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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese/Chinese Crispy Roasted Pork Belly (Thit Heo Quay)

Some people like to take long romantic walks along the beach. I like to take long romantic walks through Chinatown. Nothing gets me going more than beautifully roasted meat carcasses hanging in windows at Chinese BBQ shops.

It's truly a magical place for meat lovers. You have roasted pork, roasted duck, roasted chicken, BBQ'd pork, BBQ'd duck, BBQ'd chicken and sometimes even innards of sorts, all covered in a sweet and sticky glaze. Out of all the meaty goodness, the most tantalizing is the roasted pork belly, also known as Thit Heo Quay in Vietnamese or Siu Yuk in Cantonese. 

Thịt Heo Quay (Vietnamese Roasted Pork Belly)

Thịt Heo Quay (Vietnamese Roasted Pork Belly)

What makes the roasted pork so tantalizing? It's all about textures. You get the first layer of crispy skin, then the second layer of juicy fat, and lastly, the layer of tender meat. Each bite is literally an explosion of textures. 

Because ordering at Chinese BBQ shops has proven to be very difficult for me (elderly Chinese women are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to queuing), I have been successfully making these porky deliciousness at home .... of course, after many, many failed attempts.

I've found that to get a successful crispy pork belly roast, (1) get a slab of pork belly that is even in height all around. An uneven slab won't cook evenly but more importantly, crisping up skin will be very difficult. If you do get an uneven slab of pork belly, where one side is thicker than the other, simply cut the pork belly into pieces of equal height and cook them separately. (2) If you are known to making dried meat, get bone-in pork belly instead. Bone-in pork belly makes the meat more flavorful and moist. (3) To get that crispy skin, you have to score the meat or puncture it with tiny holes, which is very difficult as the skin is leathery and thick. To easily score or puncture holes through the skin, semi-cook the skin. Place the pork belly with skin-side down in a small amount of boiling water that will only go up to the skin. Let the skin cook for 3-5 minutes. This semi-cooking of the skin will not only make it so much easier for scoring or piercing, but it will also get rid of any foul smell or residue that remains on the skin.

Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese Roasted Pork Belly)

Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese Roasted Pork Belly)

Please take note that my pictures of roasted pork belly is red in color, whereas Chinese shops roasted pork belly is golden. This is because I opted to use red food coloring to get more of a vibrant color. If you want the traditional golden color, omit the red coloring. Happy eating!

Vietnamese/Chinese Crispy Roasted Pork Belly
(Thit Heo Quay/Siu Yuk)

Ingredients 

Pork Marinade

  • 3 lbs pork belly with skin (bone-in preferred but not required)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five-Spice Powder
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated white  sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cooking wine (Shaoxing brand recommended)

Vinegar Mixture

  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar (or lime juice)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 drop red food coloring (optional)

Instructions

  • In a small pan, add enough water that will cover the skin only of the pork belly. Bring the water to a boil and add pork skin-side down. Boil for 2-5 minutes. Remove from water, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. This semi-cooking of the skin will allow us to score or pierce the skin more easily for optimal crispiness.
  • In a small bowl, make the pork marinade by mixing together five-spice powder, sugar, salt, soy sauce and cooking wine.
  • In another small bowl, make the vinegar mixture by mixing together vinegar, salt and red food coloring.
  • Apply the pork marinade all over the pork belly but not on the skin. Keep the skin dry by wiping with paper towels if needed.
  • With a sharp pointed knife, puncture small holes on top of the skin. The more holes, the better. You can score the skin into tiny squares. Keep the scores or holes within the skin and not to go through the meat.
  • Wrap the pork belly with skin side up in Saran wrap. Cut out a portion of the saran wrap to expose the skin to air, but keeping all other parts nicely covered. The exposed skin will dry as it marinates in the fridge. Dried skin will help make the skin crispy in the cooking process. Marinate the pork at room temperature for least 1 hour or overnight in fridge for best results.
  • Preheat oven to 400° F. Brush the skin evenly with the vinegar mixture. Then place the pork skin-side up on a roasting/baking rack and bake for 20-30 minutes.
  • Apply another layer of the vinegar mixture on the skin and bake for another 20-30 minutes.
  • Once you are done cooking, broil on medium high for 5 minutes to get that crispy skin. Rotate pork belly if needed to achieve even crispiness.

Vietnamese Clear Shrimp & Pork Dumpling (Banh Bot Loc)

Banh Bot Loc is a small, chewy, translucent pork and shrimp dumpling, generally eaten as a snack in Vietnam. The pork-and-shrimp-filled dumpling is wrapped in a small piece of banana leaf, steamed in large batches and served with a side of sweet chili dipping sauce.

Bánh Bột Lọc Gói Lá Chuối

Bánh Bột Lọc Gói Lá Chuối

This Vietnamese snack food originated from Central Vietnam in the city of Hue, where it was served as a snack to the emperors, hence the tedious yet beautiful packaging of the dumpling in banana leaf (Banh Bot Loc Goi La Chuoi).

Of course, you can enjoy this snack without the cumbersome process of wrapping each dumpling in banana leaf. This ain't-nobody-got-time-for-that version is called Banh Lot Loc Tran. The differences between the two types are the consistency in the batter and method of cooking. The batter for Banh Bot Loc Goi La Chuoi is thinner so that you can smear it on the banana leaf. The filling is then added, everything is wrapped up in a neat bundle and then steamed. The batter in Banh Lot Loc Tran is thicker so it becomes more like dough for easier handling. The dough is flattened, filling is added and the dough is folded over like any other dumpling. The dumplings are then boiled instead of steamed.

Vietnamese Clear Pork & Shrimp Dumplings Wrapped in Banana Leaves

Vietnamese Clear Pork & Shrimp Dumplings Wrapped in Banana Leaves

I am a busy mom so whenever I make Banh Bot Loc, I like to make the Banh Bot Loc Tran version. Also, I like a subtle crunch to my dumplings so I add a small amount of minced woodear mushroom. This is totally optional but it adds another texture and dimension of flavor to the dumplings that I highly recommend. To make it more appetizing, I also spread scallion oil on the dumplings and top them off with a generous amount of fried shallots or garlic. Serve the dumplings with a side of sweet chili dipping sauce and you'll get ... in the world of Rachel Rey's annoying catchphrases... YUM-O!

I'd recommend making these in large batches. Bring them to a party and be a hero. Enjoy the recipe below!

Vietnamese Clear Pork & Shrimp Dumpling Recipe (Banh Bot Loc)

Ingredients

Pork & Shrimp Filling

  • 1/2 lb pork belly diced into small cubes
  • 1/2 lb small shrimps (50-60 size; with shell/tail on)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (divided between pork and shrimp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (divided between pork and shrimp)
  • 1 teaspoon pork stock powder (divided between pork and shrimp)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (divided between pork and shrimp)

Other ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large shallot (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (for color; optional)
  • 1/3 cup minced woodear mushroom

Tapioca Batter

  • 14 oz tapioca starch
  • 1-1/3 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Instructions 

  1. This step is optional by highly recommended: To eliminate any foul smell of pork, clean the pork belly thoroughly by rubbing it with salt (2 teaspoons; amount not listed above) and vinegar (2 teaspoons; amount not listed above). Rinse under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Cut the pork into small cubes. Season the pork with half of the amount of salt, black pepper, pork stock powder and fish sauce. Season the shrimp with the remaining salt, black pepper, pork stock powder and fish sauce. Allow the pork and shrimp to marinate for at least 15 minutes at room temperature or overnight in fridge for best results.
  3. Prepare the pork and shrimp filling. In a frying pan, add vegetable oil and heat on high. Add shallots. Pan fry the shallots until fragrant and golden brown. Add paprika powder and mix until fully incorporated. Add woodear mushroom and the marinated pork. Pan fry until pork fat is completely rendered and any remaining liquid has evaporated off. Add shrimp and continue to pan fry until shrimps are done.
  4. Prepare the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add tapioca starch, boiling water, salt and vegetable oil. With a hook attachment, mix and kneed until you get a smooth dough that peels cleanly away from the side of the mixing bowl.
  5. Prepare the dumplings. Cut off about a tablespoon of dough. Flatten the dough into a circle. Add filling onto one side of the circle (one piece of pork and one shrimp is the perfect ratio of filling). Fold the dough over to encase the filling and seal the seams. If you have a hard time sealing the seams, add some water around the edges to act as glue. 
  6. Boil the dumplings in batches until it floats to the surface (about 5-8 minutes)
  7. Brush dumplings with scallion oil (Mo Hanh), top with fried shallots/garic and serve with a side of sweet chili dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham).
Vietnamese Snack Food: Banh Bot Loc

Vietnamese Snack Food: Banh Bot Loc