Pork belly is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of a pig. It has fat, meat, and if you cook it correctly an irresistibly crispy skin. While many countries have signature pork belly recipes, this crispy pork sponder is an iconic Galician dish that you’ll often see at traditional restaurants in cities like Lviv, Ukraine or Krakow, Poland.
Sponder is a weird word, and one that is not used often anymore. It directly means baked skin on pork belly, so the title of Pork Sponder doesn’t tell you much if you don’t already know the word. In the most popular restaurant in Lviv, Kryivka, their signature sponder is served with a hot horseradish mustard which pairs great with dark beer or pertsivka!
Pork belly is a great cut of meat because it is packed with flavor and generally doesn’t cost much. For example the 1kg piece I use in this recipe was just $3.15!
Other Pork Belly Recipes You Might Like:
Penne Pasta With Pork Belly And Poached Egg
Perfectly Crispy Pork Belly (Dim Sum Style)
What Is Sponder?
Sponder, or шпондер as it is written in Ukrainian, is a cut of pork belly with the skin attached and a thick fat layer. Not every pork belly is sponder, but every sponder is pork belly.
The most common cooking method for sponder is baking it to get the skin nice and crispy, however it is also done braised where the skin obtains a near jelly like texture.
How To Make A Delicious Baked Pork Sponder
For this recipe you will need just five ingredients. Although you can get away with only three if you want. The most important ingredient though is the pork belly, so make sure to grab a nice thick piece with a good amount of fat.
1 kg Pork Sponder – This is basically a skin on pork belly with a thick layer of fat under the skin.
1 tbsp Salt – or more as needed
2 tsp Black Pepper – freshly cracked, adjust to taste
1 tbsp Garlic Powder – or more as needed. This is optional so you can leave it out if you don’t want to use it.
1 tbsp Paprika – another optional ingredient. Use as much or as little as you like. I use about a heaping tablespoon.
The first thing to do is to score the skin in a cross hatch patter. In a way this is similar to cooking duck breast since you want to create a passage for the rendered fat to escape from. This allows the skin to get extra crispy and crackly in the oven. Make sure to cut through the skin, but do not cut through the fat to the muscle.
Next rub the pork with the spices, making sure to massage the spices into the meat. Some places do not put spices on the skin because it can blacken in the oven and create a crust. I do it 50/50 when I make this recipe so feel free to leave off the spices on the skin if you want that shiny crackly skin. I do suggest rubbing salt into the cuts of the skin though, as it helps dry out the skin and bubble up in the oven.
Preheat your oven to 200C and place the tray with the pork sponder in the middle. Let bake for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 170 and continue baking for another hour.
If it looks like the top is burning you can lower the oven rack so the skin is further from the heat source.
After the one and a half hours your meat should be fully cooked with a traditional crispy crackly pork sponder skin. Note the picture above had spices rubbed into the skin hence the dark color. If you only use salt the skin will be more golden brown.
Let your pork sponder rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board. Then, flip it skin side down and slice it into about one inch (2.5cm) thick pieces. Unlike the dim sum version, this is typically served with a fork and knife.
What To Serve With Pork Sponder
While you can really pair this with anything, these are a few traditional side dishes that pair well with a crispy skin roast pork belly.
- Baked Apples
- Mashed or Whipped Potatoes
- Roast Root Vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, or turnips
- Hot Mustard or Horseradish Puree (these aren’t technically side dishes, but are ALWAYS served with sponder at least in Ukraine and I would guess also in Poland.
- 1 Oven
- 1 Roasting/Baking Dish
- 1 kg Skin On Pork Belly try to find one with a thick layer of fat under the skin as that is what is traditionally used
- 1 tbsp Salt or as needed
- 1 tbsp Garlic Powder optional
- 1 tbsp Black Pepper optional
- 1 tbsp Paprika optional
- Begin by patting dry the pork belly as best you can. Then score the skin just barely into the fat layer with a knife in a cross-hatch pattern.
- Rub salt and the other optional spices all over the meat, especially into the score marks and the meat side. Don't worry if the spices don't stay ON the skin as they will just burn and flake off in the oven anyways. Place in the fridge uncovered for 4 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 200C. Place the pork in your baking or roasting tray and bake for 30 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 160-170C and bake for another 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Cut the pork skin side down as the crispy crackly skin is best cleaved with pressure than sliced. If you try to cut it skin side up either your knife will slip or the skin will peel off the rendered fat layer.
- Serve this sponder with hot mustard or horseradish puree and your choice of side dishes. Enjoy
Best Pork Recipes
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Korean Barbeque Pork Belly - Cooking To EntertainApril 3, 2023 at 10:52 am
[…] It has an excellent meat to fat ratio, and if you are making a recipe that includes the skin like a sponder or a dim sum style pork belly, there is a nice crunch as well. For this Korean pork belly we are […]