Red Spice Road's pork belly with chilli caramel and apple slaw

Red Spice Road's signature pork belly dish, with apple slaw, chilli caramel and black vinegar.
Red Spice Road's signature pork belly dish, with apple slaw, chilli caramel and black vinegar. Photo: Paul Jeffers

This dish has been the star attraction since Red Spice Road opened in Melbourne in 2007 and may be responsible for the restaurant winning The Age Good Food Guide 2016 People's Choice Award. As the pork is twice-cooked, you'll need to start making the dish the day before you plan to serve it.

Ingredients

For the pork

1kg piece pork belly, boneless

1 litre water

200ml light soy sauce

100ml sweet soy sauce

7 whole star anise

2 cups tapioca or rice starch

3 tbsp five-spice powder

1 tsp salt

1.5 litres vegetable oil for deep frying

black vinegar to serve

Chilli caramel

700g castor sugar

300ml water

2 small red chillies, chopped

15 whole star anise

150ml fish sauce

Apple slaw

1 cup finely shredded wombok (Chinese cabbage)

1 small handful coriander leaves, picked

8 Vietnamese mint leaves

8 shiso leaves, finely sliced

5 mint leaves, torn

1 small green apple

Dressing

30ml lime juice

20ml fish sauce

1 tbsp castor sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 130C.

2. In a baking tray pour in the water, both soy sauces and the star anise. Place the pork belly into the tray, cover with baking paper then cover the tray with foil.

3. Place the tray into the oven and cook for around six hours, checking occasionally to make sure that the liquid doesn't reduce too much. Add a little more water if required.

4. Pour off the liquid (set aside for later use) and refrigerate the pork until completely cold, overnight if possible.

5. To make the chilli caramel, combine the sugar and water in a large saucepan. Place on to the heat and bring to the boil without stirring. Brush the sides of the saucepan occasionally with a wet pastry brush to stop crystals from forming. Add the chilli and star anise then continue to boil until the syrup turns a light tan colour.

6. Add the fish sauce. To avoid it spattering you, turn heat down to a simmer and continue to cook for a further five minutes. Strain and set aside for later use.

7. To make the apple slaw, place all the ingredients apart from the apple into a bowl and set aside for later use.

8. To make the dressing, place all the ingredients into a small bowl, mix together thoroughly and set aside.

9. To serve, cut the pork into squares around 90 grams each, place in a large bowl and pour in around 100ml of the reserved cooking liquid. Stir to coat.

10. Combine the tapioca starch, five-spice powder and salt in a large bowl and mix together thoroughly.

11. Place the pork pieces into the starch and stir to coat them thoroughly. Remove the pork from the starch, shaking off any excess, and set aside on a tray for around 30 minutes to help the starch mix stick to the pork.

12. Heat the oil in a wok to about 170C. You can test this by dropping in a piece of bread, which should start to colour almost immediately and float to the top.

13. Cook the pork in two batches, being careful not to overcrowd the wok. Cook the pieces for around five minutes, or until the outside is crisp and golden.

14. Place the pork into a serving bowl then pour over the chilli caramel. Cut the apple into matchsticks, add to the slaw and pour over the dressing, stirring to coat. Place the slaw on top of the pork.

15. Serve with a small jug of black vinegar.