Crispy on the outside, succulent and juicy in the centre. These pork pieces are worth every second of the cooking involved in this recipe.
- 1 kg boneless pork belly
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
- 4 slices ginger
- 1 star anise
- 1 piece cassia bark
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp salt flakes
- 1 tsp white peppercorns
- vegetable oil, for deep frying
- 1 quantity palm sugar caramel sauce
- 1 tbsp fried shallots, for garnish
- ½ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnish
- 1 quantity steamed baby bok choy
- Chinese red vinegar, for serving
Palm sugar caramel sauce
- 1½ firmly packed cups chopped palm sugar
- ½ cup boiling water
- 1 cup reserved cooking liquid
- 2 star anise
- 1 stick cassia bark
- 2 tbsp soy sauce, or to taste
- 2 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
Steamed baby buk choy
- 8 baby buk choy, approximately 2 bunches
- 1 tsp peanut oil
- 1 long red chilli, finely sliced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Palm sugar caramel sauce makes approximately 1 cup
Place pork belly into a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes and then drain.
Return the pork to the pot and cover the pork belly with the chicken stock, add garlic, ginger, star anise, cassia bark and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pork belly and allow it to cool.
Cut the pork belly into 3x3 cm cubes and place in a large bowl. In a mortar and pestle crush together the salt flakes and white peppercorns, toss through the pork pieces.
Heat oil in a wok over medium heat until hot. Fry the pork belly pieces in batches for 5 minutes until the crackling is golden and bubbling. Drain on a paper towel and keep warm.
To make the palm sugar sauce, place the palm sugar and water in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase to high heat and cook until sugar begins to caramelise, it will become a dark golden brown colour. You can smell the caramelisation of the sugar. Be careful to not burn the sugar or it will make the sauce bitter.
Cautiously pour in the reserved cooking liquid to stop the caramelisation process. It will spit and foam up in the pan. It will reduce in the pan again. Reduce the heat add the star anise and the cassia bark and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens to a honey consistency.
Add the soy and fish sauces and taste the sauce, if it is still too sweet add a little more of the salty sauces until the flavours taste balanced.
To make the bok choy, rinse the bok choy and arrange in a bamboo steamer, place over a wok of simmering water. Cook for 3–5 minutes or until bok choy turns bright green. Be careful not to overcook, it should still be crisp.
Drizzle with a small amount of peanut oil and sprinkle over the chilli. Use as required.
Place the pork belly pieces in a large bowl and gently toss with a few spoonfuls of the palm sugar caramel sauce. Place onto a serving platter and sprinkle over the fried shallots and coriander leaves, place remaining caramel sauce in a jug and serve alongside the pork. Accompany the pork with steamed baby bok choy and a drizzle of red vinegar. The red vinegar adds a delicious contrast to the rich and sweet flavour of the pork.
the food dept. fact
• Star anise, cassia bark, fried shallots and Chinese red vinegar can all be purchased at good Chinese grocery stores.
• Left over caramel sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Photography by Petrina Tinslay, styling by David Morgan and art direction by Anne Marie Cummins.