Crispy pork belly with cashew nut caramel and pickled watermelon

January 2022


1kg boneless pork belly

1/4 cup (60ml) rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup (55g) brown sugar

1/4 watermelon (450g), cut into 5mm pieces

200g pumpkin, cut into 5mm pieces

1/2 daikon (white Japanese radish), cut into 5mm pieces

Sunflower oil, to deep‐fry

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp black sesame seeds

Baby shiso and baby coriander (optional), to serve 

  1. Remove skin from pork belly. Sit a large bamboo steamer over a wok filled with boiling water. Place pork in the steamer, cover and steam for 1 hour, topping up with extra boiling water if necessary. Remove pork from steamer and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover pork with more baking paper and another tray, then weigh down with cans and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up.

  2. Meanwhile, for the caramel, place palm sugar and 1/4 cup (60ml) water in a small pan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, swirling the pan to ensure all the sugar dissolves, for 3‐4 minutes un l a light caramel forms. Set aside to cool slightly. Whiz the cashews in a small food processor un l fine crumbs. Remove and set aside. Add the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, chilli, lime leaf and juice to the food processor and whiz to a paste. Combine cashew, ginger mixture and half the caramel in a bowl. Set aside.

  3. Place the rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and watermelon in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes or un l sugar dissolves. Cool. Blanch pumpkin and daikon in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes or until tender, drain, then add to the watermelon mixture.

  4. Remove pork from the fridge and cut into 2.5cm pieces. Half‐fill a deep‐fryer or large saucepan with sunflower oil and heat to 190°C (a cube of bread will turn golden in 30 seconds when the oil is hot enough). Deep‐fry the pork belly, in batches, for 3‐4 minutes un l golden and crisp, then drain on paper towel. 

  5. Heat cashew nut caramel in a large saucepan over medium heat. Toss the fried pork belly pieces in the warmed cashew nut caramel, then add remaining caramel and stir to combine.

  6. Drain watermelon, pumpkin and daikon, discarding liquid, then combine with spring onion and sesame seeds. Garnish with shiso and coriander, if using, and serve with the pork

Cashew nut caramel

3/4 cup (200g) grated palm sugar

1/4 cup (35g) toasted cashews

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup sliced ginger

1/2 tbs fish sauce

1 small red chilli, chopped

1 kaffir lime leaf

1 tbs lime juice