Crispy Thai pork belly with nam jim jaew
- August 2023
- Serves 6
- Hands-on time 35 min, plus 1 or 2 days marinating. Grilling time 2 hours 5 min
“We all love super crispy pork skin, but it can sometimes be elusive. The barrier to creating shatteringly crispy pork skin is excess moisture. Our tried and tested technique here will result in perfect crackling. This makes a great starter, or a main meal with some steamed jasmine rice.” Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn of Hang Fire BBQ.
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- 57g (23g saturated)
- 4.7g (4.1g sugars)
- 1kg skin-on boneless pork belly
- 170g fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp distilled vinegar
- 1 medium free-range egg white
- 1 butterhead or little gem lettuce, separated into leaves
For the marinade
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp sugar (any you like)
- 1 tsp chilli flakes, ideally Thai
For the sauce
- 4 tbsp jasmine or sticky rice
- 2 banana shallots, finely chopped
- 5 coriander sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp palm sugar or dark brown sugar
- 1-2 tsp chilli flakes, ideally Thai
- Lidded barbecue
- Probe thermometer
- Use a sharp paring knife or carving fork to prick lots of little holes in the skin of the pork. Be careful to only pierce the skin and not go through to the meat underneath. Flip the pork belly over and make a grid of deep cuts through the meat, stopping when you get to the skin (so the pork remains in a single piece). Aim for 5-6cm cubes, so roughly 2-3 slices lengthways and 3-4 slices widthways.
- Make the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a bowl. Brush the marinade onto the meaty part of the pork, making sure it goes between the cuts (don’t get any on the skin). Set a wire rack over a plate and sit the pork on top, skin-side up. Cover the skin with 40g of the salt, then put the pork in the fridge, uncovered, for 24-48 hours. This will start the ‘dehydrating’ process for crispy skin and begin to remove a lot of its moisture.
- When you’re ready to cook, remove the pork belly from the fridge and carefully scrape the salt off the skin with a knife. Pat the skin dry and brush with the distilled vinegar. Put the pork in a foil tray (or make one using a few sheets of foil) skin-side up. Mix the egg white with the remaining 130g salt to form a paste. This will absorb more moisture from the skin as it cooks. Press the paste on top of the skin in an even layer.
- Set your barbecue up to cook indirectly (so the coals are banked up to one side and you cook over the other side) and wait for the internal heat to reach around 150°C. You can also throw in a handful of cherry wood or any fruit wood to add extra smoke flavour to the pork belly. Sit the pork on its foil tray on the grill (away from the coals). Close the lid and cook for 45-75 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 80°C.
- When the pork belly reaches this temperature, you should be able to remove the salt crust easily and brush off any excess. Poke a few more holes into the skin while it’s soft and more yielding, as this ensures fine, even bubbles of crackling as we move onto the final stage of cooking.
- Crank the heat up on your barbecue to 220°C by adding more coals and opening the vents. Cover with the lid and cook the pork for another 40 minutes to really crisp up the pork skin. You can also turn the pork belly over onto its skin for a minute or so (taking it off the foil and putting it directly over the coals) to make sure the skin is fully puffed, but keep an eye on it as it will quickly burn.
- While the pork cooks, make the sauce. Put the uncooked rice in a dry pan and gently toast over a low heat until the rice is deeply golden (take your time with this process – around 20 minutes). You’ll be rewarded with a nutty aroma that adds its distinctive flavour to this sauce. Tip the rice onto a baking sheet and allow to cool, then either pound in a pestle and mortar or whizz in a spice grinder to the consistency of finely ground coffee. Combine 1 tbsp of the ground rice (any extra toasted rice flour can keep for a few months in an airtight jar) with the remaining sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well.8 Cut the pork into thick slices along your initial cuts, then slice into 1cm bites. Serve the sauce in a small bowl and pop the whole lettuce leaves alongside. Tuck a slice or two into each leaf, spoon over some of the nam jim jaew and enjoy!
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