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