Making Chinese crispy pork belly (siu youk)
I love Chinese siu mei (roasted meats). I remember many a time, when I first came to London, I craved nothing but a simple plate of chaa gaai faan (char siu pork and chicken on rice). However, what I fancy usually varies. There’s soy sauce chicken, roast duck, char siu and crispy pork belly, and they’re like CHILDREN to me – how are you ever going to choose a favourite? Sometimes it’s all about the silky smoothness and sweet savouriness of soy sauce chicken. But give me a good tender piece of char siu – I love the end bits where the meat is lightly charred and smokey – and I’m good. Roast duck is heavenly when soaked in that ubiquitous sweet soy; perfect together on rice or in a hot steaming bowl of ho fun (flat rice noodles). And crisp pork belly (siu youk)? A gorgeously sinful piece of meat – the juicy meat, flavoursome fat, crisp skin… but one of the complaints our family has most of the time about store-bought pork belly is that the skin is never quite crisp enough. (Or perhaps, are we buying from the wrong places? This is in Hong Kong, mind!).
Regardless, siu mei is something we always just buy, never make ourselves at home. Nor have I ever questioned what goes into making such delicious meats. I’ve made soy sauce chicken wings before, though I could never achieve the same uniform glossiness of the store-bought variety. And I keep meaning to make char siu after my mom keeps saying how easy it is (and I shall, once I get my pork tenderloin from Paganum!)
But I was inspired by Helen’s fantastic homemade Chinese crispy pork belly that I had to give it a shot myself. For some reason I didn’t use the same recipe (googling led me to this excellent recipe with step by step pictures) but the results are good!
My favourite bit was playing butcher and chopping (not slicing) the pork into bite-sized pieces with a big knife – the sound of the crunchy crackling was amazing!
You’ll need to prepare the pork at least 24 hours in advance for the best flavour. So here’s the recipe, thanks to happyhomemaker88!
Chinese crispy pork belly
For the marinade
1 cube fermented red beancurd (nam yue, pictured)
1/2 tbsp Chinese five spice powder
1/2 tbsp white pepper
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp rice wine (I ran out of Chinese rice wine so subsituted cooking sake)
For the pork belly
1 x 1kg piece pork belly
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 tbsp white vinegar
1. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined.
2. Using a sharp knife, score the skin of the pork belly all over (you can ask your butcher to do this for you). The more you score, the more fat will be released and the crispier your pork belly will be! Turn the pork belly over and make incisions in the meat about 1/2cm deep and about 2cm apart.
4. Place the meat skin-side up into a container. Pat the skin dry with kitchen paper, then rub in the coarse salt. Place, uncovered, into the fridge and leave to marinate overnight.
5. Take the meat out an hour before roasting (so about 2 hours before you want to serve). Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
6. Place the pork belly on a rack in the middle of the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Then, brush the skin with the white vinegar and switch the oven to the grill (broil) function. (The white vinegar is to help speed up the crackling process.)
7. Keep an eye on your pork belly as it cooks; it should take about 45 minutes. Now, the tip here is to let the skin char for ultra-crispy crackling (the logic is that this is how you know the skin is crisp all the way through and not chewy on the bottom).
8. So don’t worry if your pork belly is a bit charred – use a serrated knife to scrape away the blackened layer and reveal a golden-red layer of crisp pork skin. (Admittedly I think I went a bit far with the charring this time, so the skin was nice and crisp but a bit dry for my liking. Next time!)
9. Using a large knife, chop (don’t slice) the pork belly into bite-sized pieces. I do this by holding the knife over the skin, then hitting down hard on the back of the knife with the heel of my hand. A nice, clean chop – just listen to that crackling!
The pork tasted just like the versions I buy from roast meat stalls in HK. I never would have figured out that fermented beancurd was a major player in the creation of this marvellous piece of meat!
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