Ever since I tasted sticky pork for the first time when I started my journey in Thai food at the begging bowl it quickly become one of my favourite things to eat. It’s rich, sweet, salty yet savoury flavours make this dish a perfect one to impress friends. Me and the team at Farang like to smoke the pumpkin over cherry wood, however a salt roast is a little easier to do at home without setting any alarms off or make your house smell like a bonfire. In Thailand this is often eaten with rice and green papaya salad but its great just as it is.
Serves 2-3 people
300g, pork belly, skin removed
150g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into roughly 2cm by 2cm chunks
5g coarse sea salt
2 fresh bay leaves
1 x 4cm long piece of cassia bark (cinnamon sticks will do)
300g palm sugar (dark soft brown sugar can also be used)
100ml oyster sauce
50ml dark soy sauce
100ml fish sauce (depends on pork fat content and taste)
1 pandan leaf, tied in a knot and torn to release flavour (this can be left out if you cannot find one)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 banana shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
500ml, sunflower oil, for deep frying the shallots
Firstly get the pumpkin and the pork belly ready for cooking. In two separate boiling pots bring some salted water to the boil, once boiling turn down to a simmer and add the whole chunk of pork belly into one pan and the pumpkin to the other. Cook the pumpkin for around 4-5 minutes and then remove and refresh under cold water, it should be softened but still very firm and holding its shape, not mushy, at this stage sprinkle the pumpkin with the coarse sea salt. Carefully cook the pork belly for around 12-15 minutes making sure not to boil the water whilst the pork is in it, the slower it is boiled the more tender it will be, remove once the pork has cooked throughout and all impurities have been cooked out of it, leave aside to cool slightly. Once cool, chop the pork into roughly 2cm by 2cm chunks.
Next make the sauce. In a separate oven proof pan add the sugar, oyster sauce, dark soy, pandan leaf, cassia bark, star anise and 50ml of the fish sauce to start. Heat all of this together gently and once melted add the chopped pork belly and stir well, making sure to coat all of the pork belly. Next place some parchment paper over the top of the pork belly mix and place in an oven at 160 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. At this stage remove from the oven and add the blanched pumpkin and delicately fold it into the mix making sure not to mas up any pork or pumpkin, then return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. Check the pork before you remove from the oven it should be slightly caramelised and tender, the pumpkin should be soft and ready to serve at this point, be careful handling it as it will be soft to the touch.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a medium pan on a high heat (roughly 180 degrees centigrade), once this is hot place one piece of shallot into the oil to ensure it is not too hot, the shallot should bubble and fizz in a controlled manner, if it hisses then the oil is too hot so turn it off and allow to cool for a few minutes before going again. Fry the shallots until they are beginning to turn golden brown and then remove and strain on a clean tray with kitchen towel to get rid of all excess oil. Use a fork to pick apart the shallots as they tend to cook together in clumps, as the shallots cool they will crisp up and become perfect for garnish.
Serve the sticky pork and pumpkin straight out of the oven, topped with the sliced spring onions and the crispy shallots. For the best experience eat immediately and as suggested above eat with salad and some Thai sticky rice for mopping up all the rich juices.
Thanks for reading and I hope you like the recipe, please do let me know your comments if you cook it up, (unless you don’t like it of course, ha- you can keep that to yourself). Hopefully I’ll see you in Farang soon for a bite.