You need to plan for 4½ to 5½ hours of cooking, plus at least 24 hours’ marinating, but boy, it is worth the effort!
For the pork belly:
- 3 pounds raw, uncured pork belly, skin on
- 2 cups kecap manis (a sweetened, concentrated soy sauce)
- 6 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
- Canola oil or peanut oil, for frying
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Salt, if needed
For the salad:
- 5 pounds watermelon
- 2 cups rice wine vinegar
- 3 shallots, sliced
- 2 Thai bird chilies, sliced
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 ounce (2 inches) fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced
- ½ round (30g) palm sugar or 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
For the dressing:
- 1½ rounds palm sugar (90g) or 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 90g gingerroot, peeled and sliced
- 6 cilantro roots and 1 inch of stems, cleaned and trimmed
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 3 scallions, trimmed and sliced, for garnish
- 1 cup torn Vietnamese coriander (rau ram) leaves, for garnish
- 1 cup torn Thai basil leaves, for garnish
- Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional).
- Crosshatch pork belly skin with sharp knife, making cuts ½-inch apart.
- Place pork belly in non-reactive dish.
- Combine kecap manis, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and lime juice, and pour over pork belly.
- Chill for 24 to 48 hours, turning several times.
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
- Place belly, skin side up, in baking pan with 2 cups marinating liquid and 2 cups water. Liquid should come halfway up the pork; if not, add more water or use smaller pan.
- Cover pan with foil.
- Bake until a skewer penetrates the belly with little or no resistance, 3 to 4 hours.
- Remove pork from liquid and let cool.
- Leaving skin on, slice belly into 1-inch chunks.
To prepare watermelon:
- Cut watermelon flesh into 1-inch cubes (discarding seeds). Reserve rind.
- Refrigerate flesh until ready to use.
- With sharp knife, remove outer green skin of rind, reserving white part.
- Dice white rind into ½-inch cubes.
- Transfer to a heatproof bowl.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine rice wine vinegar, shallots, chilies, kaffir lime, ginger, palm sugar, salt and 1 cup water, and bring to boil.
- Cook until sugar dissolves.
- Strain liquid over white rind.
- Let cool, then chill for at least 1 hour or as long as 2 days.
To make dressing,
- Roughly crush palm sugar using a mortar and pestle or place in a plastic bag and crush with a hammer or heavy can.
- In a food processor, combine sugar with vinegar, lime juice, ginger, cilantro, garlic and salt, and blend until smooth.
To construct the salad:
- In medium saucepan or wok, heat 3 inches canola or peanut oil to 375 degrees.
- Lightly dust pork belly cubes with flour, shaking off excess.
- Working in batches, fry pork belly until dark golden brown and crispy, 6 to 7 minutes.
- Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Season with salt, if necessary.
- In a mixing bowl, toss the watermelon flesh with just enough dressing to coat.
- Divide pork among serving plates, and top with watermelon flesh and a few cubes of pickled rind.
- Drizzle additional dressing around plate.
- Garnish with scallions, coriander leaves, basil, and sesame seeds, if using.