Sunday, July 01, 2012

We can do that! (Kitchen edition)

On Friday I attended an end of financial year celebratory lunch. Kind of a "Let's all heave a sigh of relief that the pressure of stupidly short deadlines is over for another year" thing. Somebody booked us into Red Spice Road, which is in McKillop Street, a little lane off Bourke Street. 

I can't say I'd ever ventured down this narrow lane between the office blocks before.

The decor was impressive....

...and cosy, a nice contrast to the cold and wet conditions outside.

The food is south-east Asian with a modern take. There was a large group of us and we shared a banquet, and the stand-out dish was the pork belly with apple slaw and chilli caramel. Everyone raved about it, and there was a bit of discussion around how it was cooked, as the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, yet crisp on the outside. I knew Bike Boy would love it and could not believe my luck when I discovered the recipe online.

The recipe was a bit complex, with several stages to it, but of course, Bike Boy saw that as a challenge and decided we'd give it a go for dinner the next day. So on Saturday morning he set out to pick up the few ingredients we didn't have on hand - tapioca starch, a specialised Asian black vinegar, shiso leaves and extra star anise, plus a large piece of pork belly. (I had no idea what Master Stock was, but it turns out he had some stashed in the freezer.) 

If you like good food and enjoy cooking, I highly recommend giving this a go - but do it over two days. The pork needs to be cooked in stock in the oven for four hours and then chilled before moving onto the next step. The chilli caramel would also be best made ahead. 

The end result was sensational. We nailed it - it turned out just like my lunch the previous day, and we both LOVED it.

Pork belly in chilli caramel

Apple slaw with nuoc cham

A match made in heaven!
It's not a quick throw-it-together meal, but one that's definitely worth the effort when you have time to spare - a kitchen hand would be helpful too. I made the chilli caramel, the salad and dressing, Bike Boy was in charge of the several steps involved in cooking the pork as well as the rice.

It would knock the socks off dinner guests. Hot tender pork with a thin crisp fried crust, the heat and sweetness of the chilli caramel, the coolness of the crisp salad, the sourness of the lime/fish sauce dressing make for perfectly balanced sweet/sour/salty/hot flavours.

I don't know what other people do on Saturday nights, but we had a ball creating this culinary masterpiece together whilst enjoying a couple of vinos. I think I have a new favourite dish. Kylie Kwong's lamb shanks have been de-throned. Sorry Kylie...



Liz N said...

You are amazing :) When can I come for dinner?

Sara said...

That looks AMAAAAZING! I have printed the recipe and will give it a go on Friday night. I love all those little lanes in Melbourne. They have such character.

Kek said...

Name the day, Miss Lizzie - just give us 24 hours notice. ;)

Kek said...

Sara,you will probably need to source some ingredients at an Asian grocer. The master stock is something special, and the black vinegar too. We couldn't find shiso leaves in the end and subbed in some baby spinach, but we had everything else.

And definitely start EARLY.

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