I use the word “Asian” loosely in this recipe because the dish is a mishmash of flavours from a variety countries. The pork belly seasonings can be Chinese or Japanese, the fried shallots are more of a Southeast Asian touch while the nori and shichimi togarashi (a dried chilli-flecked seven-spice mixture) are definitely Japanese.
Carbonara, of course, is an Italian dish, with a raw egg yolk stirred into hot pasta and guanciale (cured pork jowl) to create a rich, thick sauce that coats the ingredients.
Asian carbonara with braised pork belly
Usually, if you see the word “braised” in a recipe name, it’s for a dish that will take several hours to prepare. The meat for this dish takes a relatively short time because it’s cut into small pieces, and needs only about 45 minutes to simmer into submission, then another 15 minutes to reduce the sauce. The hardest part of making it is cutting up the pork belly – the skin is hard to slice through, but it adds a wonderful sticky richness when it’s cooked. The pork belly should be very cold (in fact, freeze it for about 15 minutes) so it’s easier to slice. It is also easier to cut if the pork belly is skin side-down on the cutting board.
Fresh egg noodles usually come in bundles that weigh between 120 grams to 150 grams. I find 120 grams is plenty for me, but cook the amount that’s appropriate for the appetites of those you are serving.
A dashi bag looks like a tea bag and contains dried bonito and kombu. Soak it in boiling hot water for a few minutes to make an umami-rich stock. If you don’t have a dashi bag, use unsalted chicken broth or plain water.
For the pork belly:
750 grams skin-on, well-layered pork belly
40ml soy sauce
40ml rice wine
30 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
A 40 gram chunk of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 dashi bag
For the noodles and garnishes:
480-600 grams fresh egg noodles (of medium thickness)
About 15ml sesame oil
About 80 grams spring onions
About 40 grams fried shallots
4 small handfuls of shredded nori
Toasted sesame seeds
Cut the pork belly into pieces that are about 8mm x 8mm. Put the pieces in a pan and add the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and salt. Peel the ginger and garlic, then place the ginger on a cutting board and whack it with a meat mallet or the side of a cleaver, to crush it lightly. Put the garlic and ginger in the pan. Put the dashi bag into a cup and add 250ml of boiling water. Leave for a few minutes, then remove the bag. Add 150ml of the dashi stock (or chicken broth or water) to the pan and bring to the boil over a medium flame. Lower the heat, cover the pan with the lid and simmer, stirring occasionally.
Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the pork is very tender. Check the consistency of the sauce: it should be glossy and sticky. If needed, simmer the ingredients, uncovered and stirring often, until the sauce lightly coats the meat. Remove the ginger and garlic cloves.
Chop the spring onions about 5mm thick.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the egg noodles and cook until done to your liking, then drain. Add the sesame oil and mix to coat the noodles. Divide the noodles between four bowls. Spoon the pork belly (with sauce) over the noodles, then add the spring onions and a small handful of shredded nori to each portion. Make an indentation in the centre of the noodles and add some fried shallots. Crack the eggs, separating the white from the yolk. (Reserve the egg whites for another use.)
Put the egg yolk on top of the fried shallots in the centre of the bowl and sprinkle lightly with shichimi togarashi. Sprinkle some sesame seeds over the pork and serve immediately. Each diner should mix the ingredients thoroughly so the egg yolk and braised pork belly sauce combine to thickly coat the noodles.