Sticky pork salad with Thai herbs

Sticky pork salad with Thai herbs

William Meppem

This is one of our most unanimously successful dishes, popular with customers, visiting chefs and the food media alike. The secret is the balance and power of the ingredients and its heroes, to my mind, are the jewels of crispy lacquered pork belly. These are tossed with ribbons of sweet pickled green papaya, shavings of young ginger, fragrant herbs, roasted peanuts, chillies and a luscious, soft-boiled duck egg. What pulls all of these ingredients together is the lime and chilli dressing, which is well worth preparing. It is indispensable in my kitchen and useful in other Asian salads and cookery, particularly with seafood.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg pork belly
3 litres Master stock
1 quantity Sticky soy caramel
1 quantity Rice wine pickle
1 quantity Kaffir lime and chilli dressing
500ml peanut or sunflower oil

Thai herb salad

Quantity Ingredient
1 large duck egg
1/2 green papaya, peeled and finely sliced
1 large carrot, julienned
75g peanuts
50ml peanut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 baby iceberg lettuce leaves or very small iceberg lettuce leaves, cut into cups
2 long red chillies, deseeded and julienned
2 long green chillies, deseeded and julienned
2 red onions, halved and finely sliced
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced on the angle
1/2 bunch thai or holy basil, leaves chopped
1/2 bunch vietnamese mint, leaves only
1/2 bunch coriander, leaves only
1/2 bunch purple basil, leaves only
6 kaffi
1 bunch micro thai or holy basil
1 bunch micro coriander
1 bunch micro red gourmet leaves
1 bunch micro red radish shoots or purple basil
4 flowering garlic chives


  1. Cook the pork the day before you intend to serve the dish. Cover the pork belly with the prepared master stock in a heavy-based saucepan. Place a greaseproof paper circle with a small weight on top to keep the pork submerged during the cooking process. Bring to the boil. Simmer very gently for 3–4 hours over a low heat, or cook in the oven at 190°C. When cooked the pork should be very soft and gelatinous, and able to be pierced easily with a fork.
  2. Drain the pork (reserving the master stock in the refrigerator for future use) and put it onto a tray. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on top of the pork, followed by another tray and a heavy weight. Allow to cool then refrigerate overnight. This ensures the pork cools flat and evenly, which will enable you to cut it into even-sized pieces.
  3. Prepare the sticky soy caramel, rice wine pickle and lime and chilli dressing.
  4. Put the duck egg in cold water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Cool in iced water, peel and cover with some of the rice wine pickle.
  5. Boil enough rice wine pickle to cover the green papaya and carrot. Marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  6. Meanwhile, lightly roast the peanuts in peanut oil in a frying pan over a constant low heat until golden-brown. Drain, season and chop finely to the texture of coarse breadcrumbs.
  7. Heat the sticky soy caramel in a saucepan over a medium heat until the consistency will coat the back of a spoon. Keep warm, covered with a lid. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and trim any fatty excess from the sides, so you are left with a perfect rectangle. Cut the pork into 2 cm cubes, about 3–4 per person. Heat 500 ml of peanut or sunflower oil in a deep fryer with a lid (as the pork tends to spit dangerously) and deep-fry until dark and crisp, then drain on paper towels. Bring the caramel to the boil, add the pork and baste constantly until the meat is well lacquered and sticky.
  8. On long, narrow serving plates arrange the iceberg lettuce cups at the top of each plate. Toss together the pickled papaya and carrot, chillies, onions, spring onions and herbs, and mix very well through the lime and chilli dressing. Finely slice the kaffir lime leaves (they tend to dry out if you cut them too early). Mix with the salad and arrange in the lettuce cups and flowing out down the plate.
  9. Quarter the duck egg with a sharp knife and arrange a piece at the end of each plate. Place the pork on top of the salad then sprinkle with roasted peanuts and mixed micro herbs and arrange a garlic chive on each salad. Lastly drizzle over a little more lime and chilli dressing.

Chef’s note

  • When selecting the pork belly ask for a piece with even distribution of fat to meat. I find Asian butchers have the best pork bellies, obviously due to how highly this cut is regarded in Asian cookery. The sticky soy caramel is also great brushed over roasted duck, chicken or pork, even spare ribs. It can be made well in advance, as can all the dressings and pickling liquid used in this recipe.
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