Here’s the secret of soup: It’s actually about texture. You can cook the broth from scratch, make the most tender meat, but if it’s all one texture, it’s instantly forgettable. That’s the brilliance of so many of our favorite Asian soups—from tom yum to phở to ramen, you’re served a mixture of crunchy and fatty and tender and firm, every bite different from the next.
We created this sweet potato-ginger soup with texture in mind. Often, soups made from sweet potato (or its orange friend, butternut squash) taste mushy and bland. Ginger and our favorite chili sauce, Sambal Oelek, add a tangy balance. But the crispy pork belly? It brings the party.
While the soup itself is Thai-influenced, the pork belly is based off Chinese char siu pork, which you may know from eating pork buns or Singapore rice noodles. We love the recipe in Diora Fong Chan and Kei Lum Chan’s legendary China: The Cookbook, but made a few changes for our own purposes: a little less sweet, a little more sour. It’s difficult to not just eat it right out of the oven.
One more thing: We’ve been seeing a few of you make our dishes lately! Thank you! If you try one of our recipes, take us a picture and tag us on Instagram @oysauce. You can also check out pics of our food adventures and other cooking experiments there.
Chinese Pork Belly
- 1 pound pork belly, cut into two six-inch slabs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 knob ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons rice cooking wine
- 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons five spice powder
Combine pork, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 cups of water in a large bowl. Soak for 1 hour. Rinse the pork under cold water, discard the water, and place pork to the side.
Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl, add the pork and turn to coat. Make sure as much pork is submerged as possible. Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator at least 1 hour, but ideally overnight, turning once or twice. Save the marinade.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire mesh rack on top. Spray with oil, then place the pork on top. Roast for 15 minutes, flipping the pork over once, or until evenly browned.
Take the pork out and turn the heat up to 425 degrees. Brush with the pork on both sides with marinade. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, flipping the pork over once, or until charred slightly at the edges.
Transfer pork to a wire mesh to cool. If the pork belly is done, a sharp knife should slice through easily. (For larger pork cuts that need more time, lower the oven down to 375 and place the pork back for another 5-10 minutes. But for this recipe, it’s okay if it’s slightly underdone—the pork will get cooked more in a second.)
When it’s finally cool, cube the pork belly into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add a drop of canola oil, and then the pork belly, stirring regularly. After about 3-5 minutes, the pork should be crispy on all sides, but not burnt.
Place the finished pork belly on a plate covered in paper towels, to drain the excess oil.
Sweet Potato-Ginger Soup
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek chili garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (preferably fresh)
- Salt to taste
- 1 bunch Thai basil, chopped or julienned
- 1 bunch green onion, chopped
In a saucepan, bring the stock to a boil with the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and sweet potato. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, until the potato is tender.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.
Stir in the Sambal Oelek and lime juice, season with salt, and simmer until heated through. Add in the pork belly.
Pour the soup into a bowl, and top with green onion and Thai basil.