I’ll always carry with me. And it’s a memory this dish summons. Not every lime with food is good, but no good limes don’t have at least something to snack on. Eating, critiquing, fighting over, and sharing food is clutch to any good lime. 

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Geerah, or geerah— the word means “cumin” in Urdu, Bengali, and a slew of other languages spoken in India— is, alongside roti, a contribution of the East Indians who arrived on the island in the mid-nineteenth century. The dish is often made with turkey neck or pork shoulder, and the meat is marinated and cooked slowly with a bouquet of aromatics, until it ends up super tender and super tasty. Accompanied by a few wedges of lime, it’s a Trini staple. In this recipe, I use pork belly, a rather fattier cut of meat, which just adds to the richness and succulence of the geerah.  

Makes: 6 servings 
Prep time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 day 

INGREDIENTS:

for the spice pickling liquid: 
1 ¾ cups|415 ml white wine vinegar 
¼ cup|55 grams granulated white sugar 
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
12 fresh thyme sprigs 
4 teaspoons whole coriander seeds 
½ habanero pepper, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped 
2 thin slices ginger, about 2-3 inches long
2 cups|500 ml water

for the peppa sauce:
50 red Scotch bonnet peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 cups|500 ml spice pickling liquid
¾ cup|140 grams garlic cloves (2 to 3 heads) 

for the GGP (ginger-garlic purée): 
2 large stems ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 
1 ½ cups|280 grams garlic cloves
¾ cup|175 ml grapeseed oil

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for the green seasoning: 
1 stalk celery
⅓ small yellow onion
2 green onions
¾ cup|25 grams culantro (or cilantro, if necessary)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped thyme leaves
2 ½ tablespoons GGP (ginger-garlic purée) 
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon peppa sauce 
½ cup|125 ml grapeseed oil 

for the geerah: 
3 pounds|1360 grams pork belly, cut into 1 ½-inch cubes
1 Roma tomato, roughly chopped
¼ cup|60 ml green seasoning 
2 tablespoons curry powder 
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided 
1 tablespoon peppa sauce 
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced 
5 garlic cloves, minced 
2 tablespoons ground cumin 
1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
1 cup|250 ml chicken stock 
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice 
kosher salt, to taste 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro 

DIRECTIONS: 

  1. Make the spice pickling liquid: Place all the ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. Let cool completely, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve and transfer to a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. 
  2. Make the peppa sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth, then transfer to a jar. Place a sheet of wax paper on top and then screw on the lid. (The paper prevents the vinegar from reacting with the lid.) Let sit in a cool, dark place for a day, then move the jar to the refrigerator. 
  3. Make the GGP: Combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and process until smooth. 
  4. Make the green seasoning: Roughly chop the celery, onion, green onions, culantro, and thyme. Add all the ingredients to a blender, then purée on high speed until smooth. 
  5. Combine the pork, tomatoes, green seasoning, curry powder, 2 tablespoons oil, and Peppa sauce in a large Ziplock bag and seal tightly, pressing out as much air as possible. Squish the bag to evenly coat the pork with the marinade and set the bag in a large bowl. Refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. 
  6. When ready to cook, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, and sugar. Sauté, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, then add the pork and marinade, along with the chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then cover with a sheet of parchment followed by the pot lid. Cook for 2 hours, stirring halfway through, then uncover. Bring the geerah to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the pork is completely tender. 
  7. Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt, then transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with cilantro. 

From “My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef” by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein. Copyright © 2022 by Kwame Onwuachi. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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