As far back as I can remember, crackly roast pork was only served during festivals and special occasions like weddings, milestone birthdays, and baby’s full moon (celebration of baby’s first month of life). An entire roast pig or siew chee had to be ordered from the butcher. The choicest part of the roast pig was the belly because it was the most tasty and the crackling most crispy. The ribs were also in demand. The other parts were less desired and usually kept for making soups or cut up and used in other dishes.
Somewhere along the way, someone came up with the idea of roasting just the pork belly itself. This resulted in a very tasty and crispy crackling. That was when chicken rice hawkers started offering siew yoke (roast pork belly) in addition to boiled or roast chicken. This roast pork belly became really popular. Instead of going to the butcher, people went to the hawkers for small portions of this delectable meat. Not long after that, these enterprising hawkers started accepting orders by the pound for the Chinese New Year and other festivities.
Here in the US, regular grocery stores seldom offer pork belly for sale as most of it is used for making bacon. Asian grocery stores usually sell them in slabs or strips. It is best to purchase an entire slab if possible. This store that I went to did not have slabs and so I had to buy strips instead. The preparation remains the same but the cooking time may vary slightly. Strips will cook a little faster. Please adjust time accordingly.
To ensure a crispy crackling, the pork belly should be thoroughly dried with paper towels. It should then be left uncovered in the refrigerator overnight on a rack. The purpose of scalding the pork is to remove impurities and also to soften the rind for easy piercing. Be generous with the salt on the rind. It should be evenly coated.
- 2 lb (900g) slab of pork belly with rind (preferably in one slab)
- 2 to 3 tsp salt
- ½ tsp five-spice powder
- ½ tsp ground pepper
Scrape pork belly rind with knife to remove impurities. Rinse and drain.
Combine 1 teaspoon salt, five-spice powder, and pepper in a small bowl.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Blanch pork belly in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove and pat dry with paper towels.
Place pork belly on a tray with meat side up. Use a knife cut several lines about ¼ inch and 1 inch apart deep along the length of the pork belly. Rub salt mixture evenly onto the meat.
Flip the pork belly over. Again cut several lines about ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart along the length of the pork belly. Pierce rind all over with a fork. Pat dry with paper towels. Rub remaining 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt evenly onto the rind.
Place pork belly on a rack over the tray and allow it to dry uncovered overnight in the refrigerator.
When ready to roast, pour just enough water to cover the base of the tray without wetting the pork belly. Roast in a 375°F (190°C) oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven.
Move oven rack with mittens to the top most level close to the broiler. Return meat to the rack. With the oven door slightly ajar, turn oven to broiler setting. Rind will start to blister and crack. Allow it to continue to grill for approximately 10 minutes or when rind is evenly blistered. Remove when done.
Allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Remove charred bits by scrapping with a knife. Cut into desired serving sizes. Serve immediately with mustard and sweet chili sauce.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!