Spicy Sweet & Sour Pork Belly and Cauliflower

Whoa! The more experience I have with cooking, the more I dare to experiment and try new things without using recipes. In this case I made up a recipe from scratch, and I am truly amazed how delicious it turned out to be. From Paul’s That Other Cooking Blog I got the inspiration to deep fry pork belly in cubes rather than as a roulade. And from blogging about Dutch nasi with atjar I got to think about Indonesian cooking. Now this recipe is not Indonesian and not authentic, but it is certainly inspired by Indonesian cooking and uses Indonesian ingredients. Don’t worry though if you can’t get Indonesian ingredients, as I’m sure that it will be just as delicious with substitute ingredients that I will provide.

This dish is bursting with flavor. It starts with pork belly cubes cooked sous-vide for 36 hours at 60C/140F with 5-spice. (You can also prepare this without a sous-vide cooker, though.) (I have since then discovered that pork belly is even better when cooked sous-vide for 36-48 hours at 57C/135F instead.) The pork is then deep fried briefly to crisp it up. The juices from the pork belly are used to create a darkly flavored sweet & sour sauce that is bursting with flavor from sambal oelek, fresh ginger, and caramelized onions. This sauce pairs well with the juicy tender pork belly. As a contrast to the deep dark flavors of the sauce, I prepared atjar-inspired spicy sweet & sour cauliflower that is equally bursting with flavor, but in a different fresher way. Served with some rice, this was one great meal! I will definitely make this again, and I won’t change a thing.

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If you like spicy food, you have to prepare this. I promise you will like it!

Ingredients

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For 2 servings

For the pork belly

300 grams (.67 lbs) pork belly, rind removed

1 tsp five-spice (ground star anise, cloves, cinnamon, sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds)

1/4 tsp salt

oil for deep frying

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For the cauliflower

400 grams cauliflower florets

1 small onion, minced

1 Tbsp sambal oelek

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1 Tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)

80 ml (1/3 cup) rice vinegar

80 ml (1/3 cup) water

1/2 tsp ground laos (omit if you can’t find this, and increase the ginger a bit)

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

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For the sauce

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1 Tbsp kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce, substitute with regular soy sauce and increase the sugar a bit)

1 Tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)

1 Tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste (or 2 Tbsp single-concentrated)

1 Tbsp sambal oelek

For the rice

130 grams (2/3 cup) white rice of your choice

salt

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Preparation

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Cut the pork belly into 5 cm (2″) cubes.

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Put the pork belly in a bowl and add a teaspoon of five spice.

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Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and mix until the pork belly is coated with salt and spices on all sides.

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Vacuum seal if cooking sous-vide. Otherwise, wrap in aluminum foil.

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Cook sous-vide at 60C/140F for 36 hours (or 36-48 hours at 57C/135F). If not cooking sous-vide, roast in a low oven until tender (3 hours at 125C/250F should do it I think, but I haven’t tried this). Make sure that you wrap the meat such that you will be able to obtain the juices after roasting.

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For the cauliflower, sauté the onion in the oil until translucent.

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Add garlic, ginger, laos, and sambal, and sauté for a minute longer.

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Add the cauliflower and toss to coat with the sauce.

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Add the water and the rice vinegar.

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Add the sugar.

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Stir until well mixed. Lower the heat to a simmer.

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Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes or so, turning the cauliflower so it will cook evenly.

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After 20 minutes the cauliflower should be tender and the sauce should be thick. Turn off the heat. You can make this the day before if you like to allow the flavors to develop. Gently reheat when it’s time to serve.

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To make the sauce, sauté the onion in the oil until caramelized. If you stir more often than I did, your onions will caramelize more evenly 😉 You want them brown but not burnt.

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Meanwhile, remove the pork belly from the sous-vide (or from the oven). This is also a good time to cook the rice.

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Drain the pork belly, reserving the juices.

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Add ginger, garlic, and sambal, and sauté for another minute.

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Add the pork belly juices to the onion mixture.

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Add the sugar…

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…the soy sauce…

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…and the tomato paste.

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Stir and cook for another minute.

Heat up the oil for deep frying to 180C/350F.

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Dry the pork belly with paper towels and allow to cool somewhat.

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Deep fry the pork belly cubes at 180C/350F.

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They only need a minute or so since they are already cooked and still warm inside. The deep frying is only needed to crisp them up on the outside without overcooking the pork belly.

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Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

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Plate the pork belly with the onion sauce, the cauliflower with its sauce, and the rice. As usual, use warm or even hot plates to prevent the food from getting too cold while you are plating.

Wine pairing

One of the few wines that can stand up to this explosion of flavors is a full-bodied gewurztraminer from Alto Adige in Italy. My favorite ones are Elene Walch “Kastelaz” and Girlan “Flora”.

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16 thoughts on “Spicy Sweet & Sour Pork Belly and Cauliflower

  1. Nice! And thank you for the memories. I like the texture of deep-fried pork belly.

    The first time that I had pork belly was in 2003 in San Francisco. It was so delicious that I had to know how it was made. The waiter said that the chef poached the pork belly for hours in a broth of soy sauce, mirin cooking wine, and star anise. He then finishing it off by deep frying briefly. He served it with covered with frissée and caramelized shallots. You had to dig into the frissée ‘haystack’ to find the pork belly, but what a treasure when you found it.

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  2. Pork belly – its making me drool. I am on a no-fat diet at the moment so of all things I shouldn’t be reading about right now its this. Thanks mate. I’m just going to go and heat up some chicken and mung beans,

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  3. Thanks for the mention Stefan! I too notice that the pork belly you have is meatier than what I find here in LA, I have to research a bit more see where I can find better pork belly like what you have here. Really like what you’ve done with the cauliflower in this all original recipe, that has to be incredibly tasty!

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  4. Made this last night having retrieved (and thawed) the pork belly from my freezer which had previously been given the sous vide treatment as above. I added some green peppers to the cauliflower when part cooked for some green. All was delicious. I rarely deep fry and so may test shallow frying next time – or indeed blasting briefly in the oven on max heat. Grateful to know if you’ve tried this Stefan. Great blog thanks – the first I’ve ever followed and now I’m gripped!

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    1. Hi Susan,
      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to let me know you prepared my recipe and liked it. I’m so glad to hear that.
      I have tried blasting pork belly that had been cooked sous-vide under the broiler, and was happy with the result. The recipe was slightly different, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with this recipe too.
      https://stefangourmet.com/2013/11/21/sous-vide-pork-belly-asian-style-with-garlicky-broccoli/
      With deep frying it is easier to get crispy pork without overcooking it. With a shallow fry or indeed broiler there is a higher risk of overcooking, because it will take longer to get crispy.

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      1. Thanks Stefan – I’m thinking that over-cooking will be less likely if I chill the cooked pork – and perhaps leave it with the air to circulate so it’s drier on the outside. I’ll give it a go…

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          1. I’m with you on drying it in the fridge – how will the bp help please? That’s a new one on me. Just discovered your pancetta blog – I’m a bit too spoilage phobic for the garage approach so I settle for belly pork, Prague powder and salt and and drying in the safely of my fridge. Good on you though : )

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