“Called ‘kho’, this combination of sweet caramel and salty fish sauce is a favourite in Vietnam: add pork belly and it’s a favourite all over the world,” says Lindsay.
- 1.2 kg piece pork belly, skin on
- 1 tsp Chinese five-spice
- 50 gm dried cloud ear mushrooms (see note)
- To serve: pomelo segments, bean sprouts, chopped roasted peanuts and steamed red rice (see note)
- 1 tsp annatto seeds (see note)
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 400 gm caster sugar, plus extra, to taste
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns
- 180 ml fish sauce, plus extra, to taste
- 1For annatto oil, warm annatto seeds and vegetable oil in a small saucepan over low heat until fragrant (1-1½ minutes). Set aside.
- 2Scrape 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).
- 3Soak dried cloud ear mushrooms in warm water to rehydrate (1 hour), then drain.
- 4Preheat 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.
- 5Meanwhile, 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.
- 6Divide 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 Traveller.
Drink Suggestion: 2010 SC Pannell Pronto Tinto. Drink suggestion by Grant Van Every