All the things you love about Filipino pork humba are in this recipe. Meltingly tender pork belly slowly cooked in an adobo-like sauce that is rich, sweet, salty, glossy and tangy.
This Filipino dish is characterized by the spices derived from Chinese braised pork belly–banana blossoms, star anise, and salted black beans. It is truly one of the best Filipino-Chinese food fusion you’ll ever have.
What is Filipino Humba?
Pork Humba is a cross between Chinese braised pork belly and Filipino adobo. A food fusion that has wonderfully evolved through time.
Humba and adobo both use vinegar and soy sauce as the base for the sauce. Humba is sweeter with the addition of brown sugar yet it uses all the spices that are in adobo–lots of garlic, onions, whole black pepper, and bay leaf.
What differentiates Humba from adobo are the spices derived from Chinese braised pork belly and its different variations–banana blossoms (probably known as a dried lily flower, I’m confused too), star anise and tausi (salted black beans).
What is the best part of pork for humba?
Pork Belly is the best pork cut for humba. It has the perfect (often not so) balance of fat and meat. Substituting it with leaner parts of the pork might be unwise. Humba wouldn’t be “humba” without the soft gelatinous pork fat. Agree?
The next best part would probably be pork hock (pata ng baboy) or pork knuckle. It’s tougher than the pork belly thus require longer cooking time.
Sweet Pork Humba
Traditional humba recipes use muscovado which is unrefined sugar with high molasses content. It is often substituted with brown sugar as it is typically available in many supermarkets and grocery stores.
Pineapple Juice is the complementary sweetener of this pork humba recipe. It is actually my Mama’s (a Visayan through and through) secret ingredient that she so willingly shared with me. And I love, love, love the sweet and tangy flavor it gives to the dish.
How to make meltingly tender Pork Humba
- Sear the pork belly in batches. Overcrowding the pan, prohibits good browning.
- Use a pot with a snug fit lid. It should have high sides so it can hold enough liquid to surround the meat. Place the lid on while braising to prevent the liquid from evaporating.
- Use medium heat to make a rich and deeply flavored sauce. Using high-heat can cause the meat to burn and the liquid to disperse quickly without tenderizing the pork.
- Use enough liquid but don’t totally submerge the pork. Add water as necessary and keep cooking until pork is meltingly tender.
The best humba sauce: Tips!
- Blanch the pork in boiling water to remove the scum. Rinse with tap water to remove any scum that may have stuck to it. This step helps make a clearer and shiny humba sauce. It can also help remove any unpleasant odor of the pork (if there’s any).
- If you have the time, sear the pork without oil and let the fat render naturally. This takes time so I often do the shortcut of frying it in hot oil and just scoop out the excess oil.
- To infuse the flavor of the sauce, simmer the pork for a few minutes in the sauce mixture before adding the water. Cover with lid. Once it starts boiling, set the heat to medium-low and slowly braise until pork is meltingly tender. Remember to stir occasionally.
- If the liquid reduces too quickly (caused by different factors e.g. heat too high, pot too wide, etc), just keep on adding water about 1/2 cup at a time. Don’t worry it will evaporate eventually.
- Remember the sauce gets saltier as the sauce reduces i.e. water evaporates. Do a taste test before adding more salt or soy sauce BEFORE your humba finishes cooking.
How long is the cooking time?
Cooking time largely depends on the size and thickness of the pork. Small pieces could take 45 minutes to 1 hour while large chunks could take 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Mine was done at about 1 hour and 45 minutes then reduced the sauce for about 10 minutes at medium-high heat.
My favorite humba toppings/ add-ins
I love adding fried bananas and hard-boiled eggs to my pork humba. They not only extend the dish but also makes it extra special. Perfect for any Filipino party and special occasions.
And just like many Filipino dishes, Pork humba is best served with rice and is always better the next day. Enjoy!
Filipino Pork Humba
- 1 kg /2 lbs pork belly
- 2 cups water (for boiling, to be discarded)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil (I used canola)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 cup canned pineapple juice
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 whole garlic (peeled, cloves separated)
- 8 pcs shallots (peeled)
- 2 cup hot water (add more if needed)
- 1 star anise (make it two if preferred)
- 3 tbsp salted black beans /tausi (washed and drained)
- 1/2 cup dried banana blossoms
- 1 tsp whole black pepper
- 2 tbsp brown sugar (packed, add more if preferred)
- fried saba bananas (optional)
- Place pork belly in a large pot. Add 2 cups of water and boil for 5 minutes over high heat. Discard water. Wash pork belly with running tap water to remove the scum. Slice into big chunks or your preferred size.
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add the pork belly and cook for 1 minute on each side — they should begin to brown and release some fat into the pot. Set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium. Add shallots and garlic. Saute until softened. Cover with a lid if needed but watch carefully so it doesn't burn.
- Add back the pork. Pour soy sauce, vinegar, pineapple juice, whole black pepper, and brown sugar. Let it simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add water. Cover with a lid. Cook for 1 to 2 hours until tender. Stir occasionally and add water as necessary.
- Add star anise, black beans, and banana blossom. Taste. Adjust soy sauce, sugar as necessary. Cook until sauce is reduced to desired thickness, about 10-15 minutes. Serve over rice and enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Cooking time: small pieces could take 45 minutes to 1 hour while large chunks could take 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Mine was done at about 1 hour and 45 minutes then reduced the sauce for about 10 minutes at medium-high heat.
- Soy sauce: Use Filipino soy sauce to get that authentic adobo flavor. It can be substituted with any regular soy sauce but you will need to experiment with the amount because the saltiness may vary.
- Vinegar: white rice vinegar (not seasoned), cane vinegar, coconut vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are good options.
- Use pure pineapple juice from the can, not syrup.
- Dried banana blossoms: After a few google searches, I found out that this could actually be the same with dried lily flowers. I will update this post once I get my hands on the lily flowers and compare it with the banana blossoms I have.
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