1.2 kgpiece pork belly, skin on1 tspChinese five-spice50 gmdried cloud ear mushrooms (see note)To serve:pomelo segments, bean sprouts, chopped roasted peanuts and steamed red rice (see note)Annatto oil1 tspannatto seeds (see note)60 ml(¼ cup) vegetable oil Black pepper caramel400 gmcaster sugar, plus extra, to taste2 tbspblack peppercorns180 mlfish sauce, plus extra, to taste
For annatto oil, warm annatto seeds and vegetable oil in a small saucepan over low heat until fragrant (1-1½ minutes). Set aside.
Scrape excess hair from skin of pork belly. Score the skin 5mm deep at 1cm intervals with a sharp knife. Rub five-spice, 2 tbsp annatto oil and 2 tsp sea salt into skin, then place on a wire rack over an oven tray and refrigerate to dry skin (overnight).
Soak dried cloud ear mushrooms in warm water to rehydrate (1 hour), then drain.
Preheat oven to 200C. Transfer pork belly and roasting tray to oven and roast until skin is crisp and flesh tender (1½-2 hours). Cool slightly, then cut pork into neat 1cm-thick slices and keep warm.
Meanwhile, for black pepper caramel, stir sugar, peppercorns and 250ml water in a saucepan over high heat until sugar dissolves, then cook until deep caramel (10-12 minutes). Remove from heat, add 200ml cold water (be careful as hot caramel will spit), and stir over low heat until combined. Add fish sauce and strain into a bowl, then season to taste with sugar and fish sauce; it should be equally sweet and salty, with a warming peppery bite.
Divide mushrooms among four 500ml claypots with lids, top with pork, pour black pepper caramel over, season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and bake, covered, until black pepper caramel is bubbling and pork is meltingly tender (25-35 minutes). Serve hot with steamed red rice and a small salad of pomelo, bean sprouts and peanuts to the side.
Note You'll need to begin this recipe a day ahead. Dried cloud
ear mushrooms are available from Asian grocers. For steamed red
rice, soak 400gm red rice in cold water for 30 minutes, drain, then
cook in a rice cooker. Annatto seeds are available from Asian
grocers, Herbie's Spices and Monterey Mexican Foods.
This recipe is from the September 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet