This Cantonese-style crackling crispy skin roast pork belly (Siu Yuk) is one of the classic roasted meat dishes served in Asian dine-in and takeaway restaurants where you can enjoy crunching through the crispy textured skin with your mouth as well as with your ears. It is traditional in special occasions to serve the entire piggy (with the head…). But no thank-you, it is too big to fit in our oven.
This dish seemed intimidating at first, but it turned out to be easier than we thought. Firstly, when choosing your pork belly, try to get a piece that has an even thickness, shaped close to a square, and with the skin un-scored so that the crackling and cooking of the skin is as uniform as possible. You would find that after cooking/blanching, the shape of the pork belly will deform and shrink.
Take about 5 minutes to blanch the pork belly and remove any scum for approximately 5 and immediately cool it down with running cold water. Thoroughly dry the pork with some paper towels and clean it by using a tweezer or a knife to scrap off any hair and trim any excess fat. Now, the fun part. Poke that skin! We find it easier to poke holes on the skin after blanching than raw. A meat tenderiser works best, otherwise you can grab some skewers or use the tip of a small knife. The objective is to make lots of tiny little holes through the skin but not too deep that it pierces through the fat, otherwise you would end up with a wet patch that won’t crisp up as easily.
Next, flip the pork belly so the skin side faces down and partially slice the meat portion only (not through the fat) to a grid-like pattern approximately 4 cm spacing to have a consistent flavour from the marinate across the meat. Massage your pork belly with Chinese Shaoxing wine and then “lightly apply” the dry marinate. The Chinese five spice can be a bit overpowering and you don’t have to use all the dry marinate as indicated in the recipe as long as it is applied on the meat portion. Make sure you don’t apply any marinate on the pork skin. If you do, don’t worry, just simply wipe it off. Form an aluminium box (use two layers of aluminium sheet by folding one long one) that is about 3cm higher than the pork and tightly fitting the pork belly. The aluminium box keeps the pork moist whilst it is cooking in the oven and also helps secure the coarse salt crust in place later on when you oven it. Lightly brush the white rice vinegar, baking soda and salt mixture on the skin. The vinegar and salt dry out the skin and the baking soda makes it easier to bite through the crispy skin without breaking your teeth. Yes, we have tested it without baking soda…
Place the pork belly in the refrigerator preferably overnight with it uncovered to further dehydrate the skin. On the next day, prior to placing in the oven, wipe any moisture off the skin and apply a layer of coarse salt completely covering the skin. This will again further dry up the pork skin allowing it to crisp up. Coarse salt is a lot easier to remove and less likely to overly salt the pork compared to using table salt.
Place in the oven for an hour, take it out, increase temperature, remove the layer of salt and the aluminium box, and place the pork belly back on the rack to make the crispy skin! The crackling popping sounds should start around the 15 minutes mark. Best if you stay around the oven and adjust the oven temperature and time to ensure its all crispy and not burnt. You should see the skin drying out. If you see bubbling, it is not ready yet. If you get some burnt bits, you can simply scrape it off with a knife after resting it for 15 minutes. To serve, place skin side down, gently slice through the meat and fat portion first with a very sharp knife, then in a quick motion, chop through the crispy skin. This prevents distorting the skin and it from falling off the entire piece. If you want to reheat it from the fridge, you can place it in the oven at 200°C for 20 minutes.
For the dipping sauce, we like the mustard kind. We tried some different combinations and our favourite ended up being a mixture of Dijon mustard, sugar and surprise surprise! Sriracha!!!