Double-cooked pork belly a’la Tek Sen

Have you ever visited Georgetown, Penang? If so you would’ve most likely eaten at Tek Sen Restaurant, a family-owned open-air eatery in the heart of the historical town. Tek Sen is very famous these days and draws a crowd every lunch and dinner. We’ve visited a number of times and fell in love with their ‘twice cooked pork belly’. It is truly one of the most delicious things to have ever graced our mouths! We have been attempting to recreate over the last number of years and we finally feel like we have a recipe that is pretty bang on!

TWICE COOKED PORK BELLY
Serves 3-4 as part of a meal
Time required: 1 hour 15 mins

Ingredients:

500 grams pork belly
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 chopped Chilli (depends on size and your desired spice level)
Plenty of oil (for frying)

Sauce:

1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1/2 tbsp sweet bean paste
1 tbsp light soy
1 1/2 tbsp sweet soy (kecap manis)
1 tbsp sugar

Method:

Poach pork belly in water for 45 mins skin side down then place in the fridge or freezer to firm up (at least 30 mins). Dice up the pork belly into small pieces (see photo below).

To make the sticky sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

Heat oil in wok or deep fryer and fry pork belly until golden and some of the fat has rendered, 5-10 minutes. Drain pork on paper towel.

To a clean, hot wok add a splash of oil and then add the pork belly, garlic and chilli and stirfry for 3-4 minutes. Add sauce and cook with the sauce until it caramelizes and creates a sticky, glossy coating over the pork! This last step should take around 5-7 mins. Keep tossing the pork to prevent it from burning.

Serve with steamed rice and preferably some greens to lighten up the meal. See our recipe for steamed Kangkung with garlic or our garlic/soy stir-fried Chinese water spinach 🙂

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Simple Fried Chicken Wings

Although there are many different ways to fry chicken – some of our faves are Katsu, Karaage and the Thai Chicken wings which can be found in our recipe index – this recipe is a great go to when you want a no-fuss dinner! The great thing about these wings is that once fried you can finish them with any seasoning you wish depending on the cuisine you are feeling. Dust with salt + white/black pepper then dip into wasabi and soy; take a more American slant with cayenne, pepper, garlic/onion powder; use your fave spice mix… even make a little honey/soy/sesame dressing and toss them through that. The possibilities are many!

After our trip to Beijing where we ate the best wings of our life – cooked over coals with a Uighyr spice blend – we decided this basic wing recipe was a perfect cheat way of replicating the flavours of this memory. So we dusted them with a spice powder of fennel seeds, pepper, chilli powder, Sichuan peppercorns and salt. Utter perfection ensued!

So here’s the recipe for the wings and the rest is up to you!

500 grams chicken wings (cut into winglets)
3 tbsp starch (corn/rice/potato starch)
1 tsp baking soda

Dust wings in flour and baking soda and then place on rack or cutting board in the fridge to dry out for 30mins.

Fry in deep fryer or wok on lowish heat for 8-10 minutes. We want to cook them long enough so they fall they will ultimately fall off the bone. Then turn fryer up to max (180C-ish) and then fry until crispy, 3-5 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper. Season with your preferred spice mix and dig in!

Perfect Roast Pork Belly – every time

Roast pork belly is an eternal favourite and staple at freo world kitchen. It is a cheap and extremely tasty cut of meat. If you follow this step-by-step guide, it is also impossible to mess up! Roasting the pork low and slow, then turning the grill up high for crispy skin, is near fool-proof. There really is nothing better than a piece of tender and juicy pork belly – it can be the centrepiece of so many dishes: roast dinner, noodle soup, Asian pork-and-rice, sandwiches, you name it, it can be done!

Pork belly is so much easier to cook well than chicken, beef, lamb – whatever other roasts there are. The fat helps to keep it moist, and the flavour is out of this world.

INSTRUCTIONS

Turn your oven on at 150 degrees Celcius. Wash and pat your piece of meat dry. Score the skin in 1 cm lines. Salt the skin and rub the meat side in your preferred spices. Here are some suggestions:

Chinese: 5-spice powder rub all over and sprinkle cumin seeds liberally on the skin. For the roasting pan, pour in some soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and add some star anise pieces and spring onion.
Thai: Chinese 5-spice powder rub all over. For the roasting pan, pour in some soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce and some star anise pieces and spring onion.
German/Danish/European: rub the skin with fennel, cracked black pepper and push in some bay leaves in the scored lines.
Note: These are just some ideas – what flavours do you like? What cuisine are you cooking? What have you got in the fridge/pantry? Don’t be afraid to experiment – slow-roasted pork belly is very forgiving!

Put the pork belly in the roasting pan (with a splash of water) and put it in the oven. Cook at 150 degrees for approx. 2,5 – 3 hours. This length of time renders most of the fat and leaves it tender and juicy.

After roasting, turn up the grill to HIGH. Make sure the skin is close to the grill (high up in the oven). This is how you will get perfectly crackling every time – trust us! It often happens that the skin won’t crackle evenly, so make sure you keep a good eye on what is happening. If a particular spot is burning/going black, cover it with alu foil. If you do happen to get burnt spots, just use a sharp knife to scrape them at the end (problem solved).

And you’re done!

 

Pork Vindaloo

Dinner is served: vindaloo on the right, Keralan chicken on the left and fluffy basmati rice

Pork Vindaloo has been a project of mine since Eva and I visited India in 2009. The most important thing about Vindaloo is it isn’t a classic ‘curry’. The Portuguese influence makes it all about chili, ginger, garlic and vinegar rather than an elaborate spice blend. I reckon this is about as good as it gets. Do not stress if you don’t have all the spices as long as you have lots of chili powder (and a glass of milk on standby).
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Anjuna, Goa

Ingredients

1kg Pork Neck (aka Pork Scotch Fillet)
2 medium onions
10 curry leaves
2 cloves
2 cardomom pods
small stick of cinnamon
1/3 cup vinegar (preferably malt. Add to your taste)
1 chopped tomato
2 tsp salt
Chicken stock powder (if needed/to taste)
1/4 cup coconut milk (optional)
3 tbsp Ghee (or oil)

Paste

1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmuric
2-3 tbsp Chilli powder
10-15 cloves of garlic
1 inch ginger
Fresh chilies (how many depends how hot they are/how hot you like it)

Fry off pork in Ghee until browned and set aside. Blend paste ingredients then fry in same pan until softened/lightly browned. Add curry leaves and whole spices and fry for a few minutes before adding chopped tomato, pork, salt, vinegar. Then add water to cover pork and cook until pork is tender and sauce is reduced (2 hours ish). It should be quite a dry curry. Check seasoning, adding stock powder/more vinegar if necessary. In the last 5 minutes of cooking I add about 1/4 cup of coconut milk which I find ‘brings it together’ and rounds out the flavour although this is not traditional.

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The Ole Spag Bole

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Post broiling, pre blending

Spag Bog is just about every kids fave and Joel and I were no different. Upon our union, we began working on ‘our’ bog recipe… and being snobs, who have traveled in luxury throughout Italy – thanks to Eva’s Dad – we think we have just about perfected it! Our version takes inspiration from ‘ragu’ and is a step or two above the “jar of Dolmio, can of tomatoes, half a kilo of beef mince and stock” approach. The extra effort is worth it, trust us! Its’ about meat… umami and meat!!

It is only fitting that this recipe is the first to go up; it is the very first one we toiled away at in order to perfect. A good six years later we are kind of there. We say kind of because nothing is ever perfect! Your tastes and preferences change with the times… So this could be called the Perfect Spag Bol anno 2017. Enjoy!


This is a very large portion (8-10 pax). We normally divide it into single serve portions and freeze it. We use big and deep sauteeing pan, but a stock pot would also suffice. A special ‘trick’ that we finish our bolognese off with is broiling it under the grill, in order to get extra smokey/charred flavours and caramelisation. Therefore, choose something that is oven proof! We also prefer a relatively ‘smooth’ ragu, so we use our stick blender to work its magic at the very end… but be careful not to turn it into a paste!

spag produce
(not pictured: sweet paprika)

Ingredients:

1.25kg mince meat (mix of pork, veal and beef)
150g bacon, chopped
100g chicken livers, chopped
Olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large brown online, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 dried chillies, deseeded (not birds eye)
150ml full-fat milk
300ml red wine (the rest is yours to drink)
140g tomato paste
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbs sweet paprika
1/4 dried mushrooms (preferably porcinis)
3 bay leaves
4 anchovy fillets
2 cubes beef stock
1 tsp sugar
Water
A handful of fresh herbs (preferably basiloregano, sage and thyme) (substitute with dried only if necessary)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 tbs fish sauce

Approach:

Fry off the bacon on medium heat in a large, heavy skillet, about 10 mins. Set aside, including melted fat.

In batches, brown off mince on high heat in the same skillet. Try to not stew the mince (maintain high heat!).

In the same pan, add a good dollop of olive oil and saute the carrot, celery, onion and garlic until soft, translucent and fragrant. Add the dried chillies for a couple of minutes, frying them until they are soft and a bit charred.

Add back in the bacon, mince and livers. Add the milk and nutmeg and bring to a simmer.

Add the tomato paste, red wine, mushrooms, sugar, bay leaves, anchovies and beef stock (amount of stock will depend on how full the pan is). Add so much liquid that it reached the edge of the pan. Season with pepper.

Reduce to a simmer and let it cook for approx. 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Add a cup of water every now and again to prevent it from drying.

After 6 hours the sauce should be looking very nice and rich. Add the fresh herbs, fish sauce and give it a good stir.

Turn the broiler/oven grill on to HIGH and place the bog on a high rack – sort of like if crackling pork skin! Broil until the top layer is showing yummy charred bits. Stir, and repeat 2 or 3 times. Remove from the oven and use a stick blender to slightly break down the sauce (making it more uniform).

Serve with al dente pasta, grated parmesan, freshly cracked pepper and a splash of good quality olive oil.