The island of Bali is never quiet, its soundtrack punctuated by gamelan music, roaring motorbikes, chirping geckos, the spluttering oil of street food vendors and the chatter of tourists. All except for one day, the annual festival of Nyepi, when the island falls silent. The airport is closed, everyone stays at home and lights are kept low so that demons are tricked into believing the island is uninhabited and stay away for another year. As there is no cooking on the day of silence, a dish like this dark and glossy, salty-sweet pork, which tastes even better a day or two after it is made, is perfect for Nyepi celebrations.
Cut the pork into
In a large casserole pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft and light golden. Add the pork and ginger and cook for a few minutes more, to colour the meat.
Splash in the kecap manis and soy sauce and cook for a minute longer. Top up the pan with chicken stock, just enough to cover - add water if needed - and add the star anise and whole chillies (they won’t release too much heat if their skin is not broken).
Bring to a simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Cover with a lid, adjusting the heat to keep at a faint simmer. Cook for 1½ to 2 hours, until the pork is very tender. Check from time to time and top up with water if the pan looks dry.
When the pork is cooked, skim off any fat and remove the chillies. The sauce should be glossy and sticky. If it is too thin, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set the pan over a high heat to reduce the liquid. Return the pork to the pan and taste for seasoning. The salt should balance the sweetness of the kecap manis.
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