Thrice cooked pork

I really like pork belly. Scratch that. I love pork belly. Braised, confit, roasted-I’m not fussy, so long as the meat is tender and the skin is crisp. In fact, in the house we would place bets with each other to keep us amused, and our betting currency was ‘delectable treats’. I once lost a particularly large bet to Adam and bought him a nice piece of pork belly as his delectable treat. But the advantage of this system was that I was as much a winner as we ate the pork together. On that occasion Adam roasted the pork belly but I thought I’d give you a recipe that uses some of the Asian techniques that I picked up from cooking with Adam, Alvin and Marion all those months in the house.

This recipe is essentially cooked three times, and is first braised in master stock, then deep fried for colour and texture, and lastly stir-fried to coat it in a sticky, rich sauce. It seems fitting to include a master stock recipe, to follow on from making a French chicken stock in my first post. I loved this comment by Alex:  It’s always fascinating to read someone else’s recipe and method for chicken stock, like a private glimpse into their mind & heart. Nobody’s is quite identical to anyone else’s, and everyone thinks theirs is the uncontested best.

Also, people seemed to make master stock at the drop of a hat during the competition.

The theory behind a master stock is that you can reuse it many times, and the reward is that every time you braise/poach in it the stock becomes more flavoursome. In fact, there are stories of master stock’s in China that are over 100 years old, but this might be difficult to prove, perhaps one could cut them open and count the rings? Obviously, to avoid visiting the hospital on a regular basis, some rules must be adhered to in order to continue using the stock:

  • After using the stock, strain it, bring it to the boil, skim it, let cool then freeze it (home cooks are unlikely to use it often enough to keep it in the fridge)
  • Only use your master stock for one type of protein ie. If you use pork in your master stock, you should only use pork in that stock in the future.

Master stock braised porkbelly


2.5L water

2 cinnamon quill

3 star anise

5 cloves garlic

2 spring onions

Thumb-sized knob of ginger, sliced

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

100g yellow rock sugar

¾ cup light soy sauce

1 ½ cups shao xing (chinese rice wine)


Combine ingredients in your biggest pot. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Easy right?

For the pork belly:

A piece of pork belly a bit smaller than your biggest pot, so it can fit in there nicely (also ask your butcher to take the bones out for you it makes life easier later)

Your simmering masterstock

Oil, for deep frying (vegetable oil or other neutral oils are good)

2-3 Tablespoons castor sugar

Extra soy sauce, to taste

Black vinegar, to taste


Put the pork belly into your big pot with the master stock. Simmer very gently for 3 hours. I covered the pot with a cartouche, in an attempt to keep the pork covered with liquid. This isn’t entirely necessary, but I’m a bit of a sucker for a cartouche. If the liquid gets below the level of the pork top it up with some more water.

Take the pork out of the stock and drain it well. Keep the stock. Transfer pork to a tray a put a weight on top. Refrigerate overnight to make the pork easier to cut and also dry it out. This is quite important, if the pork is too moist when you deep fry it oil spits everywhere and isn’t very safe.

Cut the pork into cubes.  Heat a couple centimetres of oil in a wok. When the oil is around 180C, add half the pork, fry for a couple minutes, stirring until golden brown and crisp. Remove pork to a paper-towel lined bowl and fry remaining pork in the same way. Clean out the wok

Add the sugar to the clean, hot wok. As soon as it starts caramelizing, add about a cup of masterstock. Reduce until thickened. Balance flavour with a little soy or vinegar if it needs it. Add pork pieces, stir to coat in the sauce.

I served the pork with a simple stir fry of Gai larn, chilli, ginger and spring onions, deglazed with a little masterstock and finished with some soy sauce.

You can top up the masterstock with water if it needs it and add extra aromatics over time. Happy stocking!


29 responses to this post.

  1. It looks so juicy and full of deliciousness!
    I can’t wait to give this one a try =)


  2. That actually looks delicious. I have never tried pork belly, and I’m ashamed at that!

    Also, really interesting story re: the master stock. Had no idea.


    • Thanks Ben, this is a good way to try it for the first time, it’s far and away my favourite cut of pork


      • See, I could have tried it on Thursday night at the iPhone launch when you guys were making, except that I only arrived in time for desert!

        Was great to meet you, btw.

  3. Posted by greg tait on August 4, 2010 at 6:59 am

    looks awesome , sounds awesome,something to try on the weekend.


  4. Posted by Katie on August 4, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Hey Callum! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe, it looks so delicious.
    Also, I am loving how you’re embracing all these foods from other cultures, it’s truly inspirtational!


  5. I can’t help but feel kind of swell of pride. Our boy is cooking asian pork belly dishes and cutting spring onions on the diagonal (Marion will be very impressed).


    Looks delicious by the way mate.


  6. Callum! You’re causing me a problem here. I don’t like pork. My husband LOVES it. He drooled every time someone on Master Chef put up a pork dish. Now how can I, as a decent and loving wife, NOT cook this beautiful looking dish for him? Darn you and your beautiful cooking!


    • Thanks Klara, i hope this dish persuades you to like pork! I think a lot of people cook pork until it is dry, in which case it can be horrible. Cooking the belly in this way ensures it stays juicy


  7. Posted by Tatiana on August 4, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Callum,

    I would like to know what’s the difference between using a cartouche and a normal lid. If juices need to be topped up wouldn’t a lid do a better job in retaining moisture?

    The pork recipe sounds very good. Thanks


    • A cartouche is useful because the pork tends to float and the cartouche is on the surface of the liquid and therefore keeps it submerged. If you use a lid and the pork floats, the top surface tends to steam rather than braise. I also find it easier to keep an eye on my pot and keep it at a constant low simmer without a lid. Hope this is of some help.


  8. hey callum,

    my kid — maeve, almost 6 — was really hoping you’d win masterchef. she even did a drawing to celebrate, before the final event. come by and see it:

    she also did one of your spectacular afternoon tea challenge in london:

    dang! that pork looks tasty.


  9. AHHHH the way into an Asian’s heart: Pork belly!! Looks awesome, Callum! Pork belly is also one of my favourite cuts of meat, it’s just full of flavour, and can be done so many ways. Perfect for these chilly winter nights too, this will keep homesickness at bay for sure. Cheers! :]


  10. Posted by Tatiana on August 6, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Thanks Callum,

    now I know what a cartouche is really used for. Even on the show I could never understand why
    george and Garry used it instead of a lid.


  11. Posted by cyn on August 6, 2010 at 11:39 am

    this recipe is a must try! well done Callum….


  12. The only other method I could see for that pork is smoking it. But that would be “un-nes-ses-ary”


  13. Posted by Julia on August 13, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Hi Callum…I recently added two comments to your posts…one to congratulate and one to ask about pork belly. Now deleted/no longer showing? Comments all very positive, so wondering why deleted?


    • Hi julia. I can honestly say I don’t know how that happened, as I have never deleted any comments! I’m sorry, I’ll see if they are showing up anywhere


      • Posted by Julia on August 13, 2010 at 10:39 am

        Apologies…..just found the congratulations one again, but not the other one (where to buy pork belly…in Adelaide Central Market?)…don’t worry about it now. Just to know you care and answer is enough for me… Thanks so much for keeping in touch as I know how busy and tired you must be. Best wishes and good luck for your bright future.

      • Thanks Julia, in answer to your question by the way you can buy pork belly at the Adelaide Central Market. It has grown in popularity in recent years and is much easier to find now than ever before. If you ask your local butcher they should be able to get it for you.

  14. Posted by Leanne on August 21, 2010 at 2:50 am

    Hi Callum, have made this lovely dish – yumbo! Took me three goes to caramelise the sugar tho, any tips?
    Thanks so much – love your work 🙂


    • Hi Leanne, I’m glad you liked the pork belly dish. When you are caramelizing the sugar in the wok, you can stir in a couple tablespoons of water with the sugar, and cook it until it turns a caramel colour. At this point, quickly add the masterstock to avoid caramelizing the sugar any further. Hope this helps!


  15. Posted by Julia on August 22, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Hi Callum, I made your pork belly dish…found pork belly at a local Woolies supermarket! It was so delicious…not something I’d do as a regular meal, but as a treat. The flavours were wonderful…even while the masterstock was simmering, the aroma was making me hungry! The only problem I had was the fat splattering (as you indicated). I did put the pork in the fridge overnight, with a weight on it…but I still endured ‘firecrackers’ while I was frying the pork ( didn’t go crispy?). I even put on my reading glasses to protect my eyes, and the top I was wearing now has polka dots stains of oil all over the front and sleeves! All good fun…should have taken a photo of the experience! No wonder you were given aprons to wear in Masterchef! Any spares? I didn’t have a container big enough to store/freeze the masterstock, but used my usual way of keeping this sort of thing…in Snap Lock bags! And they don’t leak. A great way to have stock/sauce ready for a quick ‘gravy’ …you’ll have a fancier name!
    So, thanks for the was great fun!


    • Posted by Julia on August 29, 2010 at 9:15 am

      Did you read my last pork belly post? Would like to know how to stop fat splattering before I attempt again…Thanks!


      • Hi Julia, thanks for commenting, I must apologize I have been very busy the last week or so and my blog hasn’t had much love from me. I’m glad you liked the recipe, I’m sorry oil splattered everywhere it doesn’t make for the most comfortable cooking experience! Having a weight on the pork belly and being in the fridge does dry it out, so you can potentially leave it in the fridge longer so the water content is lower. You could refrigerate the pork until cold, then cut into cubes, then refirgerate again so the surface of the pork in the oil is dry. If you use a very deep pot or deep fryer you can also limit the affects of splattering oil.
        If this still isn’t any help, the pork is still delicious twice cooked, you can just put the cubes straight into the wok with a little oil and miss the deep frying step completely

  16. Posted by Melissa on June 3, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Callum
    I can’t wait to try this recipe it looks mouth watering. I am having a party and thought I might use the pork and masterstock sauce with egg noodles and serve in Chinese boxes with some veggies. Any suggestions?


    • That sounds great! I fear I may be replying too late for your party, but egg noodles would work or even just some rice to soak up all that sauce. Maybe cut the pork a little smaller than I did to make it manageable for your guests to eat




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