Chinese style roast pork recipe

Posted on January 25, 2012

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Attempting roast pork belly with crispy crackling is not necessarily something you embark on on a whim. It requires planning and should really be reserved for special occasions. Or so I thought…until I discovered how easy roast pork can be. Seriously, people make it out to be a lot harder than it really is. And I guess it always seems harder until you’ve tried it for yourself. But now that I’ve gone through the process, I don’t know why I was so scared of it in the first place. Forget about the debate on whether to salt and oil the skin or not, the key really is heat. Turn your oven on high enough and the crackling will be yours.

Prior to my attempt, I read up on a number of articles about different techniques and many recipes until I finally settled on one that I believed to provide consistent results and most importantly, wouldn’t be so time consuming. Most roast pork belly recipes require slow cooking for 2 hours or more. This recipe on the other hand, does it in under an hour (discounting marinading time)!

The recipe also calls for a slightly funky ingredient – red fermented tofu – which can be found in most Asian grocers. Fear not, for while it might smell a bit strange, once cooked, the smell dissipates and the taste mellows out into a subtle, almost creamy savory flavour. You won’t necessarily taste the tofu in the pork, but you will certainly miss it if it’s not there. This isn’t the first time I’ve used red fermented tofu in a pork dish, so I can verify that it does compliment pork very well. Funky tofu and lightning fast baking time aside, this recipe will employ another method that departs from most Western roast pork recipes; it asks you to score the meat instead of the skin.

Just to make sure I give credit where credit is due, the original recipe is from a food magazine that Babe in the City – KL found from a blog and later tweaked. But I had actually found her via a post on Almost Bourdain (whose relative gave him the link). After reading their experiences, I became convinced that I too could conquer pork crackling. And indeed I did! So for you dear reader, there are now at least 3 blog entries confirming that this recipe works. Don’t say I don’t do any research!

RECIPE – Chinese style roast pork belly

(original recipe found from Babe in the City – KL)

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Marinade

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 pieces of red fermented tofu
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon 5 spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade into what will resemble a thick paste. You will need to mash up the tofu to do this.
  2. Score the meat with a lattice effect and rub the marinade into the meat and all the cuts. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (that’s how long I left it to marinade and that was sufficient for the flavours to develop).
  3. Preheat oven to 220°C. Ensure the skin is completely dry and rub all over with sea salt. Place on an oven tray skin side up and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. After 20 minutes, remove pork from oven and turn the oven up to 250°C. Using something sharp, prick holes all over the skin. The holes allow the oil underneath the skin to escape, causing the skin to bubble up. The more holes you prick, the more bubbly and crispy the skin will get. (I bought my contraption which is especially designed for this purpose from a market stall selling Asian kitchenware. If you don’t happen to have that kind of torture device at home, most recipes will suggest using a fork, however I suspect you’ll need to apply quite a bit of force to pierce a fork through the tough pork skin.)
  5. Brush the skin with rice vinegar and bake again for about 30 minutes on 250°C.
  6. Allow the pork to rest for about 10 minutes before chopping/carving.

The result? Although the skin didn’t bubble up in the middle very much for me, it was still very much a success in my books. Crisp crackling, succulent tender meat with not all that much fat (quite a lot of it renders out in the cooking process) and a subtle delicate flavour of 5 spice thrown in with a certain bit of je nas sais pas thanks of the funky tofu. In short, everything you could ever want a roast pork belly to be. So good, one of my guinea pigs even said it was, and I quote: “restaurant quality”.

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