I once challenged my husband (then boyfriend) to a food contest. We were planning a dinner and I told him that we both should come up with our own menu and get my Mom to judge which was better. He had very simple tastes (then) and I since I would pour over food magazines during my spare time – it was a no brainer who would win. I can’t even remember what his menu was (nor could I remember mine) – but I do remember how excited he seemed and how serious he was taking the challenge. I took one look at his “entry” and in a moment of kindness I decided that I would let him win. I liked that he tried hard and was I excited to see him passionate about food (for once). When he wasn’t looking I snuck to where my Mom was and told her that we were having a competition on who could make a better menu and whatever happened – to please say that he had a better menu.
I regret doing this now.
He has never let me forget that he won the menu challenge. No matter how many times I tell him it was rigged, he insists that he won.
To this day we have these menu competitions. The last one was about a month ago when we had dinner at Duke’s Bistro in Darlinghurst. One dish we shared were these slow cooked beef ribs with mustard sauce, daikon and some shiso served with mandarin pancakes – like how you would serve peking duck. We both loved the idea of the pancakes and thought wrapping something other than peking duck was genius. “Can you come up with something better?” He asked.
“Challenge accepted.” I told him.
On pieces of paper we wrote what we thought would go best with the pancakes…
Can you guess whose idea the roast pork belly was?
Easy Crispy Chinese Roast Pork Belly
This is the first part of two. The dish is served with some Mandarin pancakes, spring onions, and cucumbers. I’ve used sriracha sauce although a spicy Chinese mustard sauce would also work well. The secret to the crispy skin is to make sure it is completely dry before roasting. To ensure the meat is moist, roasting over a pan of water does the trick. I’ll post the Mandarin Pancake recipe next.
- 600 grams pork belly
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon five spice powder
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons caster sugar
- Score the pork belly lengthways (or ask your butcher to score the skin for you). Place the pork belly skin side up, on a plate and on top of the kitchen sink. Boil around three cups of water and pour this over the pork belly. Pat the pork belly dry and place on a plate in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
- In the meantime, prepare the paste by mixing the salt, five spice, garlic and caster sugar – using a mortar and pestle or food processor until the mixture resembles a rich dark brown paste.
- Once the pork is ready, place this on a chopping board, skin side down, and cut through the flesh, making sure not to cut through the skin. You will need to rub the spice paste all over the flesh, including the crevices and sides. Make sure not to rub any paste on the skin.
- Place the pork belly on a rack and place this back into the refrigerator to allow the skin to dry, at least four hours, or overnight.
- To cook the meat, remove the pork belly from the refrigerator. Bring the oven to 220 c (fan forced). Fill a deep baking tray around half way with water and place a wire rack over this. This will keep the pork flesh moist while the skin crisps up. Place the tray and rack in the oven and put the pork belly (skin side up) on top of the rack. Roast the pork for 20 minutes at this temperature and then drop the temperature to 180 c for 30 minutes. Finally, take the temperature up to 230 c for 15 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and rest for around 10 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and serve with Mandarin pancakes.