There is a bit of a surf’n’turf angle to this dish, but there is so much more. The kimchi consommé, or clear soup, is something very special. Disguised as a light coloured broth, it is so packed with flavour. Bathing in the consommé is the decadently delicious Cantonese/Vietnamese style crispy roast pork belly. All nicely complemented by the crispy sweet and juicy tempura mussels and smashed cucumber.
I have long enjoyed the Vietnamese style crispy pork belly, including being a big fan of Bánh Mì Heo Quay – Crispy roast pork belly in a baguette. Crispy roast pork belly is so readily available in Saigon it is hardly worth making at home. Even so, I was compelled to explore its secrets by preparing it myself. And combining it with something unusual…
The kimchi consommé (aka kimchi clear soup)
The inspiration for this consommé came from an episode of The Mind of a Chef (one of the best food shows!) The episode featured the preparation of a kimchi consommé. As kimchi is always served as a side to grilled pork belly at Korean bbq restaurants, perhaps we can explore this combination in a new way. Making a consommé of the kimchi using egg whites to clarify the broth was a little scary at first. It turned out to be quite straightforward, and the result was amazing. The restaurant-scale recipe for the consommé is here. For a home cook, it is fascinating to see what a restaurant scale recipe looks like. Take a look.
Consommé is often confused with broth, but it’s actually a product derived from clarified broth or stock. Visually, the difference is apparent: Consommé is a clear liquid, while broth and stock are often opaque.Masterclass
The base of the consommé is dashi. One can buy instant dashi powder, but I strongly recommend using traditional dashi made with kombu and bonito flakes for something like this. There are endless variations, and I offer my dashi recipe as one that works very well for me.
Crispy pork belly
There are so many methods to prepare crispy pork belly. The following YouTube video was particularly useful to me, though my recipe did evolve a bit beyond this, particularly with the marinade.
With the bold flavour of the kimchi soup and the delicious decadence of the crispy pork belly, why add mussels? First, these are not just any mussels. They are New Zealand green-lipped mussels. Sweet and succulent. Second, the flavours imparted by the marinade, and the texture of the tempura batter, make these mussels a perfect complement for the crispy roast pork belly and kimchi consommé.
Should you be in the unfortunate situation where you cannot buy fresh or frozen New Zealand mussels, wrap your tempura batter around fresh oysters.
There was a need for some freshness to balance the roast pork and tempura mussels. That is provided here by the smashed cucumber, infused with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. Delicious on its own, accompanying some tempura tofu, or enjoyed with some crispy skin pork belly and kimchi consommé, this smashed cucumber salad is delicious and nutritious.
With the crispy pork belly and the consommé, this is not a weeknight meal, but one that takes pre-planning and preparation. The result is so delicious, that time is well spent.
Kimchi consommé (clear soup) with crispy pork belly and tempura mussels
Roast pork belly
- 1 kg pork belly reasonably lean, and a consistent thickness
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp 5 spice powder
- 1 tsp tahini or smooth peanut butter
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp black garlic wine or shaoxing, or mirin, or sherry, or water
- 1 cup salt for the curing
- 1 egg white for the curing
- 12 New Zealand green lipped mussels steamed (if fresh) or defrosted (if frozen) and removed from the shell
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic or crushed garlic
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce nuoc mam
- 1 Tbsp finely diced spring onions
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped coriander
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- Zest of a lime
- 1.5 cups tempura flour
- Ice cold sparkling mineral water
- Vegetable oil for frying
Roast pork belly
- Trim any meat that is not covered by skin.
- Puncture the skin of the pork belly many times with something sharp like a sharp skewer.
- Blanch the pork belly in boiling water for 10 minutes, then refresh in cold water for another 10 minutes.
- Once cool, dry with paper towels.
- For a second time, puncture the skin of the pork belly many times.
- Cut a crosshatch pattern on the lean side of the pork belly (not the skin side) about 5 mm deep.
- Combine the Tbsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp five spice, 1 tsp tahini, 1 tsp sesame oil, and 1 Tbsp wine.
- Lay the pork belly skin side down in a tray filled with the cup of rice vinegar.
- Rub the marinade into the lean side of the pork belly.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours).
- Take the pork belly out of the vinegar and wipe the vinegar off of the pork belly skin with paper towels.
- Put back in the refrigerator, uncovered, for another 2 hours to dry completely.
- Preheat the oven to 225 degC.
- Wrap the pork belly tightly in a double layer of foil with just the skin exposed.
- Mix the egg white into the cup of salt then spread it out evenly over the pork skin, being careful none goes down the sides between the pork and foil. Ensure all the skin is covered. If 1 egg white is not enough to make a paste with the salt, add a little more water.
- Roast in the oven for 1 hour at 225 degC.
- Remove from the oven, remove the salt, and puncture more holes in the skin.
- Broil for 30 minutes or until the pork skin is golden and crispy.
- Remove from the oven, remove the foil, and let sit on a rack over a tray for an hour.
- Skin side down, cut the pork belly into appropriate sized pieces, about 15mm thick.
- To smash the cucumber, lay under some plastic wrap (to prevent splatter) and hit with a rolling pin or other heavy object. Don’t pulverize it, just flatten and break it up a bit.
- Tear up the cucumber, removing seeds, and place in a colander.
- Lay cut side down. Place the flat edge of a large knife on top of the cucumber and punch down lightly on it so that the cucumber breaks up a bit. The skin should crack and the seeds separate. Discard the seeds. Sprinkle with 2 tsp salt.
- Place a bowl under the colander and allow the moisture to drain from the cucumber for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- To prepare the dressing, in a bowl combine the rice vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tsp sugar. Stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Stir in the sesame oil, ginger juice, soy sauce, and crushed garlic.
- One hour prior to serving, shake off any remaining liquid from the cucumber.
- Drizzle with the dressing, add the dill leaves, and toss until well coated.
- Garnish with sesame seeds. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator until plating for the dressing flavours to penetrate the cucumber.
- Remove and fibrous bit from inside the mussels
- In a bowl, mix the ginger, garlic, fish sauce, spring onions, and coriander.
- Add the mussels and toss to coat well with the marinade.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
- Place 3/4 cup of the tempura flour in a bowl. Slowly add ice cold sparkling mineral water, whisking all the time, until you get a consistency of heavy cream.
- Add the remaining 1/4 cup of tempura flour to another bowl.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan.
- Coat mussels in tempura flour, then in the tempura batter.
- Fry until just golden.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Dice the red pepper and carrot.
- Add the diced red pepper and carrot plus 3/4 of the kimchi to the dashi and simmer for 1 hour.
- Strain the kimchi and other vegetables from the broth.
- Add the remaining kimchi and the egg whites to a blender. Blend a few seconds until smooth.
- Add the blended egg whites and kimchi to the broth, stir well to combine, and place over a medium heat.
- As the egg whites cook, they will carry all the solid matter to the surface. What will remain underneath this mass will be a clear consommé.
- Remove the solids from the top of the consommé and discard.
- Strain through muslin or a very fine sieve.