This dish is a great combination of healthiness and ephemeral non-healthiness; that being from the spike of sugar. Well, there is also the long-term consideration of the effect of belly pork on one’s rotundness if one eats the original dish from a great restaurant called Red Spice Road in the centre of Melbourne. I have eaten at the restaurant and made the exact dish at home. It’s spectacular with a fatty, sugary, spicy and salty meaty kick, off-set by acidity, tartness and fragrance from the slaw.
I had the in-laws over last weekend, and as is now customary, and because I chuffin’ love being in the kitchen cooking all day – seriously I do – I decided to do a partially experimental 3-courser. Partial in that some of the processes and elements I am cool with but some of the flavour combinations I had not tried before.
This post, however, is all about the starter.
The original version of the chilli caramel pork and apple slaw is a real filler and is best suited to those of a ravenous disposition, as a main course. The flavours are just majestic though, so I set about converting the dish to an entrée. Out went the belly pork for leaner chops of pork loin and there was a reduction in quantity of the chilli caramel to just a wet coating rather than a sticky ocean. I added green papaya to the slaw, as this was something I had done when making a salad when in Vietnam and I really liked the freshness and texture of it. A green papaya is unripened and therefore only takes on a very mild flavour compared with its ripened form, but with the addition of herbs and a great zesty, salty, spicy and sweet dressing it is transformed in to the miraculous.
In fact thinking back, I first saw green papaya being prepared by my uncle’s partner in Thailand. I remember her peeling away the skin and then chopping in to it with a cleaver to about an inch deep. After a fair few chops she then peeled the flesh and the fine papaya strips fell away. This is how I prepare green papaya now.
I have modified the slaw and the nước chấm to what my palate thought was a good hit. Also, some cooking times have been modified from the original. I have also introduced some crunchy texture by adding crumbled five spice pork crackling as a garnish on the dish.
The result was a classy dish that managed to capture everything I had done with the original dish, but with the benefit of still leaving plenty of room for the main course (dessert one can fit in anyway regardless of the quantity one has already consumed).
The main course was a poached sole fillet on a bed of wild rice and finely julienned squid, topped with a very smooth and silky Sri Lankan curry sauce. And dessert? A Chocolate fondant with a salted caramel centre topped with chocolate sauce and cream (a Raymond Blanc classic).
Spicy Caramel Pork Loin with Vietnamese Papaya and Apple SlawPrint
- ■ 2 x 250g pork loin chops | Remove the fat; it will be used for the crackling.
- ■ Chinese master stock | Enough to cover the pork loin. See below for recipe link.
- For the Crackling:
- ■ 2 strips pork fat | From the pork loin chops above.
- ■ 2 pinches Chinese 5-spice powder | See below for recipe link. It can be bought from Asian grocers – or you may have your own version.
- ■ 2 pinches sea salt |
- For the Chilli Caramel Pork:
- ■ 50g arrowroot (tapioca flour) |
- ■ 1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder | See below for recipe link.
- ■ ½ litre grapeseed oil | For frying. Other non-fragrant oils can be used e.g. groundnut or canola.
- ■ 1 serve chilli caramel | See below for recipe link (1 serve).
- For the Slaw:
- ■ 65g green savoy cabbage | Cut chiffonnade.
- ■ ½ medium Granny Smith apple (green) | Core the apple and thinly slice. Cut the slices in to fine matchsticks (julienne).
- ■ 20g green papaya | Thinly shredded.
- ■ 12 leaves mint |
- ■ 12 leaves Vietnamese mint |
- ■ 12 small sprigs coriander | A small sprig has about 3 leaves.
- ■ to taste nuoc cham | Used as a dressing. See below for recipe link.
Pre-heat an oven to 150 deg C (300 deg F). In to an oven proof dish place the pork loin chops (with the fat removed) and then pour over the master stock until the chops are completely covered. Tightly cover the dish with foil.
Score the pork fat strips on the outer side (that is, the side that was not attached to the flesh). Sprinkle the sea salt on to a bench surface and then press the scored side of the fat into the salt. Now sprinkle the Chinese 5-spice powder over the scored side. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and place the pork fat, scored side up, on the sheet.
Put the pork loin in master stock on the top shelf of the oven, and the pork fat on the bottom shelf. Cook for 2 hours. After 2 hours remove the pork from the oven, take it out of the master stock and place on a cooling rack until completely cool. The master stock can be reserved (see master stock post).
Put the pork fat on the top shelf of the oven after the 2 hours are up and the ramp it up to 220 deg C. Cook for a further 15 minutes until the crackling is bubbled and looks really crispy. Remove the crackling from the oven, leave it to cool and then crumble it so that the pieces are big enough to give a nice crunchy texture.
When the pork loin has completely cooled, carefully, using a sharp thin knife otherwise the pork may flake, cut it into strips.
To a bowl add the arrowroot and teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice and mix. Now carefully, so as to avoid breaking them, coat the pork loin strips with the powdered mix shaking off any excess.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a wok or deep frying pan until the temperature hits about 180 deg C. In batches of two or three fry the pork loin strips for about 3 minutes until the coating has browned. Set the strips aside.
Now prepare the slaw. Put the mint, Vietnamese mint and coriander in iced water for about 10 minutes to ‘crisp’ them up. Put the julienned apple, chiffonnade cabbage and shredded green papaya in a non-reactive bowl. Drain the herbs from the iced water, and tear them up into the slaw.
Warm the caramel chilli in a wok (low-medium heat) until it becomes liquid. Add the fried pork strips and stir until well coated and warmed – this will takes about 2 minutes.
Add the nước chấm to the apple slaw, enough to wet the slaw but not so much that it is calling out for a life-jacket. Mix it with your hands.
To serve place a neat pile of caramel pork strips onto each plate and pour over any excess caramel (share it of course). Carefully place a handful of the apple slaw on the pork and finally sprinkle over some crackling crumbs. Chúc ngon miệng.
Recipe for Chinese master stock is here
Recipe for Chinese five-spice powder is here.
Recipe for chilli caramel is here.
Recipe for nuoc cham is here.