Believe it or not, I am not a fan of pork belly. At all. Not a fan of pork in general. So in an effort to make good use of the pork belly languishing in the freezer, I went in search of inspiration. I had in mind something sticky and sweet, and I soon found a Vietnamese recipe that came close. Thit Heo Kho is basically braised caramel pork pieces finished off with hard boiled eggs. Knowing that I had to keep it simple in order to please the kids and their less adventurous palates, this is what I came up with. I am really pleased with the result. It is a really deeply flavoured, caramelised, braised dish, with the pork itself melting in the mouth. I hope you give it a go.
1 kg pork belly, cut into 3 cm pieces
1/3 cup light olive oil
6 french shallots, diced finely
4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup kecap manis
100 g palm sugar, chopped or grated
200 ml water, approximately
Whole star anise, 2 or 3
1 tbspn Chinese five spice powder
1 tspn fish sauce
Juice of one lime
To serve: chopped coriander and chilli
1. Heat some of the oil in a wok to a high heat. Fry the pork in batches until it’s browned and crisp, about five minutes or so per batch.
2. Reducing the heat to medium, fry the shallots and garlic for about five minutes until softened and translucent.
3. Return the pork to the wok, and add the sauces, stirring through. Add the sugar, star anise, five spice, and just enough water to cover the pork. You may not need all the water, or you may need a little more. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about an hour and a half to two hours. Stir every now and then.
4. When the pork is tender, add the fish sauce and the lime juice. Cook uncovered for another five to ten minutes to thicken the sauce. Serve with steamed rice, with the coriander and chilli.