Salt & pepper crab, salt & pepper prawns, salt & pepper squid. How can anything dubbed as simply as "salt & pepper" taste so good? Problem though is they're often deep-fried dishes and I rarely deep fry anything at home. Don't get me wrong. I love deep-fried stuff and would frequently order them when I eat out. Let's face it. It's hard to beat that fat-epidemic-inducing combination of a crispy crunchy batter with a tender juicy bit of meat or vegetable pocketed inside.
I came home with a deep fryer years ago and still recall the look of fear my husband
gave me. He was scared I was going to slowly kill us with fat. Hot, sizzling, fat. I thought he was being overly dramatic. I wasn't going to use it all the time, I told him. As it turns out, when I saw how much oil I had to use to get that crispy crunch for my calamari, I balked. I haven't used that deep fryer since. I still see it, sitting at the bottom shelf of my parents' cleaning cupboard, taunting me for my purchase mistake.
I searched for a salt & pepper dish that didn't require deep frying and came across Adam Liaw's recipe for salt & pepper pork belly in his book "Asian After Work". This is his recipe with some very minor adjustments to suit my taste. I increased the garlic and shallots because they taste fantastic with rice and there never seems to be enough of them go around whenever I order this dish. This is a simple recipe you can easily whip for a week night meal. In fact, that's what the recipes in Adam Liaw's book are all about.
500 g pork belly, skin removed
1 t sesame oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 bird's eye chilli, sliced
4 shallots (spring onions), white and light green sections only, trimmed and sliced
2 t sea salt flakes
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
handful coriander leaves
Slice the pork into 3 cm squares, about 1 cm thick.
Heat wok until very hot and add sesame oil. Fry the pork in 3 batches until well browned on all sides and cooked through.
Remove any excess fat from wok and add garlic, chilli and shallots. Fry over very high heat until mixture is fragrant and garlic starts to brown. Return pork to the wok, add 1 t salt and the black pepper. Do a taste check and add more salt if needed. Toss to coat well. Transfer to warm plate and garnish with coriander.
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