It takes a little bit of time to get this pork belly recipe on the plate but it is very easy to make. Brining it fills the meat with moisture and flavour and produces amazing results when roasted.
If you have the time, it’s worth grilling the vegetables for the relish over a wood barbecue as it adds an unmissable smokiness.
– 200g table salt
– 200g caster sugar
– 4 kaffir lime leaves, torn a little
– 3 sticks lemongrass, bruised
– 500g ice cubes
– 400g pork belly, skin scored
– 1 tsp coarse sea salt
– 10g chopped coriander, to garnish
– 2 spring onions, finely sliced, to garnish
– 3 banana shallots, unpeeled
– 1 head of garlic, unpeeled and broken into cloves
– 60g cherry tomatoes
– 3 green bird’s-eye chillies
– 6 yellow wax pepper chillies or banana pepper
– 30g palm sugar (or soft light brown sugar)
– 20ml tamarind water
– 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
– 10ml fish sauce
1. In a large, deep saucepan, heat 11/2 litres water with the table salt, sugar, kaffir lime leaves and 1 of the lemongrass sticks.
2. Stir regularly so that the solids don’t collect on the bottom of the pan and the heat is distributed evenly.
3. When everything has melted, remove from the heat and add the ice cubes. When cool, submerge the pork belly in the salt solution and refrigerate for 2 hours to brine.
4. After 2 hours, remove the pork from the solution and discard the liquid. Pat the pork dry with a tea towel or dry cloth and refrigerate for a further hour to ensure it is completely dry.
5. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
6. Rub the coarse sea salt into the pork belly skin to help it crisp up during cooking and place n a roasting tray.
7. Transfer to the top shelf of the oven and roast for 2–21/2 hours, depending on the fat content of the meat. Make sure you check the pork every 30 minutes after the first hour. It is ready when the juices run clear, the meat is piping hot throughout and the skin is golden brown and crispy.
8. Remove from the oven, wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
9. Meanwhile, make the relish. This can be made on a barbecue, but it is also great made in the oven.
10. Place the banana shallots, the remaining lemongrass, the garlic, cherry tomatoes, chillies and wax pepper chillies in a roasting tray, then wrap the tray in foil and transfer to the oven (while the pork is cooking).
11. The vegetables will cook at different rates, so check them every 10 minutes, removing the ones that are soft first. The banana shallots and lemongrass will take the longest (35–40 minutes).
12. Once all the ingredients have softened, peel the shallots and garlic, remove the stems from the chillies and peel the outer shell of the lemongrass.
13. Chop the lemongrass a little to make it easier to work with. In a pestle and mortar or food processor, pound together all the roasted ingredients to a chunky relish.
14. Stir in the palm sugar while the relish is still warm, then add the tamarind water, vinegar and fish sauce and combine well.
15. Taste the relish and make sure it is seasoned as you like it; I like it sweet, salty, spicy and sour, with an edge towards the salty and sour.
16. Unwrap the pork belly from the clingfilm and slice it thinly. Serve alongside the relish and sprinkle with the coriander and spring onions.
Cook Thai by Sebby Holmes is published by Kyle Books. Photography by Tom Regester.