The eight-hour wait for this pork to become "pullable" is possibly the most worthwhile eight hours you'll ever spend.
2.5kg pork shoulder, bone in
200ml cider vinegar
80g dark brown sugar
1 tbsp Szechuan pepper
5 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
2¼ tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 baguettes, halved lengthways
For the pomegranate salad:
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced very thinly into pinwheels
100g pomegranate seeds (ie, the seeds of 1 medium pomegranate)
20g parsley, picked and roughly chopped
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp olive oil
- Heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Put a ridged griddle pan on a high heat. When smoking hot, lay the pork on top and cook for about eight minutes, turning as you go. For the last two minutes' griddling, cover the pork in a large sheet of foil, so that the resulting smoke infuses the meat. Remove and set aside.
- Place a large, heavy-based pot for which you have a lid on a medium heat; the pan has to be big enough to hold the pork snugly. Add the vinegar, sugar, Szechuan pepper, cinnamon, chilli, soy, molasses and tomato paste, plus one and a quarter teaspoons of salt, and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Remove four tablespoons of the sauce to a bowl or ramekin and set aside.
- Add the pork to the pot and spoon the pan juices all over it. Cover, cook in the oven for an hour, turning the meat in the sauce from time to time. Turn down the temperature to 130C/260F/gas mark ½ and cook for two hours more, again turning the meat regularly in the sticky juices. Turn down the heat again, this time to 120C/250F/gas mark ¼, and cook for five to six hours more, turning the joint from time to time, until the meat can easily be pulled off the bone. Remove and set aside.
- When cool enough to handle, pull off and discard the bones and fatty skin, then shred the meat into bite-size pieces back into the pot. Add the reserved sauce, stir and keep warm.
- For the salad, put all the ingredients in a bowl, add a quarter-teaspoon of salt and toss. Stuff the pulled pork into the baguette halves; put the salad in the bread, too, or serve on the side.