I made roast belly of pork and told Sui Mai about it. She asked for the recipe and she was delighted with the results, saying I should blog it, so here we are.
You should start with fresh pork if possible. I missed this crucial fact when I read Yan Kit So's recipe, from her Classic Chinese Cookbook, the first time round. Still, as the pictures show, it is possible to get halfway decent crackling from frozen meat, if we use all the tips and tricks at our disposal, or, in this case, gleaned from my maternal grandmother and the Internet. I bought from my butcher a piece of pork belly without bones, about 1.5 kgs in weight.
Salt- at least 1/2 tsp, I used about 2.5 tsp.
More salt= more crispiness, also more saltiness. You choose.
Update: Reader Lee Yuen has a great tip: Use lots of salt, then scrape excess away before roasting
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp miso (Yan Kit's recipe specified yellow bean paste which I didn't have)
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp five-spice powder.
1. Rinse and pat pork dry with paper towels. Pierce all over with a piercer if you have one (it's like a metal brush with spikes) otherwise I used a cake pick.
2. Turn meat over so meat is facing up, make cuts to the meat 1 inch apart and 1/2 inch deep. This step is very useful when you want to cut the meat later.
3. Turn meat over again, this time skin is facing up. Bring over to the sink and pour boiling water over the skin only. I held the meat by its top edge with my free hand while pouring over the dangling lower half, alternating sides to make sure all the skin got scalded. (If you have meat hooks it will come in handy for this step). Don't worry if a bit of hot water scalds the sides.
4. Place meat skin down on some kitchen paper. Prepare the marinade. Rub all over the meat side only, use fingers to massage right into the cut grooves.
5. Turn meat over and rub salt over the skin. Place on a roasting rack to airdry-for at least 3 hours or even overnight. Again, if you have meat hooks it'll be cool for this job. .
I remember my grandmother used to do steps 3 and 5 at least twice. I did it only once, which probably accounted for my distinctly less impressive results. I'll probably repeat this step in future attempts.
Alternatively, use reader Lee Yuen's tip to rub lots of salt and remove excess before roasting. If the weather is humid, she also recommends drying it, skin side up, uncovered, in the fridge.
6. Roast on a rack placed over a pan or tray of hot water to catch the drippings. 200C for 15 minutes then 190C for 1 hour. As mine is a convection oven I did it at 10 degrees lower. Don't open the oven to check (Yan Kit So was very insistent on this point). At the end of cooking time, test with a pick, if juices run clear it's done.
7. If crackling looks dull, crank oven to 230C and watch it closely. It'll bloom and flower. I went off to do something else and some parts turned black, these bits can be scrapped off with a serrated knife.
8. Rest the meat on a chopping board for 15 minutes before cutting it up with a meat cleaver.
It was gratifyingly easy and oh-so-delicious. I cooked down some chopped leeks to go with all that meat and fats, and served two dipping sauces alongside- one of fermented baby shrimps with lemon juice and another of dark soya sauce with cut fresh chillis.
1.5 kg of meat was a big amount, there were plenty for husband's lunch the following day. I also saved half the roast for another home-cooked favourite, Garlicky Roast Pork, which I learnt from watching my mother. As usual in these kind of guess-timate cooking, I eyeballed the quantities. What is important is the amount of chopped garlic: one should use as much as possible, it gives character to the dish.
Here I used about 8 cloves, I should have thrown the whole head in. Have on standby your cooking alcohol (I used Stone's ginger wine), dark soya sauce and sugar.
1. Heat about 1/2 cup oil in a wok to medium heat, and fry the garlic gently and slowly until they turn crispy and brown. It'll take about 6 minutes, be very careful not to burn it.
2. Add the roast pork and stir to mix well. Splash some cooking alcohol on the side of the wok. There will be sizzling and spluttering, turn down the heat if it gets overwhelming. Add dark soya sauce and sugar, start with ratio of 1 tbsp: 2 tsp and adjust to your preference. It should be garlicky, smokey from the garlic and wok-tossing, and dark soy sauce-y with fleeting caramel notes, the sugar rounds up the flavour spectrum but this dish is not meant to be sweet. Scoop out when sauces and garlic are well integrated into the pork.
If you use a well-seasoned cast-iron wok, it will not stick so there is no need to add water which will cause the garlic pieces to swell and bloat unappetisingly. However, I was using an inox wok on the induction top in our rented kitchen, and it got sticky and almost charred on the bottom rather quickly, necessitating the addition of a little water to deglaze the pan.
The garlicky pork goes really well with steamed white rice, and maybe some cold beer or sake. Our family loves this dish so much my mother frequently set aside some meat just for this purpose. This recipe also works well for other cuts of roasted pork, especially from a suckling pig.
Of course, as my mother reminded me when I called to tell her I made roast pork, the siu yuk will be great sauteed with vegetables like kai lan or brocolli. By then, we had eaten up every last bit of the pork, so we'll just have to wait for the next occasion.