Ramen Salad with Crispy Ginger Pork Belly

Occasionally, you pull a rabbit out of the hat without really trying. This was one of those moments. I had a packet of Ramen noodles, but having made ramen before, I needed to bring something a bit different. Hence: blanched ramen noodles with ginger, carrot and cabbage gently sauteed. Rice wine vinegar poached mushroom with fresh spinach, coriander and mung bean sprouts, the bed for pork marinated in ginger and slow cooked and crisped in the oven. DELICIOUS. Recipe follows.

Ingredients (Feeds 3-4)

For the Ramen Salad

250g Ramen Egg Noodles

200g Spinach, cut into ribbons

2 Red Onions, finely sliced

8 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced

1 Inch of Ginger, grated

2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice

5 Button Mushrooms, quartered

1/4 Cup Mirin

1/4 Red Cabbage, finely sliced

2 Medium Carrots, peeled and julienned

Fresh Coriander Leaves

Mung Bean Sprouts

Black Sesame Seeds

Sesame Oil

Rice Wine Vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Sushi Soy Sauce

For the Pork

1kg Pork Belly Roast, cut into two equal strips

2 Inches of Ginger, grated

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced

1 Small Red Chili, deseeded and finely sliced

1/2 Cup Mirin

1/4 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar

Powdered White Pepper

Salt

Olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Start by marinating the pork. In the roasting dish, mix the ginger, garlic, chili mirin and rice wine vinegar well along with a generous sprinkling of white pepper powder (about a teaspoon). Take the pork belly and rub the meat parts in the marinade. Score the skin quite aggressively (into the fat layer) about 3cm apart. These will become gaps in the crackling that will make it easy to cut. Rub a few pinches of salt into the skin, followed by a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside for half an hour.

Meanwhile, work on the ramen salad. First, put the red onions in a shallow dish and spread them out. heavily salt the onions and just cover with warm water.

Put the cabbage, carrot, garlic and ginger in a pot with mirin, three tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, and a couple of lugs of sesame oil. Saute and stir on a medium heat until the cabbage is tender, then take off the heat.

In a separate pot, on a low heat, heat the mushrooms with the lemon juice, a lug of sesame oil and a couple of grinds of salt. Stir and cook until the mushrooms soften, but don't wilt. Once done, take them off the heat.

Boil a pot of water. Don't salt the water. Loosen up the noodles and blanch them for thirty seconds to a minute. Drain, then shock the noodles in cold water so they firm up.

Drain and rinse the onions in warm water. Toss the noodles in with the spinach, onions, cabbage/carrot/garlic/ginger, mushrooms and a couple of handfuls of mung bean sprouts. Dress with coriander leaves, a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds and douse in a bit of sushi soy sauce (taste it until you get the right intensity). Grind a bit of pepper over top too.

Put the pork in the oven on the lowest level. Cook uncovered for two hours on this level. After two hours, move it up to the middle level, and cook for another hour. After that hour, move to the highest level and continue cooking for twenty minutes. The crackling should start to develop. After the twenty minutes, switch the oven to grill, and increase the heat to 240 C. Watch the pork intently; you don't want it to burn! The crackling should bubble up nicely. If it crisps unevenly, feel free to take it down a level in the oven.

Once the skin has entirely turned to crackling, pull it out of the oven and cut it into segments. Serve with nice helping of the salad, with the pork arranged on top. Have soy sauce on hand for those who need it!

Enjoy!

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