Braised Thai belly pork with crispy crackling
Thailand is a magical place.
I’ve many great memories from my visits there over the last 10 years. Of course I love the sunshine, white beaches and crazy but laid back vibe, but it’s the food that holds the biggest draw.
On a weekly basis I could eat larb gai — the tart minced chicken salad dressed with fish sauce, lime juice and toasted ground rice, tom kha — the coconut milk soup infused with zingy lime and galangal, and pad Thai — rice noodles made sticky, sour and sweet from tamarind pulp. Fresh Asian flavours that are bold, bright and exotic.
These ingredients are central to most Thai cuisine, but the most symbolic flavour of Thailand for me is the scent and taste of kaffir lime leaves. Fresh or dried they are deliciously aromatic and with just the tiniest whiff can transport me straight to the southern Thai islands in my minds eye.
It’s because of this, and the taste and aroma they bring to all they touch that I decided to give them the starring role in my Thai seasoning blend. It’s a zesty and fragrant combination that includes green peppercorns, white peppercorns, ginger and galangal (among other all natural ingredients).
Sprinkled into turkey mince it makes fantastic Thai style burgers, is great dusted over homemade potato wedges towards the end of cooking, or mixed with a little oil or into some natural yogurt it adds a big dose of the aromatic Thai sunshine to chicken and fish destined for the BBQ coals.
I’d known I wanted to make a Thai pork dish for a while, and on seeing this recipe from Raymond Blanc I was inspired. Here I mixed the seasoning blend into fresh blitzed ginger, garlic and onion to form a paste, rubbed it over the flesh side of the pork belly, wrapped it up and let it marinade in the fridge for 24 hours.
The pork then cooks in the oven for 2.5 hours until the meat is soft and yielding and scented with the flavours of the marinade. The remains of the marinade then creating a very aromatic and clear broth to serve with the pan finished crispy skinned pork.
- 2kg piece of belly pork, bone out and skin un-scored (important in getting the top flat and crispy). Supermarket pork belly in my experience tends to shrink massively during cooking, so if you are using supermarket pork then buy a heavier weight, or buy it from your butcher and it shouldn’t shrink as much
- 60g of my Thai Blend
- 2 lemongrass stalkes, halved
- 2 medium golden onions
- Thai fish sauce — nam pla
- 200g fresh ginger
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 pork stock cube
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- Juice of one lime
- A few tablespoons groundnut / vegetable oil
- Cold water
- 1 pointed cabbage
- Coriander and fresh red chilli and Thai jasmine rice to serve
- Place the seasoning blend, ginger, onion, garlic, 3 tablespoons fish sauce and oil into a blender and blitz into a paste — you may want to add a few teaspoons of water to help it come together.
- Take the pork and lay it skin side down on a long sheet of cling film, and rub the marinade into the flesh until all of it bar the skin is coated. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and put into the fridge for 12 to 24 hours — the longer the better.
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 150°C take the pork out of the wrapping and place it skin side up (with marinade and all) into a saucepan with a lid. Add 300mls cold water and the lemongrass stalks and bring to the boil. Once boiling, put the lid on and put the pork into the oven for 2.5 hours.
- Take the pork out after that time and try to take as much of the marinade off the base as you can (keep it) wrap the meat in greaseproof paper, skin side up, and place it in the fridge, weighing the top down so that the pork is flattened and even — leave for 2 hours.
- Take the marinade collected and add it to the pan the pork was in, add 600mls cold water and bring to the boil, adding the lime juice, soy sauce, another tablespoon of fish sauce and stock cube, when boiling, strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with some muslin. Discard the marinade in the muslin once done and retain the broth.
- When you’re ready to eat, preheat your oven to 180°C and take your pork out of the fridge, and slice into serving slices as big as you like.
- Place a few tablespoons groundnut / vegetable oil into a frying pan and heat on a high heat — lightly salt the skin side of the pork pieces and fry skin side down for around 4 to 5 minutes until lightly golden (keep an eye on them) when the desired colour remove them from the pan and place them on a baking sheet skin side up and pop into the oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
- Toward the end of the cooking time, roughly chop the cabbage and heat the broth on a low simmer. Place a large knob of butter into a frying pan with a lid and when foaming add the cabbage and season with salt and pepper, add a little broth to the cabbage and put a lid on for it to cook through for a few minutes.
- Serve with the cabbage at the bottom of a bowl, lay the pork over the top and then spoon the broth over the top. Finishing with a little coriander and red chilli. We eat it with rice on the side.