This dish was the result of an entire night dedicated to sous vide pork belly. Three variations were conceived based on the original base recipe, and this one emerged the unanimous favourite among the testers. It was an unforgettable experience, and I’m also grateful that I didn’t inadvertently put anyone into cardiac arrest by serving three courses of pork belly.
There were some amazing contrasts happening in this dish which prevented it from being too heavy. The richness of the pork belly was cut by the tart lime emulsion, and complimented by the exotic five spice. The crisp sear on the pork belly created a pleasing texture contrast to the melt-in-your-mouth delicateness of the sous vide pork. It really was an explosion of flavours and textures so this would best serve as a starter or tapas style dish, and would be overpowering as a main.
The basic method involved a five spice brine for 12 hours, followed by a 10 hour sous vide at 80 degrees C. The pork belly was exceptionally flavourful, tender, and juicy right out of the bath. Searing and serving with a complimentary sauce took it to a whole other level, and really showed the capabilities of the sous vide method.
For the brine:
1 L water
1 cup salt
1/8 cup Chinese five spice powder and 1 Tsp peppercorns in a cheesecloth satchel
2 Star Anise
For the pork belly:
500g good quality fresh pork belly, cut into 1 inch wide strips
1 Tbsp Chinese five spice powder
For the lime emulsion sauce:
3 Limes juiced, zest of 1 lime set aside
1 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1. Bring 1 L of water to a boil, remove from heat and add the salt, spice satchel, and the star anise. Let cool to room temperature.
2. Pierce pork belly with a knife all over. Place in brine and refrigerate for 12 hours.
3. Set sous vide to 80 degrees C. Rinse pork belly after the brine is complete to remove excess salt. Pat dry with a paper towel and season with the remaining five spice powder. Place the pork belly in a Zip-Loc bag and remove air with the water bath method. Ensure the Zip-Loc bag has a good seal, and place in the 80 degree C water bath for 10 hours.
4. Just before the sous vide bath is finished, combine the lime juice, sugar, and lime zest. Pour mixture into a small saucepan and simmer until reduced to a third. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter to emulsify. The sauce can be held tepid, and re-heated carefully when the pork is finished. Ensure the sauce is whisked while being re-heated.
5. After 10 hours in the sous vide bath, remove pork belly from Zip-Loc bag with some tongs and set aside. Place a small saucepan on high heat, wait for pan to be piping hot then sear pork belly for 90 seconds a side, or until a beautiful golden brown colour and crispy exterior has been achieved. The caramelization will actually happen quicker than you think at this point, so you will need to watch it to ensure the pork belly doesn’t burn.
6. Pour the lime emulsion into a shallow pasta dish, then top with the crispy pork belly. Garnish with julienned green onions, cilantro, or thai basil.