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    Tropic Food Challenge: Mr Soy Boy


    Mr Soy Boy is fast gaining a following for its dynamic take on modern Asian cuisine. Tropic Magazine talks to chef Ferdi Salvana to find out more. You can also scroll down to find Ferdi's delicious pork belly recipe. 

    How much local produce do you use in your menus?
    We pride ourselves on supporting and buying from local producers. We shop at Rusty's Markets twice a week and love catching up with our favourite stall holders there. We also buy Tablelands-grown meat from Byrnes Meats, local seafood from Harbourside Seafood and we shop regularly at Johnson's vegetable store at Stockland Earlville.

    Why is it important to use local produce?
    We believe in choosing the freshest, highest quality raw ingredients for our restaurant, and by putting money back into our local community we build strong relationships with our suppliers, who often turn into friends and customers. This all helps grow our tight-knit Cairns community.

    What are the challenges facing local chefs trying to use local produce?
    As we are located in the Far North, there are some vegetables that are difficult to source locally. We try to overcome this issue by using a variety of sources and by changing our specials to incorporate what is in season locally. Many of our customers drop in chillies, limes, lemongrass and paw paws for us to use to which we really appreciate.

    Are there any items of produce you were surprised to discover is grown in TNQ?
    After being a chef in Cairns for over 15 years, I keep my eyes and ears open for any new developments in the local food scene and really enjoy thinking up new recipes to incorporate these items. I also enjoy scouring the local markets for new ingredients such as sauces and jams.

    Do you have a favourite local product or food item?
    My favourite ingredient would have to be Asian greens. These come in many different varieties, fresh from the farm to my kitchen door. The locally grown fresh bok choy, coriander and shallots are so flavoursome, really making my dishes come alive and reminding me of growing up in the Philippines where I would help plant, grow and harvest them with my family.

    Recipe: Pork Belly Salad
    Serves 4 people

    500gm local pork belly
    1 litre water
    50gm salt
    10ml sugarcane vinegar

    Dry Rub Seasoning
    2gm Chinese five spice
    2gm ground cinnamon
    2gm ground garlic
    2gm ground ginger
    3gm salt
    2gm ground white pepper
    Combine together in a bowl

    20gm beanspouts
    20gm red cabbage, julienned, then dunked in ice water and drained
    20gm green cabbage, julienned, then dunked in ice water and drained
    2 stalks coriander, 2gm mint, roughly chopped
    10gm red capsicum strips
    Combine all ingredients in bowl
    Squeeze half a lime and some coriander leaves for garnish

    Salad Dressing
    2gm Szechuan pepper, dry roasted, then grind with mortar and pestle
    Juice of 1 tangelo (or orange)
    1tsp Dijon mustard
    100ml vegetable oil
    1 clove finely diced garlic
    5ml sugarcane vinegar
    Pinch of sugar
    Salt and pepper to taste


    Pre-heat oven to 250C

    1. Slice pork belly into 3cm wide strips and using a sharp knife score the skin diagonally in both directions
    2. Add 50g salt to water and bring to boil, add pork belly strips and cook on high for 2 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry with paper towel
    3. Rub 1 teaspoon of salt and 10ml vinegar into the skin side of the pork, ensuring pork is completely covered. Then flip strips over and firmly massage the dry rub mixture into the fleshy side
    4. Place strips on oven rack and cook in pre-heated oven for 20 mins, then reduce heat to 180C for a further 20 mins. Remove from oven when crispy.
    5. Make salad dressing by combining Szechuan pepper, Dijon, tangelo juice, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a metal bowl, then slowly pour the oil in the centre of the bowl while whisking briskly to incorporate all ingredients together, pour dressing into salad mixture and lightly toss
    6. Cut pork belly into bite size pieces and arrange with salad on a platter. Garnish with lime and coriander