Whose recipes do you use or follow the most? Many cooks including myself rely on cookbooks now and again, or go search for recipes online. But when comes to home cooking, you simply can’t go past a good ole mum’s recipe. After cooking two rounds of momofuku bo ssam (you probably so sick of me keep talking about it already) for the sydney food bloggers and the orphan’s Christmas parties, it is done and dusted. The cookbook is back in the bookshelf and it’s time to switch back to my own recipe of traditional Chinese crispy pork belly for one last group feasting at Richard’s on Boxing Day.
Read on and find out how I turned a nice piece of pork belly, from this ↑ into this ↓
Chinese crispy roast pork belly, commonly known as Siew Yuk (烧肉) or Siao Bak (in Hokkien), literally means “burn the meat”, indeed a mesmerising sight of the spit roast that’s how it gained its name. The Chinese roast pork belly is a little bit different from the western version. I may be bias, but the Chinese roast pork belly is all about the crispy skin, if not crunchy. That golden blistered pork skin with the most amazing earth shattering crunch is typically how we judge a good crispy roast pork belly.
To achieve such crunchiness is not rocket science really, it is a lot easier than you’d imagined. You just have to keep an eye on the oven and don’t let the skin burned into charcoal. Apart from the crunchy skin crackles, the marinade for the pork is just as important. There are many different versions on how to make that perfect crispy pork belly, you can read all about it here, here, here and here. Of course, I have my own ‘secret’ recipe, that’s all I can say.
But like I said, to impress the guests with the most amazing cracklings at your next dinner party is easy. I’ll show you how. I bought a 3 kilo pork belly at the local butcher shop and asked them kindly to de-bone it. They offered me to score the skin, but I prefer to do it myself. For the skin, try to avoid the diamond shape scoring as you’d usually do with a roast pork. It’s best to just score it in vertical lines about 2 to 3 cm apart as they will become the guidelines where to chop the meat once cooked.
Another important step for that crunchiness is to make sure the skin is as bone dry. The dryer it is, the crunchier it gets. First you will need to blanch (and cook a little) the skin with hot water then pat dry with paper towel. Some will go to the length of sun drying the piece of meat, but I found just pat dry and let it marinade overnight in the fridge is sufficient. When ready to put in the oven, just use paper towel to pat on the skin to get rid of any moisture if necessary.
And final tip is salt. Salt is commonly used to achieve that bubbles blistering skin. However, the excessive use of salt can be harmful for those who is suffering hypertension like me. Instead of rubbing table salt or any ground salt into the skin, use rock salt and sprinkle on top of the skin sparingly. The rock salt will still help to increase the temperature on the skin for that crunchy result and it also doesn’t melt as much like ground salt into the skin. Hence, you can simply just brush off the rock salt once is ready, and it wont add another layer of saltiness to the pork belly.
If there is any area on the skin that still look tender and unblistered, simply poke it with a sharp knife a few times and let the oil escape. Put it back in the oven and continue cooking until the whole skin evenly roasted.
I served the crispy roast pork belly with some hoisin sauce at the party, but traditionally a chopped bird’s eye chillies dipping soy sauce will have me devour the whole plate of crispy pork belly in no time.
Chinese crispy roast Pork Belly - Siew Yuk (烧肉) Ingredients: 3 kg pork belly (with skin on) 1 bag rock salt Method: 1. Clean the pork belly, scrape the skin with a knife to get rid of any hair then pat dry all over with kitchen towel. 2. Score the skin in vertical lines about 2-3cm apart. Boil some hot water in kettle, pour the hot water over the skin and let it blanch and cook a little. 3. Pat dry the pork again and this time make sure it is completely dry especially the scored lines on the skin. 4. Rub whichever marinade you are using evenly into the meat. DO NOT rub on the skin. If any marinade get on the skin, clean it with a paper towel. 5. Put the pork belly in baking tray, wrap with cling foil and leave it in the fridge to marinade at least 2 hours or overnight. 6. Preheat the oven at 220C, and pat the skin dry again once is out of the fridge to get rid of any moisture. Roast the pork belly for 30 minutes until the skin turns brown. 7. Remove from oven, sprinkle rock salt all over the skin and try rub some into the scored lines. (Don't worry the amount of salt used here, it can be brushed off later) 8. Put it back in the oven and roast for another 30 minutes. At this point, the skin will be crispy and with very small bubbles blistering the skin. 9. Turn the oven up to 250C, and move the pork belly to the highest tray in the oven, as close to the top heat element as possible. "Grill" it for another 20-30 minutes at every 10 minutes interval. Keep checking it until the skin is evenly blistered and make sure it is not burned and blackened. 10. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before chopping it up with cleaver.