Months ago, I was watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and saw this delectable pork belly and watermelon salad from Fatty Cue in New York. Being on the west coast, I probably won’t get an opportunity anytime soon to try this salad at the restaurant so I made it myself. Here is my version of what I imagine the dish to be.
Crispy pork belly and watermelon salad
6 hrTotal Time
3 lbs raw, uncured pork belly, skin on
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 Thai chili
1 2-inch ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro
1 garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Oil for frying
1 cup flour
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup torn Thai basil leaves
1/4 cup crumbled peanuts
Marinate the pork belly. Cut slits into the skin of the pork belly about 1/4 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart. Combine soy sauce - lime juice in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the sugar has melted, stirring frequently. Let cool. Place the pork belly skin side down in a container and pour the marinade. Let sit overnight, turning the pork belly over occasionally.
Prepare the pickled watermelon rind. Combine rice vinegar with water- salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until salt and sugar dissolve, stirring frequently. Let cool.
Cut the rind off the watermelon. Cut the flesh into bite-size cubes and set aside. Remove the outer green skin of the rind, keeping only the white parts. Cut the white sections into 1/4 inch cubes and add to the pickling liquid. Let sit for at least one hour or up to 2 days.
Make the salad dressing. Blend together brown sugar - salt until well combined. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Transfer pork to an oven-safe dish with 2 cups marinade and 2 cups water. Cover with foil. Bring to a boil over the stove-top. Continue cooking the pork in the oven for 4-5 hours or until the pork is tender and falls apart easily. Let cool. Slice into 1-inch chunks.
Heat frying oil to 375 degrees F.
Dredge pork chunks in flour, shaking off the excess. Fry pork belly until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined tray to drain excess oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Assemble the salads. Portion belly onto 6 plates followed by fresh watermelon and pickled watermelon rind. Drizzle dressing on top. Finish with scallions, basil, and crumbled peanuts. Serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
This pork belly and watermelon salad has a lot of steps but they can spread over three days.
On the first day, marinate the pork. You need a sharp knife to cut the slits into the skin of the pork; my knife was not sharp enough so I did have some difficulty hence the crooked lines.
The marinade requires palm sugar but you can also use brown sugar or molasses. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves then let cool. Mix with the other marinade ingredients and pour the mixture over the pork. On the second day, cook your pork. My pork took 4 hours and 15 minutes; how quickly yours will be done depends on the thickness of your meat and how strong your oven is. You can also cut up the watermelon and pickle the rind either on the first day or the second day. On the third day, prepare the salad dressing and fry the pork.
I found that the pork belly was much easier to slice after it has chilled. Chilling the meat allows it to firm up, preventing it from getting pressed down from the pressure of your knife.
To give the salad some crunch, I garnished my salad with crumbled peanuts. I also enjoyed mine with fresh mixed greens to make it a full lunch.
This is probably the most complex salad I’ve ever made but it was definitely worth it. No wonder Triple D featured this recipe on their show! The salad is incredible! The melt-in-your-mouth pork with the crispy exterior, the tart rind, the sweet watermelon, the herbal basil, and the light dressing all comes together so perfectly. Kudos to the chef! Next time I’m in New York, I must have this dish!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.