by Sebby Holmes from ‘Cook Thai’ (Kyle Books)
Photography: Tom Regester
This is the brunch of champions. There is nothing more satisfying to a hungry chef than a big bowl of egg fried rice and crispy pork belly with a smoky, spicy and sour burnt chilli dipping sauce poured all over. If I ever open a kitchen that served breakfast, I would serve just this and I would be a millionaire (unless the whole planet turned vegan, of course).
150g pork belly, skin removed
4 tablespoons table salt
1 tablespoon cassia bark (or ground cinnamon), toasted
3 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon white peppercorns, toasted
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted
1 head of garlic, sliced in half across the cloves
2 banana shallots, sliced in half
2 litres vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, pounded to a paste
1 large egg, beaten
150g cold cooked jasmine rice
20ml soy sauce
4 tablespoons burnt chilli dipping sauce (see recipe below)
10g chives, chopped, to garnish
First, blanch the pork belly to remove all the impurities. In a large saucepan, heat enough water to submerge the pork belly in, and when simmering, add the pork belly and 2 tablespoons of the salt. Simmer for 10–12 minutes until the pork is warm throughout, regularly skimming off the scum that forms on the surface of the water. When cooked, rinse the pork belly under cold running water.
Meanwhile, bring a separate large saucepan of water to a simmer.
To this, add all the spices, the garlic, shallots, the remaining salt and the warm pork belly, making sure that it is completely submerged in the water. Cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for 3 hours. The pork will soften slowly and take on the flavour of all the spices. When cooked, remove the pork belly from the pan and set it aside. Strain and reserve the liquor.
Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan to 160C. Carefully place the pork belly in the pan, making sure that it is submerged in the oil. Deep-fry for 8–10 minutes until the belly is crispy, but be careful of spitting fat. Remove the belly from the oil and set aside to cool slightly, then slice along the belly widthways to get half crispy, half soft thick chunks of pork belly bacon.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok to a high temperature. Fry the garlic until it starts to turn golden brown, then add the beaten egg and stir a few times so that it scrambles in big chunks. Don’t stir too much; just enough to stop it from sticking. Add the rice and scrape constantly, making sure it doesn’t stick to the wok (lower the heat a little if the rice sticks too much). Stir-fry the rice for a further 3–4 minutes until it begins to darken a little and smells a little smoky. Add the soy sauce and about 30ml liquor from braising the pork belly – just enough to loosen the rice. Serve the rice in bowls, topped with the pork belly, the chilli dipping sauce and a sprinkling of chives.
Burnt Chilli Dipping Sauce with Crispy Garlic
The ketchup of the Thai world, but better! This is one of those sauces that will make you wonder where the bloody hell you’ve been all your life. It’s perfect with pork belly, or as an addition to soups to add depth of flavour. To be honest, though, I’ve seen chefs eat it with absolutely everything – salads, stews, sauces, even as a dip with crisps (you know who you are!), so go nuts.
Makes about 800ml (10–15 servings, depending on how greedy you are)
1 litre vegetable oil
1 large head of garlic, peeled and minced
500g long red chillies, pricked with a fork
100ml fish sauce (or soy sauce)
50ml oyster sauce (optional)
50ml distilled white vinegar
50g palm sugar (or soft dark brown sugar)
coriander leaves, chopped, to garnish
Heat the oil in a large saucepan until it reaches 180C. A tell-tale sign that it’s ready is when you can see a slight movement in the oil. Have to hand a tray lined with kitchen paper, plus a sieve placed on top of another pan that is deep enough to contain the used oil.
Check the oil is hot enough by dropping in a little garlic and seeing how it reacts; it should fizz lots but then settle quickly to a gentle bubble. If it makes a loud noise, the oil is too hot. When ready, add all the garlic and stir carefully with a long-handled spoon to separate any clumps. Fry for about 1 minute until the garlic begins to turn golden brown, then very carefully pour the oil through the sieve and set aside. Tip the garlic from the sieve onto the kitchen paper; it will crisp up as the oil drains and cools.
Char the chillies under a hot grill, but keep an eye on them as if they’re black all over they will end up being very bitter. Allow to cool slightly, remove the stems and blitz in a food processor straight away – the residual heat from the still-warm chillies makes the sauce come together better.
Add the remaining ingredients, plus 6 tablespoons of the garlic oil, to a food processor and blitz until combined; the sauce should be a light red–orange colour and taste sweet, sour and hot. At this point, the mixture can be stored in a sterilised jar in the fridge indefinitely. If you are serving immediately, top with the crispy garlic and some coriander leaves.