Crisp skin saltwater char with Spiced Pork Crackling, Slow-Braised Abalone and Dashi Vinaigrette

Crisp skin saltwater char with Spiced Pork Crackling, Slow-Braised Abalone and Dashi Vinaigrette

Steve Brown

Make sure you choose a piece of pork skin with plenty of fat for the spiced crackling. Fat absorbs the marinade better than the skin, and during the cooking it puffs up in the pan to make crackling that is delectably tasty, crisp and light.

The abalone is braised very slowly in a fragrant dashi stock, and ends up buttery-soft and full of flavour. The aromatic stock is then used for the vinaigrette.


Quantity Ingredient

Slow-braised abalone

Quantity Ingredient
500g black-lip abalone
100g salt
50g dried konbu seaweed
50g dried bonito flakes
1.5 litres water
300ml sake
100ml light soy sauce
60ml mirin
30g fresh ginger, finely sliced

Spiced pork crackling

Quantity Ingredient
80g * aromatic confit salt [rid:1579]
4 tablespoons five-spice powder
300g fatty pork skin
2 tablespoons non-scented cooking oil
50g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar


Quantity Ingredient
spring onions
1 cup thai basil leaves
1 cup vietnamese mint leaves
3/4 cup samphire (sea asparagus)

Dashi vinaigrette

Quantity Ingredient
300ml dashi stock
2 teaspoons sesame oil
100ml olive oil
100ml peanut oil

Crisp skin saltwater char

Quantity Ingredient
freshly ground pepper
8 x 150g saltwater char fillets, skin and pin bones removed
30ml non-scented cooking oil
60ml unsalted butter
lemon juice


  1. To braise the abalone:

    Remove the meat from its shell and discard all the innards. Rub the flesh thoroughly with salt to clean it then immediately rinse well under cold running water and pat dry.
  2. To make the dashi stock:

    Put the konbu, bonito and water in a large saucepan and heat to 80°C. Infuse for 30 minutes then strain through a chinois or fine sieve. Discard the solids and place the stock back in the saucepan.
  3. Add the sake, soy sauce, mirin and ginger to the pan and place it back on the heat. Add the abalone, and cook at a steady 80°C for 6 hours.
  4. Remove the abalone from the pan, reserving the poaching stock, and refrigerate until cold and set – this will make it easier to slice.
  5. Use a very sharp knife to slice the abalone into very fine slivers and put in a shallow dish. Strain the dashi stock, and set aside 300 ml to make the vinaigrette. Pour the rest over the abalone and leave to marinate until ready to serve.
  6. To make the spiced pork crackling:

    Mix the aromatic salt with 2 tablespoons of the five-spice powder and massage it well into the pork skin and fat. Leave for at least 2 hours for the flavours to infuse.
  7. Thoroughly brush the salt off and slice into 5 mm slivers. Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat and add the oil. Sprinkle in the slivers of pork skin and move around in the pan for a few minutes until they start to crisp. Add the butter and heat to a nut-brown foam. Continue to cook the crackling slivers until they turn golden brown, crisp and puffy. Drain on kitchen paper.
  8. Mix together the salt, sugar and remaining five-spice powder. Sprinkle over the crackling while still warm.
  9. Prepare the salad:

    By finely slicing the spring onions and putting them into a mixing bowl with the herbs.
  10. Blanch the samphire in rapidly boiling water for 45 seconds and refresh in iced water. Drain well and add to the salad.
  11. To make the dashi vinaigrette:

    Mix all the ingredients together well.
  12. When ready to serve:

    Heat a large ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the oil. Season the char fillets and add them to the pan, flat side down. Fry for a few minutes until golden and caramelised. Add the butter and heat to a nut-brown foam. Add the lemon juice and turn the fish pieces over for a few seconds in the pan – the fish should be cooked medium-rare. Remove from the pan and drain briefly on kitchen paper. Leave to rest in a warm place for a minute.
  13. Lightly dress the salad with the dashi vinaigrette, divide it evenly between 8 serving plates and top with slivers of the marinated abalone. Arrange a fillet of char on top of the salad and drizzle over a little extra vinaigrette. Garnish with the spiced pork crackling and serve straightaway.
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