Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide – Would you appear on Masterchef?

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (11 of 13)

I have a dark secret. I lock myself in a darkened room. I make sure there is nobody around to catch me. Then I do it – I watch TV cooking competitions. Yes, I have even seen a couple of episodes of The Great British Bake Off, where Mary Berry with the help of a comedian (and the girl in the heavy specs), separate the competent from the inept. I’ve sat aghast at some of the efforts on Irish Masterchef. I’ve suffered foul-mouthed tirades of Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen from the safety of my couch. Greg Wallace and John Torode regularly put in an appearance, criticising the pathetic efforts of people who obviously can’t cook and should not be asked to try. Why do I do this? 

I suppose it’s the same as watching a car crash in slow motion. You don’t want to see the front seat passenger go through the windshield. But, you can’t bring yourself to look away. Once you’ve seen one, you tend to seek them out. So, instead of hanging around at accident black spots, I watch cookery competitions on TV.  When I do, I wonder what lunacy makes people want to take part in this mass humiliation. Why do they want to be subjugated by overbearing and overweight “experts” who so often can’t even agree amongst themselves? It mystifies me.

It leads me to ask “Would you appear on Masterchef?”. If the answer is yes, my heart goes out to you. If you are going to do so, you could do worse than cooking my Oriental Belly of Pork Sous Vide. The only problem you will have is getting it cooked in the time allowed. It requires a full 5 hours at 85ºC in the sous vide. There is a deal of slicing and dicing beforehand too. You would be hard pressed to get it done in eight hours. I can imagine Greg Wallace exploding into rage while John Torode admonishes you in his staring Australian way. Michele Roux Jr would have left the building without ever tasting this wonder. So, whatever you do, you would not, could not and should not try this on a TV cooking competition. And do you know what, it’s their loss. Enough ranting, here’s the recipe for Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (1 of 13)

The first of two ingredients shots. The pork and everything that goes in the bag along with it.

Two ingredients shots because the pork needs to be prepared 24 hours in advance. This to give time for the pork to really absorb all that flavour.


  • 2 kilo of free range pork belly (bones removed)
  • 2 chilis
  • 5cm (2 inches of ginger root)
  • 3 garlic cloves (or one single bulb)
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass
  • 2 teaspoons of 5 spice powder
  • A small amount of oil
  • 500ml (1 pint) of good chicken stock
  • Plenty of bok choy (6 heads)
  • 4 servings of noodles
Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (2 of 13)

It seems so un-Master Chef to take the skin off a pork belly.

Using a sharp knife, remove the skin from the pork belly. Keep as much fat as possible on the meat. Rub the belly (the pork, not your own) with the lemongrass, chilis, ginger and garlic.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (3 of 13)

The pork takes on the flavour during the 24 hour curing and 5 hours of cooking.

Vacuum pack the pork and then leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (4 of 13)

Try doing this in an hour, under the spiteful gaze of the judges.

At about five and a half hours before serving, pop it into the sous vide (85ºC). Leave it there for 5 hours. Now, here’s the bit you could do on Masterchef. Slice the skin of the pork into strips and then cut into bite sized pieces.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (5 of 13)

This is the stuff of Masterchef. An amateur slicing some pork skin.

Sprinkle it with some oil and the 5 spice powder.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (6 of 13)

5 spice pork skin. This is a totally gratuitous pig skin shot. Sorry about that.

Roast this in a very hot oven until the skin turns crispy and the whole house smells of spices.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (7 of 13)

Ingredients shot two. The soup bit of this masterly dish.

The soup base for this is very simple. Boil and drain some noodles. I was serving 5 people so 4 portions was enough. Use 1 litre of good home-made chicken stock (not possible to make on Masterchef, sorry!) Chop the bok choy (possible within the time allowed on Masterchef). Add the bok choy to the stock. Add the noodles and simmer until the vegetable has wilted. Add a teaspoon or two of chili oil.

Take the pork out of the sous vide and brown it quickly in some oil, on a hot pan.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (9 of 13)

In TV production parlance “Cutaway to Greg saying ‘This boy can really cook'”. Pathetic!

Within the hour allowed, this bit is possible on Masterchef. Slice the pork into nice big chunks.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (10 of 13)

If this was TV, we would have a ‘crash zoom’ to the slice of pork falling over. This is not TV.

Do as they do on TV cookery programmes: “assemble the dish” / “plate-up”. In plain man’s language, put the soup in the bowl and put the pork on top. Don’t be a dork (like they have on cookery programmes) and be sure to serve the crispy bits above the waterline.

Oriental Pork Belly Sous Vide (1 of 1)

Don’t waste your time appearing on TV. Get into the kitchen and prepare this para-Oriental wonder.

This is a dish that transcends the nonsense that is TV cookery competitions. It is truly delicious and spectacular. It takes about as long to cook as an entire series of The Hairy Bikers Ride Roughshod (or whatever). Don’t let that put you off. When you are done, you get to eat it. Trust me, that’s reward enough.

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Latest comments
  • I’ll take the pork belly and ignore the TV shows every time 😉

    • Given the choice, I’d be with you. The problem MD is that they are not mutually exclusive. I should make a decision. But, I’m slightly addicted, I fear.

      • I hate the bullying in those programmes, plus the presenters are nasty beyond belief. To be honest, I gave up terrestrial TV two years ago – they no longer broadcast anything I want to watch. I’m much happier cooking or reading a book.

        • In defence of Masterchef Australia, they do give pretty good guidance to the aspiring chefs. I get a bit miffed by the selection of contestants more for their vulnerability than for their culinary skills. “It makes great TV” said a TV producer friend of mine. We have become a society of voyeurs in this regard.

          • People do love to be voyeurs. I suspect a reintroduced Roman arena complete with lions and Christians would go down a storm worldwide.

  • Can I bring myself to spend the moola on a sous vide? I need convincing. You’re far too good to be wasting your time on tv.

    • Thanks Anna,
      Blow the cash. Though, I did cook some sous vide burgers at the weekend. My Mum (who was not feeling the best, I have to admit) muttered that she could not understand why I would cook something for an hour and a half when I could do it just as well in ten minutes in the frying pan. She may have a point….

  • I confess to loving pork belly, slow roasted with crispy crunchy crackling, but I also confess to enjoying a private peek at Australia’s Masterchef. I’d crack up under the pressure they endure

    • My friend who appeared on Masterchef USA is still sworn to secrecy and I can’t winkle the truth out of her. However, when the show airs in June, it will be gloves off. I can’t wait to hear all the goss…

  • Whimper…. I only got one section of pork belly with my side of pork. That was the one I did with pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, honey, etc. Wasted! I should have waited for this recipe. Plus, (whinge whinge) no sous vide. I like Australian Masterchef. They’re not vicious, just very plain talking. It’s the only series I’ll watch.

    • From memory, the Oz version gives better and more detailed instruction to the chefettes than the UK versions. The Irish version showed some punters how to fry a piece of fish. It was amazing to see so many people on a cookery show not knowing how to do that. Anyway, I suspect, that’s why they are chosen.
      Buy the SV Katie my dear or get that husband of yours to bring one back from one of his long distance trips.

      • In the Australian Masterchef there has never been any bullying or yelling or other unpleasantness and the sophistication of the dishes is oft way beyond that of many restaurants. Be it the local judges or Heston Blumenthal, Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson or especially the doyen of them all, Marco Pierre White, whom I adore, almost apologize if they find fault and have to send someone home. Hugs, handshakes, tears, a heap of warmth and so much learning for us! I have tried those of other countries: watch a few from the UK, but am quite undiplomatically supportive of ours 😀 !!

        • We do get it over here and I do like the instructional bit. I enjoy the cooking too. It’s all the blubbering that gets my goat.

      • The competitors all know how to cook when they arrive, but are presented with tests: for example, to discover if they can identify ingredients in a mystery dish, and on one memorable occasion, blow a sugar syrup bubble for a Heston Blumethal dessert with 18 different elements on the plate. I like the show because there’s none of the fake slanging and competitiveness they drum up on other cooking shows to keep things interesting, and the competitors are nice and supportive to each other. The SV will have to wait. I held out for a much-needed new washing machine the other day…. I wonder if one could use it for cooking something in a sealed pouch?

        • Thank you so much Kate for adding to mine. Perhaps those from other countries won’t believe it but our judges actually walk around the aisles of contestants cooking, point out possible time shortages, question the contestant if he’she seems to be going wrong – they are not allowed to give ‘tips’ but much help sounds like it 🙂 And you should see the plating . . . modern artworks almost. And on Fridays all the judges cook for the contestants and us and those are lessons I would not have been able to afford in real life! Oh Kate: you may not have watched MKR [yes, a lot more ‘fake’ there, but] – a number of contestants did cook on top of the stove in sealed pouches a la sous-vide . . . had to take care of temps but it did seem to work for all !! Sorry, Conor !!!

        • I would love to try your spin-dried beef!

          • I was thinking that the combination of heat and the tumbling effect might produce interesting results… Mind you, I’d have to do a brown wash in case of spillages!

        • I’m constantly surprised about how rarely the sous vide technique is used on cooking competition shows, and when it is, how often it’s done incorrectly.

      • Only in Australia – last year’s grand finals, two cooks competing to win the grand prize, one drops the ball and loses focus, and the other stops what she’s doing to help him. Made me proud to be an Aussie.

  • I have to confess I am addicted to cookery shows. Please don’t judge too harshly! If I could only watch Masterchef Australia or MKR I would be quite happy with that. There was a contestant last week on UK Masterchef who attempted to sous vide and then smoke an egg for the first time. Disaster. But I thought ‘Conor would have that done to perfection’. Maybe I need to get out more. Or read less food blogs.
    Great dish, as always!

    • What confuses me is why one would be bothered sous-videing and then smoking an egg. We made a rule many years ago and don’t have TV in the kitchen. Technology has made the rule redundant as I regularly watch dross while preparing the weekend dinner. The Food Channel is responsible for a lot of the Masterchef repeats. I suppose the one that really gets me is the Junior Masterchef. Too much to bear!

      • Now Junior Masterchef is a step too far – precocious kids a fraction of my age who have already achieved more than I have? No thank you 🙂

  • In answer to your Q: I am here late at night after watching the final episode of ‘My Kitchen Rules’ with a brilliant five-course menu from both couples and a milk marinated pork belly one of the courses for one couple . . . and yours is so appetizing I am getting some pork on Friday to cook this for friends over the weekend. AND our Australian Masterchef is beginning on Sunday and I do push other commitments aside if I can to watch – it is remarkably good – even the world’s top chefs admit to that and all rush to come on . . . actually one can learn a hell of a lot!!! Would I go on: were I 30 years younger I would seriously consider it 😀 !!! Admittedly Giro d’Italia has to be fitted in after that until 2am for three weeks also very soon . . . hmm . . .

    • Cycling is one of the things that I love to watch while I cook. It always has something going on. Yet, like a good meal prep, the action bits happen at intervals. It is pretty calming for something that gets so exciting in parts.

      • Yes well, our telecasts do start about 10 pm and go until 2 am or after 🙂 ! Quite frankly my big TV has always been in the bedroom and I adore settling down amongst a pile of pillows on a quiet night with a cup or three of green tea . . . we get almost no ads so it is a wonderfully relaxing experience bar the weary eyes the next morning!

        • An excellent thought. Though I suspect I might get into deep water here if I tried that.

  • Ha, I too watch cooking shows, Masterchef (the Aussie one where everyone stares at each other in the manner that we do) is the fave. But I will also watch MKR (a cracking final tonight, edge of seat excitement and amazing food), any kind of Great Brit or Aussie Bake Off, the U.S Top Chef and frankly, any cooking show. But I would rather sous vide myself, than appear on one. (Had a taste of that kind of stress with cookery exams years ago.) No thank you kind sir. This pork of yours looks tops, after watching a lot of sous vide on MKR lately and reading your posts, I really got to give it a whirl. (Ever I ever get away from the bloody TV that is…)

    • The fatalists in our society say we have become a nation of people eating TV dinners while watching cookery programmes on TV. It is a pretty frightening prospect. I have to admit that the Aussie Masterchef is the best of them. That is because of the detail put into the educational bits. I have watched the UK lads whip through a recipe and then expect the unfortunate sweaters to reproduce it. Needless to say, they don’t. Car crash TV…

  • I will rub my belly if I want to, Conor. If you want people to stop, you should refrain from posting such deliciousness online, let alone on television. You big flirt, you.

    • Rub away Sparling. Just don’t have a handful of chilis and garlic and stuff when you’re doing it. Keep the door locked too.

  • If anyone should appear on master chef, it’s you. You and Stefan could enter the team competition. 🙂 My six-year-old loves cooking and baking competitions on TV, and she gets excited when watch one together! Those folks are brave. Recipe looks delicious, especially with the bok choy and chile oil! Yum!

    • Thanks Shanna. Your own cooking puts me to shame. You always seem to be eating an even more healthy meal than the last one. How you manage this with a gaggle of kids and Greg doing the job he does amazes me. The bok choi made it pretty tasty for sure.

      • Bok choi! I knew I would miss the spelling on that one! 😳😉 Pork two ways here, one more reason you should consider a cooking competition. 🍴

        • There are a number of ways of spelling that vegetable, all of them wrong according to my spell checker. Tasty all the same.

  • The food looks wonderful! And we have something in common… I don`t know why, but I love watching cooking shows, too, mostly those really (actually) stupid competitions. I watch them with my 2 year old daughter, she loves it. It`s the only TV she watches, very limited, but she prefers it over comics 😉

  • I’m not much into Sous-vide but your dish looks wonderful! I love your idea of separating the skin and crisping it.
    As for cooking competition shows – I participated in one episode of Chopped (it’s a popular show here in the States, not sure if you have it) and made it to the final round.
    It was a short and quite an interesting experience. I was there for the cooking challenge (and prize, obviously! 🙂 ) and definitely failed to deliver the extra “drama” needed, but I could see how easy it is for people to be pulled into it.
    I’ve learned so much about the manipulations the producers can do with editing, how they can create more drama than actually was, and how much the behind-the curtains “politics” is important.
    I can only imagine how much harder it must be with long term shows like Master Chef. They can really build or break a person and it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a shame so many of these shows use so much humiliation and viciousness to promote themselves. It”s just food, after all… 🙂

    • I have a vision of the show hosts doing all that stern staring and shouting “30 seconds to go” in an excited and frantic way. All in an empty warehouse. It’s how it’s done. What nonsense.

  • You’ve described very eloquently why I won’t participate in a TV cooking show — even though people keep encouraging me to do so.
    I’ve never considered rubbing spices on my own belly 😉
    Good stuff Conor, the pork must have been very tasty and I love the plated shot.

    • Thanks Stefan. The dish worked very well indeed. I have been encouraged to apply for them a few times. It will never happen.

      • I have been encouraged even more to start my own restaurant. Not very likely to happen in the near future, either.

        • I’ve heard that one too. It does not appeal. It’s bad enough having the family as critics.

  • I’ve never watched those cooking shows where the chefs are so mean, I think I would cringe at all the yelling. But I did start watching Top Chef this year. It was a fairly decent show and didn’t see too much yelling or meanness in it. Reality cooking shows aside, this pork belly dish looks insanely amazing!

    • Thanks Kathryn, I would not trust myself holding a filleting knife, in a steamy kitchen, having some sweaty man shouting at me. I’ll stay off TV.

  • I am totally addicted to cookery shows though I’d rather eat my own spleen that appear on one. I could get equally addicted to your pork belly, Conor. You can’t go wrong with those ingredients.(I mean YOU can’t, although I’m sure some Masterchef contestants could muck it up.)

    • The idea of feasting on anybody’s spleen is not too attractive (even one as magnificent as yours must be). This dish takes far too long. I can imagine Greg Wallace in shock when I announce that the judges had better come back tomorrow.

      • I’m sure it would do him good, he’s far too complacent (read ‘smug’). But don’t just to me, I’m always splenetic.

      • “listen” dammit

  • I do very much like Masterchef Ireland (and The Voice of Ireland), the only telly shows I watch; thankfully they’re only on seasonally and not 52 weeks a year. I don’t find the hosts too scathiing…contestants sign up to be critiqued and judged afterall. Me thinks you could add some much needed humour to MI, you certainly have the talent required, but sadly it sounds as though the interest is not there on your part. Cheers to another wonderful recipe from you!

    • The pressure would be too much. Also, there is the danger of them placing some well known vegetable in front of me and my thinking it a fish.

  • Haha! I see, we share a secret! Yes, and I have seen them all through the years, MC Amateurs, Professonals, Celebrity MC and all the other cooking shows. My youngest son even had the nerve to sign me up for Swedish Masterchef, but I refused. No way I would cry on national TV. I am sure though, your Oriental Belly Pork Sous Vide would make Michele Jr’s mouth water, as it did mine. It looks delicious. 🙂

    • Thanks Meggie. I have never even heard of Swedish Masterchef. A treat in store no doubt.

  • This looks fantastic – nice colourful visuals and I’m loving the mise en place.
    Truly drool-worthy!

    • Thanks. I was pretty happy with this one. The mis en place is pretty essential as I have a dreadful habit of forgetting ingredients!

  • Crunchy pork fat slices…oh yeah no need to sell me any further on this dish. I bet this pork was super tender and flavorful.

  • I do wonder how I would fare if I did Masterchef. Some of them are very good. The winner of one series in the US was legally blind but her presentation was amazing. I wouldn’t want to be yelled at though. Lovely recipe! 😊

    • I saw the show where she won. Her presentation was spectacular.

  • This looks amazing. 🙂

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