Okay, so it's not the healthiest, the leanest or even close to being the cleanest thing you can eat (no hashtag cleaneats here!), but make no mistake, pork belly is gob-smackingly delicious and has earnt itself quite the reputation around Melbourne for popping up in peculiar places. Pop it in a curry; bite into it in a brioche slider; sandwich it between two slices of gourmet bread or crunch on that crackling until the oil drips down your chin. Okay maybe don't do that...
We don't really care how you like to indulge in your pork belly; just make sure you damn well enjoy it! And to get you started, here are six of Melbourne's best pork belly dishes. Now get crackling (pun intended)!
No. 8 by John Lawson
If you happened to catch him on Masterchef a few weeks back, you already know John Lawson has the goods when it comes to dishing up meals that will make even the modest foodie want to snap on their iPhone and upload to instagram. He's worked for two and three Michelin starred restaurants, was the Executive Chef for Maze in Melbourne and has also worked under the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc. With all this in mind, we knew he had pork belly in the bag before even taking a seat at his eponymous restaurant.
Expect three succulent chunks of crispy Otway Ranges pork belly, flavoured with smoked paprika amid a medley of carrot puree and preserved kumquat. The pork belly is absolutely spot on, packed full of flavour and juicy in all the right places! Insider's Tip: a brand new pork belly has landed on the menu this week and it's also sure to be a showstopper, cooked in French cider with caramelised apples and swede. Go on, give them both a go!
Every now and then an entrée dish comes along and takes you by surprise, and this time it was in the form of a roast pork belly steamed bun at Gingerboy. Not only is this little invention super cute in appearance, but it's absolutely delectable too. Complete with pickled cucumber and chilli sauce, you'll get just the right amount of spice you need, plus the pork belly itself is soft enough to bite into without things getting awkward.
Gingerboy is known for its modern Australian adaptation of Asian hawker-style street market food and the pork belly buns are no exception. Hot tip: You get three to a serve, so if you're only going with one other person, it's crucial you call 'dibs' before the dish arrives at the table. You're welcome.
Who said pork belly is reserved for dining in fancy restaurants? Not Earl Canteen, that's for sure. The CBD-based fast-food outposts serve up one of the best pork belly dishes in Melbourne, re-inventing the classic sanga into something much more highbrow. Order the crispy skin free-range pork belly sandwich with apple and fennel coleslaw and wilted silverbeet, and relish every last bite!
Watch as your pork belly makes it way through the hot oven and into your yummy Noisette Turkish roll, all through the open kitchen window. As soon as you set sight on your chunky, crispy, juicy belly, you know it's going to be good. The best part? Earl Canteen doesn't skimp on ingredients either, so expect a decent mouth-watering serve of pork belly every time you go. Now that's worth visiting for, isn't it?
Firmly established on Rathdowne Street in Carlton North, is Piqueos – Melbourne's answer to sumptuous Argentinian and Peruvian food.
The Costilla de cerdo (or baby back rib) is testament to this claim. Not only has it been slow cooked for 24 hours and marinated in an amazing blend of soy, sugar and white wine vinegar, but it's then finished in the oven where all the flavours absorb to create the stunning dish it is. Your hearty portion of delicately cooked pork belly will arrive resting on a lettuce leaf, topped with fresh cucumber and an adornment of dehydrated, rehydrated crispy rice. Pick it up, take a bite and you'll be blown away by that soft little belly that pretty much falls apart as you sink your teeth in. Nom.
Oh and for the wine connoisseurs here's something for you to note down. All of Piqueos' wines are sourced between Patagonia, Mendoza and Salta, and they've been cleverly (and perfectly) organised in order of altitude – a key role in Argentinian wine. Bet you didn't know that!
It could be said that Neil Perry and the Spice Temple crew realised they were onto something good with their pork belly. And why be limited by one dish when you can have three? Yep, Urban Listers, it's true; these guys have broken the mould and incorporated their succulent bellies into three amazing dishes for you to try. Kick things off with the crispy pork belly sliders, sandwiched between housemade brioche with subtle amounts of chilli and coriander, sesame seeds and the lovely addition of peanuts. Don't be afraid to bite straight into your slider of pork, because this little pal is so soft, it's going to break away perfectly.
Take things up a notch with the Hakka style braised pork with pickled mustard greens and mushroom soy. Or for a classically crispy belly, opt for Hunan style belly with mushroom soy and fresh and dried chillies, plus a tonne of beans. Oh and don't be biting into those chillies. They're just for flavour, okay? Consider yourself warned.
Ever tried pork belly in a curry? At Longrain you can find your fave pork dish stir-fried and sitting pretty in a yummy Thai red curry alongside a generous serve of Spring Bay mussels. With a great blend of Asian spices intertwined with fresh seafood, you really give your taste buds a work out. This delicious pork belly dish isn't overly hot either. Think PG rated teen flick rather than steamy Eyes Wide Shut affair. Balance it out with a betel leaf salad – one of Longrain's most popular starters – or go pork crazy and snap up the signature pork hock as well. You won't be disappointed.
So there you have six of Melbourne's best pork belly dishes, Listers!
Main Image Credit: Joylicious