This is a show stopper of a dinner. If you love tender luscious pork that’s spiked with Asian flavours and topped with the crispiest of cracklings then this is a dish you’re going to want to make. The pork element is based on Chinese style siu yuk pork which isn’t traditionally served with any sauce but I do love me some sauce so I thought a South-East Asian chilli caramel vinegar would compliment the pork – as we know pork loves to be paired with anything sweet and the chilli vinegar helps cut through the richness of the pork beautifully. You could always serve this with some vegetables, steamed Asian greens would work well but I wanted to have something a little fresher and crunchier. The salad I chose is a combination of finely shredded cabbage, fennel, red onion and apples. These vegetables don’t necessarily scream Asian but when some coriander and green chilli is tossed through at the last minute and the dressing is made of rice wine vinegar and sugar it suddenly takes on a very modern Asian flavour profile and pairs with the pork perfectly. This is perhaps a little time consuming for a mid week dinner (plus you need to marinade the pork for 24 hours) but if you want to serve a special meal over the weekend or have pork loving friends coming over this is what you should put on the menu.
Ingredients – Serves 4
For the Pork Belly
1 x 1.5-2 kg pork belly
1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon black peppercorns (I used Kampot peppercorns)
2 tablespoons flaky sea salt, plus a little extra
2 teaspoons five spice powder
2 teaspoons sugar
For the Chilli Caramel Vinegar
125g soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
Thumb size piece of ginger, cut into fine julienne
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup red wine vinegar
For the Apple Fennel Slaw
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 red onion
1 baby fennel, or half a large fennel
¼ savoy cabbage
1 Lebanese cucumber
2 red apples
1 long green chilli
1 cup coriander leaves
For the pork: Roast the peppercorns in a small dry pan until they are fragrant and then grind them in a mortar and pestle. Mix with the sea salt, five spice powder and sugar. Score the pork skin with a very sharp knife or alternatively prick it all over with a sharp skewer. Pour a kettle of hot water over the skin and let it drain, then dry thoroughly. Rub the meat side of the pork belly with the spice mixture and rub a little flaky sea salt over the skin. Leave it in the fridge overnight. Bring the pork to room temperature and dry the skin thoroughly – I like to use a kitchen blow torch to make sure it’s very dry. Preheat the oven to 220C. Put the pork skin side up on a roasting rack, on top of a baking tray full of water. Roast it for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180C and cook for another 1½ hours, topping up with water as needed. Increase the temperature once more to 230C and roast for a final 20-30 minutes. Rest the meat for 10 minutes, uncovered, before slicing.
For the chilli caramel vinegar: Put the sugar in a small pan with 5 tablespoons of water and the soy sauce and boil until the sugar has melted and become caramel like. Add the chillies and ginger. Stir well. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and vinegar. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes slightly thick and syrupy.
For the apple fennel slaw: Place vinegar, salt and sugar in a small bowl and mix to combine. Slice all the vegetables finely with a mandolin or use the fine slicing blade on a food processor. Place into a large bowl and mix with your hands to evenly combine all the ingredients. Add the coriander leaves and dressing and mix once more to thoroughly coat all the vegetables with the dressing.
To serve place a slice of the pork belly on each plate and spoon some of the caramel chilli over and around the pork. The salad can be plated individually or placed on the table. I like to also serve some plain white rice on the side.