Pork neck is an underappreciated cut of meat. Most people use it only for the Thai dish ko mu yang (grilled pork neck) but it is much more versatile. Because the meat is moist, it can be cooked longer than other, leaner cuts, which tend to dry out.
This crunchy pork neck is addictive. It's wonderfully fragrant because the meat is fried with Thai basil leaves, which become crisp and delicate.
Kaffir lime leaves are double leaves - a larger leaf is connected to a smaller one. This recipe calls for four to six pairs of leaves, depending on their size. Julienne them finely, or they will be tough.
Soybean sauce, made in Thailand or Vietnam, comes in bottles and is different from soy sauce. Soybean sauce is thicker than soy sauce, and is pale brown and opaque, with some soybean solids.
Thai rice powder is made from toasted glutinous rice that is then ground. Koki (or Gogi) powder is a Thai product usually labelled "tempura powder" (although it's different from Japanese tempura powder). It is sold in packets, and it makes a fried dish very crisp.
Briefly rinse the basil leaves, shake them to remove as much water as possible, then lay them on a clean dishcloth to dry.
Cut the pork neck into strips about 8mm (⅜in) wide and 6cm (2⅓in) long, then put them in a bowl. Separate the pairs of kaffir lime leaves, then remove the thick, tough vein that runs down the centre of each one. Stack the leaves, or roll them tightly together, then use a very sharp knife to cut them as finely as possible. Add the julienned leaves to the pork neck then mix in the soybean sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Sprinkle the rice powder and chilli flakes over the ingredients and mix thoroughly, then leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
Pour cooking oil to a depth of about 10cm (4in) in a wok (or about 6cm [2⅓in] in a wide, deep pan) and place over a medium flame. While the oil is heating, sprinkle the Koki/Gogi powder over the marinated meat and mix well.
When the oil reaches 170°C (340°F), start frying the pork. You will need to cook the pieces in two or three batches. Fry the pieces for six to eight minutes or until the pork is medium brown and crisp. Just before removing the pork from the hot oil, add the basil leaves (one-third to half, depending on how much pork you are frying in each batch) and fry them with the meat for about 30 seconds, or until the leaves turn translucent and crisp.
Scoop the ingredients from the oil, using a large, flat slotted ladle, then drain on paper towels.
Pile the ingredients on a dish and serve warm or hot with steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables.