1 kg higher-welfare pork belly , boned, rind removed, cut into 3-4cm cubes
freshly ground black pepper
groundnut or vegetable oil
375 g medium egg noodles
4 spring onions , trimmed and finely sliced
1 fresh red chilli , deseeded and finely sliced
2 punnets cresses (such as coriander, shiso or basil cresses)
1 bunch fresh coriander
For the marinade
400 g rhubarb
4 tablespoons runny honey
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cloves garlic , peeled
2 fresh red chillies , halved and deseeded
1 heaped teaspoon five-spice
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger , peeled and chopped
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This recipe was a total experiment, and I was so pleased that it worked! I wanted to use the acidity and flavour of the rhubarb to produce an incredible sauce in which to stew that tough old bit of pork, the belly, until deliciously tender. The pieces of pork were then wok-fried until crisp and served with the rhubarb sauce and some simply cooked noodles – bloody hell, what a dish! It’s a winner.
PS You should be able to get hold of interesting cresses at any good supermarket.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Place the pork pieces in a roasting tray and put to one side. Chuck all the marinade ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a smooth paste, then pour all this over the pork, adding a large wineglass of water. Mix it all up, then tightly cover the tray with tinfoil and place in the preheated oven for about an hour and 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender, but not coloured.
Pick the pieces of sauce out of the pan and put to one side. The sauce left in the pan will be deliciously tasty and pretty much perfect. However, if you feel it needs to be thickened slightly, simmer on a gentle heat for a bit until reduced to the consistency of ketchup. Season nicely to taste, add a little extra soy sauce if need be, then remove from the heat and put to one side.
Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Get yourself a large pan or wok on the heat and pour in a good drizzle of groundnut or vegetable oil. Add your pieces of pork to the wok and fry for a few minutes until crisp and golden. (You might need to do this in two batches.) At the same time, drop your noodles into the boiling water and cook for a few minutes, then drain most of the water away. Divide the noodles into four warmed bowls immediately, while they’re still moist.
What I love most about this dish is the contrast between the flavours going on in it: from the simple, plain noodles to the zinginess of the spicy rhubarb sauce and the beautifully crispy, yet melt-in-your-mouth pork. To finish, spoon over a good amount of rhubarb sauce. Divide your crispy pork on top, and add a good sprinkling of spring onions, chilli, cresses and coriander. Serve with half a lime each – perfect.