Making Chinese crispy pork belly (siu youk)

February 8, 2009 at 1:03 am 49 comments

meat stall

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!

Chinese roast belly pork

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
Serves 2-3

Nam yueFor 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.

Chinese roast belly pork
3. Rub the marinade into the pork flesh (make sure to rub into the incisions as well).

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.)

Chinese roast belly pork
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).

Chinese roast belly pork

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!


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

so many kaffeehausen, so little time Marking the end of Chinese New Year

49 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Helen  |  February 8, 2009 at 1:34 am

    I am so happy you were inspired by my pork belly! It doesn’t matter you didn’t use the same recipe, I actally think the one you found looks nicer anyway – I’ve been meaning to experiment with red bean curd for a while. It looks delicious!

  • 2. happyhomemaker88  |  February 8, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Thank you for your link to my recipe, dear Charmaine. Your Siu Youk looks absolutely delicious. I, too, love Siu Mei and what I really miss most was the Hong Kong style Soy Sauce Chicken, which I had in the Vancouver, Canada Chinatown – there isn’t anything similar to it here in Malaysia.

    Happy Cooking!

    choesf :D

  • 3. Charmaine  |  February 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Helen – Yes, I simply couldn’t resist after seeing those pictures of yours! :D Fermented red beancurd is easy to find in Chinatown (I forgot to post up a pic of what the packaging looks like, but it’s in a big brown urn-like varnished clay jar). My mom does something amazing where she uses it in a braised dish of tofu, shiitake mushrooms, radish, chinese leaf and sometimes leftover crispy pork belly ;-)

    choesf – Thank YOU for the excellent recipe! I’m glad London has quite a lot of Chinese and thus easy access to siu mei… I must get down to Malaysia one day and try all the food there!

  • 4. Niamh  |  February 8, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    How delicious does this look?! The blogosphere has gone pork belly crazy. Lovely post, I really enjoyed reading it!

  • 5. Eric  |  February 8, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Now you can open up your own Siu Mei shop! Damn, I want some!

  • 6. Charmaine  |  February 8, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Niamh – You’re def one of the pioneers of this craze! ;-) Thanks, and you’ll have to try making this one day…

    Eric – Haha, I know what I’ll do now if the recession gets to me too!

  • 7. Helen Yuet Ling Pang  |  February 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Wow, I won’t bother asking my uncle for the recipe now that I have yours! It looks amazing. I wonder if I’ll ever dare make it myself one day…

  • 8. susan  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Hi there, Where can I get fermented red bean curd in London – or can I substitute something else? Looks delicious!

  • 9. Charmaine  |  February 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Helen – I demand you ask him, too, in case he has any awesome tips! :-D It’s super easy, so don’t be afraid to make it!

    Susan – I should have clarified, oops. You can find it in most Chinese supermarkets – like I described for Helen above, it’s usually found in a brown varnished earthenware jar…

  • 10. Kake  |  February 16, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Thanks again for this — tried it last night and it went down really well. Now I have to decide what to do with the rest of the fermented tofu!

  • 11. Charmaine  |  February 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Kake – You’re so very welcome! Glad to pass the joy of homemade siu youk along…. fermented tofu is great in braises. Leftover pork belly is great in a clay pot with a cube or so of fermented beancurd, shiitake mushrooms, chunks of daikon and wodges of Chinese cabbage. Add some stock to make a braising liquid and slow cook until the daikon and veg are tender. Yum!

  • 12. kattebelletje  |  February 18, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Wow it looks awesome, and how funny, I tried it for the first time on the same day ! Will use your advice and seasonings next time!

  • 13. Charmaine  |  February 21, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    kattebelletje – pork belly is taking over the world! yours looks great too :D

  • 14. V  |  May 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Hi, I just want to say what great recipe you have here! I’ve been experimenting with different siu youk recipes and yours is the best! Thanks for posting such precise recipe.

    I will copy the recipe with link back to your post here if you don’t mind.

    • 15. Charmaine  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:14 am

      Hi V, thanks for dropping by… I’m so glad the recipe worked for you! And no, of course I wouldn’t mind the link back :-)

  • […] in window display. We normally go to New King in Amsterdam for such treat. Now, no more. Thanks to Charmaine of Tasty Treats. Her accurate recipe brought a smile to our faces. The crispy pork tastes sophisticated and […]

  • 17. Pigpigscorner  |  May 29, 2009 at 11:18 am

    oh gosh..the crust looks awesome!

  • 18. Mark  |  June 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    ok I don’t think I’ve ever read your blog… but this is inspirational. I love Siu Youk!

  • 19. Paul  |  July 20, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Great blog, and great recipe for siu youk – thankyou!

  • 20.  |  August 2, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    My wife bought a lovely slab of organic belly pork from Broadway market in Hackney and thought I’d try another recipe for Chinese style (so many variations).

    This looks great.

    My favourite combo is soya chicken and crispy pork on rice – you got a recipe for soya chicken?

    Great blog :-)

  • 21. trojanass  |  August 4, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    you are a total idiot for giving out this idea of scraping off the black from the pork. Even with a knife of the right kind it doesnt work. Now i have a piece of blackened pork which will not allow for the top layer to be removed. What a total bloody fool you are. Thx for that. Arsehole!

    • 22. Charmaine  |  August 5, 2009 at 9:02 am

      Your words are far from necessary. Personally insulting me for your own failures is a poor way to go about things, and to be honest, puts yourself in a bad light. If you read the comments above, you’ll see that others have had success with this recipe; I myself have made this four more times since and it has gotten better each time. Maybe next time you should watch your pork more carefully – when it starts to blacken it’s already time to take it out.

      Good luck.

      • 23. Carol Koong  |  May 20, 2017 at 6:37 am

        Trojanass is an attention seeker that’s why he calls himself am ass 😆

    • 24. Chris  |  August 5, 2009 at 9:38 am

      Why don’t I ever get any trolls on my blog? :(

      Lizzie has one, Helen YLP had one a while back. What am I doing wrong? It’s not like I’m not being deliberately provocative. Maybe they just go for the nice, polite bloggers. Fuck ’em.

  • 25. Kake  |  August 4, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    trojanass: The method worked for me, and presumably for the other people who’ve commented. Why not calm down a bit and try scraping the black parts again? Be patient about it and try not to panic. It doesn’t matter if you have a couple of burnt bits left on the skin.

    (You did blacken the skin side, not the meat side?)

  • 26. Kang  |  August 5, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Trojanass: Wow, you are indeed a trojanass. There really is no need for the personal attacks, Charz has taken the time to share a recipe with you by preparing a light-hearted read and pleasing photographs. Indeed as you have seen the previous comments above, the recipe has worked for other people who have tried it. If it didnt work the first time, you could just try it again you know and then eventually get it right, you might even be a better person for it.

  • 27. TBJ  |  November 14, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks Charmaine!!! My crispy pork belly came out great. I think that I needed to let it char a bit more next time. Have a great one!


  • 28. Herb  |  December 24, 2009 at 5:04 am

    Had 2 goes at this now, each time it gets better. I have not yet perfected the skin but it still tastes good. Trying another go today but I have just discovered the butcher has taken the skin off and left only the fat :(. Never mind I will see how it cooks.
    thanks for the recipe.


  • 29. meemalee  |  January 19, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    I love this recipe and have been duly spreading the word :D

  • 30. Evolution of a Chinese New Year Celebration | Foodie Call  |  February 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    […] Siu Youk (Roasted Pork Belly) Adapted from tasty treats! […]

  • 31. Jasline  |  May 4, 2010 at 7:07 pm


    This looks so amazing! I’m a huge fan of siu youk and I can never forget the ones I had in Hong Kong, they are superb!

    Your recipe looks so good, I’m gonna try it one day! Thanks for sharing! (:


  • 32. lilian  |  August 11, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Hi, i read happyhomemaker recipe and I am also inspired to try this siew yoke recipe. Just to confirm, after 20 mins of roasting at 200 degrees celsisus u then switch to the broil function right? Do u then broil for 45 mins? Is this enough to cook the pork meat all the way though. I thought the broil function is to crisp up the skin and not actually cook the meat or will it also do that? Thanks if u can reply.

  • 33. Judy  |  September 21, 2010 at 3:30 am what on earth am i here for if not to immediately run out buy me some pork belly and get this thing moving!! i just have to figure out where to buy the fermented red bean.

  • 34. kerry  |  October 28, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    a very nice recipe, but I find it better to grill it first until the crackling is uniform, perhaps for about 20 to thirty minutes in my small grilling oven. Then I finish it off by roasting it in the main oven for almost an hour. THis ensures that there is no blackening.

  • 35. elenorjean  |  February 2, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Turned out fab! Perfect in fact! Mine didn’t go black or anything, just nicely crispy and bubbly. Perhaps because I basted twice with the vinegar? And did lots of cross hatches?
    Anyway – thanks heaps!

  • 36. Crispy Pork Belly (siu youk) | Phillip's Experiments  |  February 13, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    […] little bit of research lead me to this site, which describes an excellent recipe for making it, and gives good instructions on how to cook it. […]

  • 37. John Brandolini  |  July 4, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Market Basket in Portsmouth, NH just started carrying pork belly. There is a large Asian community there and they try to cater to their needs. I decided to make some myself and researched recipes on the web. My first attempt was phenomenal; my only complaint was that the butcher didn’t cut the belly right. He cut it into riblets which I had to skewer. Anyway next time I asked him to cut it custom all in one piece for me which he did. (The butchers at Market Basket are very cooperative.) My method of preparation involves rubbing the skin uncut with sea salt and then marinating for 24 hours in the fridge. This gives the skin the opportunity to dry out. My marinade is a little different also. In addition to 5 spice I use black bean paste which I dilute with white wine. I also use Golden Boy thick soy, cilantro, garlic, onion, and fresh ground pepper. 24 hours later I score the skin and cook the belly covered with foil at 350F/ 30 minutes per pound. At the last 15 minutes I remove the foil and increase the oven temp to 400F which crisps the rind all the way thru without charring.

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  • 40. Paul Duffield  |  April 22, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks for posting this one up. I lived in HK for ten years as a teenager and this recipe has it spot on!

    Technique is important I found… Here are my tips… Don’t score or puncture the skin too deep or the leaking fat goes too much on the surface. The scoring is important too do though. I found it easiet with a very sharp long knife. About 8mm between scores in both directions about 1 – 2 mm deep.

    I put the meat on the tray on foil and tuck it loosely round the sides of the pork.this keeps the meat very moist and the skin crispy. The meat cooks in its own juices and seems to further marinade.

    Choose a not too fatty belly.

    Red fermented bean curd is critical for that authentic taste. Readily available in chinese super markets in the uk.

    Experiment and even if the first go or two are not perfect they will be soon.

    Make extra – delicious cold next day for lunch with hoi sin or sweet chilli for dipping!

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    […] tough so cutting through it was a mission. I initially wanted to try this to compare it with the chinese crispy pot belly which is normally sliced into bite sized […]

  • 42. Douglas  |  October 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I used to do it more or less the same way as you described without the bean curd. No wonder “something” was missing, and I couldn’t figure it out what it was till now.

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  • 49. Carol Koong  |  May 20, 2017 at 6:30 am

    Do I need to brush off the salt on the surface before cooking, please?


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A freelance journalist and full-time gourmand, eating her way mostly through London and Hong Kong.

Current location: London


Charmaine currently digs: the smell of coffee; adding ponzu to everything; bill granger; still eating natto with every meal; caressing her Nikon FM2n.



February 2009
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