Chinese New Year: Chinese Roast Pork (Siu Yuk)

For anyone that digs on swine, Chinese roast pork may just be a nearly perfect exploration of the finer points of the animal: A crunchy outer layer of blistered, puffy, crispy skin, stacked atop a layer of warm, barely-solid fat that liquefies the instant it hits your mouth, and another layer of tender, lightly-spiced meat. It’s versatile, too: Stack it in steamed buns, in sandwiches, chop it up for tacos, swipe it through some Chinese mustard or hoisin sauce, or (most likely of all) greedily devour it all, straight, burning your mouth as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Chinese Roast Pork

Like most great things, though, the simplicity of Chinese roast pork can be deceptive. In order to transform a cheap, fatty slab of pig into pure porcine poetry, many recipes call for some downright complicated steps, including par-boiling, scoring the skin, and brushing it with vinegar, all steps which could potentially leave you with a dried-out, rubbery slab of not-awesome. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a recipe that called for next to no extra ingredients, and a nearly foolproof preparation?

There is.

Chinese Roast Pork

This recipe uses just a few extras: A couple of cloves of garlic inserted into the side of the pork belly, some Chinese five-spice for the meaty side, and a thick salt crust to crisp up the skin in the oven, while protecting it from burning or getting too brown. The salt crust gets knocked off the pork belly about halfway through the cooking time, so the finished product isn’t too salty,* but with skin that crisps to a perfectly golden-gown, crackly outside, while the roast pork stay succulent and juicy.

*If you’re worried about your sodium intake, I’d also like to remind you that you are eating meat that clocks in at almost 2500 calories per pound. But you’re only eating it this one time, because sure you are.

Chinese New Year: Chinese Roast Pork (Siu Yuk)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 lb slab of pork belly
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
  • ½ cup of Kosher salt
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and arrange oven racks in lower-third and upper-third positions.

  2. Cover a deep roasting pan or baking sheet with water, and place on the lower rack to catch the drippings from the pork belly.

  3. Make deep slices through the side of the pork belly, and push garlic cloves deep inside. Sprinkle the meat side of the pork belly with the Chinese five spice, and cover the top with the salt.

  4. Carefully transfer to oven (adding more salt if needed), cooking directly on top rack. Cook for one hour (adding more water to pan if needed), then knock salt crust off top of pork belly, and brush away excess. Increase oven temperature to 465 degrees, and continue cooking until top is brown and crusty, about 40 minutes more.

  5. Remove pork belly from oven, and let rest for about ten minutes before chopping into chunks and serving.
Notes
Adapted from a recipe by Rasa Malaysia.
Chinese Roast Pork

In our “Chinese New Year” series, we unlock the secrets of our favorite Chinese-American takeout classics with a week’s worth of recipe posts. We realize that the Chinese New Year isn’t until February 19th this year, making the name of this series more “clever,” than it is “informative.” To read more from this series, click here.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed “Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road,” as well as the taco-centric blog “Eat More Tacos,” and the junk food-centric “Spork & Barrel.” His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, “‘Wich, Please,” was named “Hottest Restaurant in Maine” for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

2 Comments

  1. Malcolm…I know that I shouldn’t be questioning your recipe, considering the brilliance that is your slow roasted crispy-skinned pork roast is now legendary at our parties…but is that time/temp long enough to render the pork belly super tender? I always am thinking low and slow…

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    1. HOW DARE YOU. Kidding, Beth! I know the cook time seems short, but an hour and forty minutes is plenty of time to transform this slab of pork belly into super-tender, fatty meat candy. Give it a try…it doesn’t require nearly the commitment of the roast, and at around $6, it’s a super economical cut as well.

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