Five spice pork belly with steamed eggplant and garlic


I first moved to Hong Kong in 1995, when I was 24. I went on a whim. As a Brit before 1997, you didn’t need a visa to work.

I was very wet behind the ears. Frankly I didn’t know where Hong Kong was, let alone what the food and cultural values would be like.

My experience of Chinese food to that point was based on local takeaways. A typical dish was sweet and sour pork. Cubes of grey overcooked pork in soggy batter with sweet (no sour or spice) glump. Lumps of tinned pineapple swam in a fluorescent orange glue-like sauce.

Living in Hong Kong opened my eyes to a whole new culture, values and culinary tastes that simply blew me away. Everything was so different. Chinese food was so varied. And so was South East Asian.

So I adore Asian cuisine. I know that sounds very general, but that’s what I love. The variety. The spiciness of Sichuan, the comfort of Beijing dumplings, the straightforwardness and sophistication of Shanghai food, the freshness of Vietnamese, the complexity of Thai and everything else in between. It’s so exotic.

So this weekend, as a nod to the past and a wink to my love of Asian cuisine, I cooked a modern, sophisticated version of sweet and sour pork. It’s a recipe from Christine Manfield’s Fire and is vastly different from Chinglish version of sweet and sour. In fact, if Christine knew I was comparing the two, I think I’d receive a lifetime ban from her restaurant. So let’s call the link tenuous at best.

Fire is an eclectic mix of recipes from around the world. I don’t cook too much out of it, because the recipes tend to be involved, with lots of mini recipes within recipes. There are a few simple dishes though, such as Firecracker Chicken,  straightforward, hot and numbing .

Today’s recipe is Five Spice Pork Belly with Steamed Garlic and Eggplant. The eggplant is finished in a spicy and slightly (but not overly) sweet sauce. It’s involved, but there are also opportunities for shortcuts.

For example, the recipe calls for grinding your own five spice, making your own chilli oil and chilli jam.  If you buy good quality versions, I don’t think it would be a problem. I did everything apart from the chilli jam, because you have to make so much of it. I didn’t see the point, so I bought some.

The recipe also calls for suckling pig. Now, in Hong Kong, suckling pig is just that, young and small. However, laws in Australia prohibit selling of pigs so young. So a suckling pig in Australia is more like a teenager. Too much for a family of four and too big for my oven (as well as a little controversial). So I plumped for pork belly. The recipe in the book is for 12, but below are the correct proportions for four people.

The end result was lovely. Enjoy.

The recipe (for four people)

Sea salt

2kg pork belly

30ml vegetable oil

20ml of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

2 tablespoons of freshly ground Chinese five spice

  • 5 star anise, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds & Sichuan peppers, 2 teaspoons of cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • Grind spices and pass through a fine sieve to remove husks

Steamed garlic eggplant

2 x 250g eggplants, deep-fried (cut into chucks and deep fry until golden brown)

2 tablespoons of fried garlic slices (deep or shallow fry until golden brown)

20ml of light soy sauce

20ml oyster sauce

60ml tomato puree

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

1 tablespoon of chilli jam

10ml of sesame oil

1 tablespoon of chilli oil (heat vegetable oil to simmering and add chilli flakes. Turn off the heat and allow to steep)

12 roasted cherry tomatoes (cut cherry tomatoes in half and put in a roasting dish. Add oil, salt, pepper and roast on 180 C for 20-25 mins)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

2 spring onions

chopped coriander

The method

  • Rub half the salt to the skin of the pork belly and leave for 30 minutes
  • Preheat the oven to 200 C and lightly oil a roasting dish
  • Combine the oil, sweet soy sauce, five spice and the rest of the salt. Massage in to the pork

  • Lay the pork skin side up in the roasting dish. Cook for a couple of hours until the meat is succulent (skewer the meat and the juices should run clear) and the skin crispy. Let it rest for 30 minutes and cut into 2 inch squares.
  • Lay the deep-fried eggplant on a flat plate. Sprinkle with half of the fried garlic slices
  • Steam in a bamboo steamer for 10 minutes
  • Combine the soy and oyster sauces, tomato puree, sugar, chilli jam, and sesame and chilli oil in a saucepan and heat to simmering point
  • Stir in roasted tomatoes and pour over the eggplant, mixing gently. Sprinkle with white pepper and finish with spring onion, remaining garlic slices and coriander.
  • Serve the eggplant and add the pork on top.

There are 35 comments

  1. Roger Stowell

    I bet it was delicious – congratulations. I’ve reached a point where grinding my own spices would be good if I lived up country in the wilds of Thailand – I don’t, so I buy them:)

  2. girlinafoodfrenzy

    What a great dish to wake up too! Just doing a bit of blog catch up before work and now I wish I were tucking into a bit of yum cha or pork belly for breakky! I’m travelling to HK to visit family at the end of year, I have do many favourites too :)

    Mental note, I must check out universal soon.

    1. andylmoore

      Best time to go to HK is at the end of the year I reckon. Where is your family? I lived all over – Lantau, Lamma, Sai Ying Pun, and mid-levels. I haven’t been back for a couple of years. I miss it.

    1. andylmoore

      I think you’d really like this recipe. If you don’t mess around and buy the chilli oil and jam, it is a breeze. And very, very tasty (this is from someone that doesn’t like aubergines).

  3. SK

    I love the way you choose your words and love to read your recipe since I am a vegitarian now.
    How come that I did not you could write all those years you sat next to me in the office.

  4. SK

    Do you remember you told me once with your wicked smile and saying ” I am going back to London to have real Chinese food!” I was defeated and deflated by you since we lived in Hong Kong- the Chinese Food Heaven. From your blog, I know now that you are not that stupid, thank God that know the differnce. :)

    1. andylmoore

      Haha, Sk, you remember everything. You have the memory of an elephant!
      Well, I miss HK and I miss the food. Sometimes you have to be without to truly appreciate something.
      Miss you loads.

  5. Liz

    Looks delish. The eggplant photo is especially gorgeous. You are an ambitious man! Appreciate you stopping by foodforfun’s dried watermelon. Thanks.

    1. andylmoore

      It was. Give it a go. And I had loads of pork leftover, so I’ve used it in a stir fry and made a kind of vietnamese pork roll out of it, with chilli, coriander etc. Lovely.

    1. andylmoore

      There is an easy way to do it – buy the five spice and the chilli jam. The results will be the same, I just decided to make life difficult for myself.

      Gone on, give it a go.

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