This has to be one of the most popular and an all-time Chinese favourite, Chinese roast meats, easily available at Chinatown across the world selling roast meats, such as roast pork, BBQ pork and roast duck, respectively known as “sui yok/sui yuk/sui yoke”, “char siew” and “sui ngab” in Cantonese.
I have recently tried making “sui yok” at home. The first time, it was only 3 weeks ago. It was good but not great. The skin wasn’t evenly crisp, slightly charred on the edge on one side. The flavour was there but the meat wasn’t as succulent and juicy as I wanted and the meat was still fatty. I went online on a Facebook food group page asking for some suggestions. I also researched other food blogs, YouTube, and asked friends who have made roast meats at home.
I received several suggestions. Some suggested I haven’t roasted the meat long enough. Some said the temperature was too low, some suggested it needs to be higher. The time and temperature varies from one person to another. This doesn’t come as a surprise. The type of ovens, meat portion, oven temperature, settings and timing need to factor in for a perfect crackling on the skin, leaving the meat tender, juicy and moist. It is by trial and error each time until we can get it right. Like the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
So, couple of days ago, I decided to give myself another go at making the Chinese roast pork belly. My second. I bought myself a small piece of pork belly, about 750 g from a butcher at the market. Prepared and marinated the pork 24 hours before roasting.
In my opinion, which may or may not be shared by others, there are 4 important steps to get that perfect signature crackling on the pork skin with the meat tender and succulent finger-licking good.
The first step in getting a bubbly crackling on the skin is to prick lots and lots of tiny holes. This is an “must do” step. I used a pointed metal skewer because that is what I’ve got.
The second step is to marinate and wrap the pork with a foil and cover the skin with a layer of coarse sea salt before refrigerating for 24 hours. The salt will absorb moisture from the skin so it is dry before roasting. The foil neatly wrapped around the meat will seal the flavour and keeps the meat moist and tender.
The third (roasting) and fourth (grilling) steps will vary depending on the oven, settings, temperature, timing, and meat portion. The oven I have at home is a fan-forced oven. A bit temperamental and tricky to use for me. This needs practice and a “hit and miss” sometimes for me when it comes to roasting, grilling and baking to find the right combination. I have to adjust the temperature, settings, shelf level and timing accordingly to render the meat fat. That’s how the pork will be cooked, in its own fat.
The good news is that this second time round, I am much happier with the result of my roast pork. It is almost perfect with crunchy crispy skin and the meat was flavoursome, moist and tender. The slight adjustment I will make when I do this again is to reduce the amount of salt in the marination. It was a touch too salty. Otherwise it is a winner for me.
I have my written recipe below. You need to adjust accordingly when it comes to roasting and grilling depending on the oven. Probably easier to watch then following the written recipe. Here is how I did it on my video.
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How to make Chinese roast pork belly at home
- 750g pork belly
- 1 tablepsoon Chinese cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon fine seasalt
- lots of coarse seasalt enough to make a layer to cover the top of pork skin
- aluminium foil to wrap around the pork
- 1/4 cup Chinese rice vinegar
- Bring a pot of water with 1 teaspoon added to boiling temperature
- Once water is boiling, immerse the pork belly to blanch for 2-3 minutes
- Remove pork belly from boiling water. Rinse and let it sit in cold tap water for a few minutes to cool down. This step makes it easier to prick/pok the pork skin later
- Use a paper kitchen towel to pad dry the pork. Place the meat section facing up and skin facing down. Use a knife to slice the meat on the surface about 1-2 cm deep and 2-3 cm apart between each slices
- Marinade the meat portion with 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine. Then rub in 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder, 1 teaspoon or less white pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt (or adjust to your own taste)
- Turn the skin facing up. Pad the skin dry and clean. Using something pointed like a metal skewer or pointed meat tenderiser, prick/pok lots and lots of tiny holes on the skin only
- Wrap the meat with a foil so it sits neatly, leaving the top exposed. Then add a layer of coarse sea salt to create a thin layer of blanket
- Leave in the fridge for 24 hours
- After 24 hours, preset the oven at 140 degrees
- Remove pork from the fridge. Place it on a baking tray. Place in the preset oven at 140 on a middle rack and roast for 1 hour. The oven temperature and setting may vary
- After 1 hour, remove the pork. Increase the oven temperature to 200 and change the setting from roasting to grilling on medium heat
- Scrap the layer of sea salt. Brush the skin with rice vinegar
- Once oven is preheated to 200, place the pork back in on the lowest shelf and grill for 20 minutes until the skin started crackling. The oven temperature and timing may vary
- After 20 minutes, remove pork from the oven
- There you have it..hopefully you get the nice crunchy crackling with the meat still moist, juicy and succulent