Chinese roasted pork belly with quick-pickled cucumber

I recently picked up a bargain basement-priced copy of The Great New Zealand Cookbook (cracked spine – their loss, my stomach’s gain!). This little gem of a book has recipes from well known NZ cooks, chefs and bakers, and it’s pretty damn cool. Lovely photography, and a really great range of recipes.

This meal is the second time I’ve used the book, so it’s probably already paid for itself in intellectual property – or however it is that cookbooks pay for themselves.

So… onto the important part. This easy and tasty recipe is from Anthony Hoy Fong, and is essentially Chinese in origin, with a little NZ twist. The pork belly would be lovely on its own, but being a little bit greasy (as pork belly tends to be) the vinegary, fresh cucumber is the perfect accompaniment! And is often the case with a really good accompaniment, the flavors and textures all balance each other out perfectly.

Chinese pork belly

For the pork:

1.5kg boneless pork belly
1 tsp Manuka honey
1 tsp sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp salt, and more for rubbing
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Fresh coriander and spring onions for garnishing

Score the pork flesh (to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat), then place on a rack in a clean sink and pour boiling water over both sides of the meat 2-3 times to tighten the skin. Pat dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan.

Combine marinade ingredients and rub all over meat side, getting it deep into the scores. If you get any on the skin wipe it off with a paper towel (or it will stop the skin from crackling).

With skin side up, rub salt and oil over the skin and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 2-3 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 240c, place pork in the centre and cook for 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 160c, and place 2 cups of water in the pan. Cook for one and a half hours. Finish under the grill for 3-4 minutes until skin is dark and crackly. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Roasted pork belly

For cucumber:

1 large cucumber
2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp salt
1 medium red chilli, finely sliced

Peel the cucumber, remove seeds, then roughly dice. Combine the pickling ingredients in a bowl, then pour over the cucumber and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving with the pork.

To serve

Cut the pork into strips, or bite sized pieces. Garnish with coriander and sliced spring onion. Serve with the cucumber, and some steamed rice.

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