Pork and Watermelon Salad

You need to plan for  4½ to 5½ hours of cooking, plus at least 24 hours’ marinating, but boy, it is worth the effort!

8 servings

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).
  1. Crosshatch pork belly skin with sharp knife, making cuts ½-inch apart.
  2. Place pork belly in non-reactive dish.
  3. Combine kecap manis, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and lime juice, and pour over pork belly.
  4. Chill for 24 to 48 hours, turning several times.
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. 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.
  3. Cover pan with foil.
  4. Bake until a skewer penetrates the belly with little or no resistance, 3 to 4 hours.
  5. Remove pork from liquid and let cool.
  6. Leaving skin on, slice belly into 1-inch chunks.

To prepare watermelon:

  1. Cut watermelon flesh into 1-inch cubes (discarding seeds). Reserve rind.
  2. Refrigerate flesh until ready to use.
  3. With sharp knife, remove outer green skin of rind, reserving white part.
  4. Dice white rind into ½-inch cubes.
  5. Transfer to a heatproof bowl.
  6. 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.
  7. Cook until sugar dissolves.
  8. Strain liquid over white rind.
  9. Let cool, then chill for at least 1 hour or as long as 2 days.

To make dressing,

  1. Roughly crush palm sugar using a mortar and pestle or place in a plastic bag and crush with a hammer or heavy can.
  2. In a food processor, combine sugar with vinegar, lime juice, ginger, cilantro, garlic and salt, and blend until smooth.

To construct the salad:

  1. In medium saucepan or wok, heat 3 inches canola or peanut oil to 375 degrees.
  2. Lightly dust pork belly cubes with flour, shaking off excess.
  3. Working in batches, fry pork belly until dark golden brown and crispy, 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  5. Season with salt, if necessary.
  6. In a mixing bowl, toss the watermelon flesh with just enough dressing to coat.
  7. Divide pork among serving plates, and top with watermelon flesh and a few cubes of pickled rind.
  8. Drizzle additional dressing around plate.
  9. Garnish with scallions, coriander leaves, basil, and sesame seeds, if using.


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