4 ratings

Bunk's Pork Belly Cubano


At first glance, this looks like a straight-up reprise of the Cuban working man’s ham and cheese sandwich. But one substitution alone earned it a shout-out on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate: switching molasses-rubbed, flavor-rich pork belly for the conventional roast pork. Bunk’s plan includes an overnight marinade, a three-hour oven roasting, and a final ride in a panini press for that full-on crispy finish. Like everything at Bunk, the "best thing you’ve ever eaten" gets a humble delivery treatment: on cafeteria trays heaped with salted Kettle Chips, a locally made favorite.


For the pork belly

  • 1 Cup kosher salt
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1 Teaspoon ground chile flakes
  • 1 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large clove garlic, halved
  • One 3-pound slab pork belly, skin removed
  • 1/4 Cup molasses

For the sandwich

  • Six 6-inch French buns, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 Cup plus 2 tablespoons high-quality mayonnaise
  • 1/4 Cup American yellow mustard
  • 2 Teaspoons hot sauce
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 10 Ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
  • 10 Ounces smoked ham, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic-dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 Cup melted butter


For the pork belly

In a medium bowl, combine the salt, sugar, fennel seeds, chile flakes, and nutmeg. Rub the raw garlic halves over the pork and discard. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the pork to coat well. Transfer to a large sealable bag (or a covered roasting dish) to marinate in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours.

An hour before roasting, remove the pork belly from the refrigerator to bring up to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Place the belly in a shallow roasting pan, meat-side down, and brush the top with the molasses. Place a piece of parchment paper over the meat and cover the pan tightly with foil. Roast until fork-tender, about 3 hours.

For the sandwich

Heat a panini grill or large cast-iron skillet until hot. Using a sharp knife, cut the pork crosswise into six ¼-inch thick slices, then cut each slice in 1/2, reserving the remaining pork belly for another use.

Open the buns and spread or squirt about 1½ teaspoons of the mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of the mustard over each half. Drizzle with a few dashes of hot sauce and sprinkle with salt. On each bottom half, layer slices of cheese, ham, pork belly, and pickles. Cover with the tops and brush the outside of each bun with melted butter.

In batches, place the filled buns in the panini grill, pressing down to flatten them slightly. If using a cast-iron skillet, put another heavy skillet or weight on top to flatten them and turn them over after 2 or 3 minutes. Grill until golden brown. Serve immediately.