Martin Boetz used to be the executive chef at a wonderful Thai restaurant in Sydney called Longrain. Unfortunately he left the helm to pursue other ventures which is such a shame as he really set the gold standard for modern Thai food here in Sydney. Luckily though we can continue to recreate Martin’s amazing food via his cook books. This recipe for a crispy pork belly curry is from his second book New Thai Food which showcases very approachable Thai recipes for the home cook. Any meal featuring pork with crispy crackling is going to be good but when it’s paired with a deeply savoury curry sauce flecked with sweet pineapple, it takes the humble pork belly to new heights. Speaking of the pork, this method of steaming then roasting the pork belly is a great one to use when you’re short of time and went tender fall apart flesh and crispy skin, a process which would normally take double the amount of time using just an oven.
One word of note on this recipe and others from the same book; I have found the dishes can come out way too salty at times and to avoid this happening you need to be careful about the type of fish sauce you use. I think if you follow Martin’s measurements for fish sauce then you need to use a very mild one. If you’re fish sauce is a normal grade one from the supermarket then it’s best to lower the amount of fish sauce or water it down slightly to ensure your finished dish isn’t overly salty.
Ingredients – Serves 4 Adapted from Martin Boetz’s New Thai Food
1 x 500g pork belly, with skin
1 teaspoon salt
60ml coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons best quality red curry paste
200g palm sugar
100ml fish sauce, see note above – if your fish sauce is very strong use only 60ml
250ml coconut milk
3 long red chillies, halved and seeded
5 kaffir lime leaves
60g fresh pineapple, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces – I used triple this amount
1½ tablespoons tamarind paste
Large handful of fresh Thai basil leaves
Put the pork belly on a piece of baking paper or banana leaf in a steamer and set over boiling water. Cover and steam for 45 minutes, topping up the water in the steamer as necessary. Remove the pork and leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Rub the pork belly with the salt, put in a roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the red curry paste and fry, stirring continuously, until the paste is fragrant and it releases the oil – this takes about 8 minutes. (As the moisture in the curry paste evaporates, the oil is released, which indicates that the paste is cooked out.)
Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and cook, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved, for about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Stir in the chillies and lime leaves and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
When the pork is golden and crisp, remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes. Slice into pieces and set aside. When you are ready to serve, bring the curry back to a simmer. Add the pineapple and tamarind, stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the pork slices and heat through. Stir in the basil, then spoon the curry into serving bowls and serve with steamed jasmine rice.