Making your own five-spice powder might seem like a step you can skip, but there's nothing like a fresh batch made using carefully toasted spices. So often, items like this have been sitting on a supermarket shelf for quite some time before we buy them and, afterwards, sit in the pantry for even longer, becoming a vaguely aromatic dust.
4 pork chops with some fat, rind removed
2 tsp five-spice powder (see below)
extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp kecap manis
½ wombok, finely shredded
3 bird's eye chillies, finely sliced
5 coriander sprigs, leaves and fine stems picked
5 mint sprigs, leaves picked
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 handfuls crispy fried noodles*
2 tbsp fried shallots*
For the five-spice powder
1 long cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
5 star anise
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp fennel seeds
For the pickled apple
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp salt flakes
1. For the five-spice powder, preheat a pan over a low-medium heat, then toast the cinnamon, star anise and cloves for a couple of minutes until darkened and fragrant, shaking the pan to toast evenly. Tip into a bowl to cool.
2. Toast the Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds in the same way before tipping them in with the other spices to cool. Then grind them using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder until you have a fine powder.
3. Lightly oil the chops with olive oil, then season with salt and the 2 tsp five-spice powder. Brush with half the kecap manis, then set aside.
4. For the pickled apple, combine the vinegar, maple syrup and salt in a medium bowl. Julienne the apples, skin on, then toss through the pickle mix. Set aside for 10 minutes.
5. To cook the pork, preheat a large frying pan, barbecue or griddle pan on medium. Cook the chops for 3–5 minutes each side, depending on their thickness.
6. Meanwhile, for the salad, add the wombok to a flat-bottomed serving bowl. Add the chilli to the pickled apple, then lift the apple out of the liquid (reserve the liquid) and scatter over the wombok. Sprinkle over the coriander and mint, then arrange the egg on top.
7. Add the grapeseed oil to the pickle liquid and beat to make a dressing. Tip over the salad, then drizzle over the remaining kecap manis. Scatter over the fried noodles and shallots and serve with the pork chops.
*Fried shallots and crispy fried noodles are available at Asian grocers and most supermarkets.
Tip: When cooking the pork, it's best to leave a blush in the middle. Many people still believe that pork needs to be cooked thoroughly: other than mince or sausages, this isn't the case. You'll just end up with dry meat.