Citizens, as we approach the New Year, my mind of course wanders to the most celebratory dishes one might serve at this most festive time of year. …and what is more festive than a whole roast suckling pig, especially prepared in the spicy tradition of the Indonesian Island of Bali? 🙂
Babi guling is a roasted pig stuffed with chili, turmeric, garlic, and ginger, amongst other fragrant leaves, herbs and spices. My version can be made in a home oven and is truly amongst the most succulent and distinctive celebratory roasts you will ever experience! 🙂
My version includes a few unique TFD touches, such as using coconut water instead of regular water for basting, as well as other special ingredients and techniques!
Battle on and a happy 2016 to you all – The Generalissimo
1 12-to 15-pound suckling pig
1 ½ tablespoons salt
6 ounces fresh turmeric (preferred), finely chopped, or 5 to 6 tablespoons powdered turmeric
½ cup coconut water
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
1 ½ pounds cassava leaves, blanched and chopped, or spinach, chopped
1 pound shallots, chopped
20 plump cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ounces galangal (preferred), peeled and finely chopped, or 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 star anise, powdered in a spice blender
8 cloves, powdered in a spice blender
1 nutmeg, microplaned
10 bird’s-eye chiles, depending on how hot you would like your stuffing
10 stalks lemongrass, crushed and chopped
3 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
5 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
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 coconut 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 coconut water and mix well. Be careful with this turmeric mixture, as it will permanently stain anything it touches!!!
WEAR GLOVES WHEN APPLYING THE PASTE TO THE PIG AND HAVE THE PIG IN A PYREX TRAY SO IT WON’T STAIN!
Rub the skin of the pig well with the turmeric water until it is bright yellow.
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, star anise powder, clove powder, nutmeg, 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.)
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 more turmeric water (make more if needed). 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 coconut 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.