Salty and sweet

Salty and sweet can balance each other in the most delicious ways - whether in Chinese braised pork or salted caramel custards.

Braised pork with water chestnuts

1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup grated palm sugar
1 long red chilli, sliced into rounds
290g can water chestnuts, drained and quartered
1kg pork neck
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
steamed rice and Asian greens, to serve

Serves 4-6

Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Place the oyster sauce, palm sugar, chilli, water chestnuts and 500ml water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat then reduce to medium-low to simmer until the sugar has dissolved.

Place the pork neck into a deep casserole dish just large enough to hold the piece of pork, and pour the oyster sauce mixture over the meat. Cover with foil and cook for 2-3 hours, turning every half hour (you may need to add extra water if the liquid reduces too much). Remove foil and cook for a further 20-30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced. Check seasoning.

Slice the pork and serve with steamed rice and Asian greens.

HOT TIPS
Serve coconut rice or plain steamed rice with the braised pork. To make coconut rice, replace 1/4 of the water needed for cooking plain rice with coconut milk.

Stir-fried Asian greens or steamed greens with oyster sauce would round out the meal.
Bamboo shoots or lotus root also work well as a garnish.

Baked custards with salted caramel

CAPTION

400ml milk
175g caster sugar
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (no pith)
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 eggs
2 extra egg yolks

Serves 4

Begin this recipe a day ahead. Place the milk, 75g sugar, the orange zest and the cinnamon stick in a saucepan over low heat. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes to infuse.

To make the caramel, place the remaining sugar, salt and 100ml water in a heavy-based pan over medium heat, stirring gently, until bubbles appear. Stop stirring and continue to cook, watching carefully, until the water evaporates and the liquid turns the colour of toffee.

Carefully divide the caramel among 4 ovenproof moulds, swirling to coat the sides and bottom.
Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Beat the eggs and extra yolks in a bowl. Slowly add the infused milk, stirring constantly until well combined. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into the toffee-lined moulds. Place in a deep baking dish and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the moulds. Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove the moulds from the oven and allow them to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, dip each mould into a bowl of hot water (to melt the caramel) and run a knife around the edge. Invert onto a serving plate, allowing the salted caramel to flow down the sides. Serve immediately.

Something to Drink
Riesling
With the braised pork, try the 2010 Wolfberger Riesling ($22), from Alsace in the north-east corner of France. It's luscious, with ripe-apricot, peach and citrus notes. The touch of residual sugar on the palate balances the chilli; the acidity leaves the palate fresh.

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