Serve this crispy pork over hot, cooked jasmine rice and with a salad of thinly sliced cucumber and red onion, bean sprouts, fried shallots and assorted Asian herbs such as Vietnamese mint, Thai basil and coriander.
3 pork hocks (we use Freedom Farms pork)
5 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine
100 grams crushed rock sugar
4 cm piece fresh ginger, sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Chilli caramel sauce
1 cup shaved palm sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ cup lime juice
1 long red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cups vegetable oil
Stock: Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the pork hocks and simmer gently for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. A simmer mat is perfect for long, slow cooking. Remove the hocks from the stock and when cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the skin and remove the meat from the bone in bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin, bone and gristle. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Chilli sauce: Put the sugar and ¾ of the water in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent it from crystallizing. Bring to the boil and cook over a high heat for about 15 minutes until the sugar caramelizes and is a deep golden colour. If the syrup isn’t well caramelized the sauce will be thin and taste insipid but don’t let it turn black or it will taste burnt. Add the remaining water, fish sauce, lime juice and chilli and simmer for 2 minutes. Take care as the caramel will bubble up and spit. Cool then refrigerate.
To finish: Heat the oil in a wok or deep saucepan to 180˚C or when a piece of bread turns golden in 30 seconds. Cook the pork in batches for 1-2 minutes until golden. Use a splatter guard when cooking the pork as it does tend to spit violently when first added to the oil. Drain on kitchen towels and keep warm in a low oven while cooking the remaining pork.
To serve: Place a large spoonful of rice in serving dishes. Top with salad and pork and drizzle with the chilli caramel sauce.
Rock sugar: large amber coloured sugar crystals used to sweeten Chinese dishes. Available from Asian supermarkets.