Recently I've been asked, "Are you a chef?"
"No, I'm just a cook. So what did you do in your previous place?"
"Oh, I started in the cold section then moved to meat and the other sections. Soon after I was the sous and then eventually running the kitchen expediting. Do you know what's expediting? (without missing a beat) Expediting means I just call the dockets and do the final plating."
I love coming to work at the restaurant now just to get schooled like this (notice I don't refer to it as a cafe anymore because for God's sake we have not one but two chefs in the house!).
Is it really a chef thing? Once the whites are on immediately there's this need to demand some respect because those in T-shirts and half aprons knows next to nothing - certainly not what expediting means.
"Over there we're professionals you know, in uniforms, even the servers."
"Have you worked in a restaurant? You should go work in one."
But I digress so let's move on to this roast pork business.
It took me so long to provide you a recipe because there are already so many out there I don't think you'll need another non-chef trying to tell you how to get the best pork crackling and perfectly seasoned, juicy belly meat with minimum effort. Drying out and scoring the skin is crucial, and while there are many ways to do it, I find this Chinese method works best. For a 2-kilogram slab of meat, the total cooking time is only an hour - exactly what I was looking for as most recipes cook a 1.5-kilogram piece for longer.
Rest the meat well, save the roast drippings to toss up some dry egg noodles and eat your greens!
Chinese Crispy Roast Pork Belly (Siu Yuk 烧肉)
Recipe adapted from Chef Sing of Hungry Mario.
- 2 kilograms pork belly, skin on (get the thickest, most even slab from the butcher)
- kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Spice oil mix:
- 1 cube Nam Yue (red fermented bean curd)
- 1 tablespoon Chinese Shao Xing rice wine
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 3 teaspoons Chinese five spice
- 3 pinches kosher salt
- 1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
Trim the underside of the pork belly if thickness is not even. Place on a flat tray or sheet pan, cover with cling wrap and freeze for about 20-30 minutes.
Remove pork belly from freezer and check that the skin is semi-frozen. With a thin, sharp knife, score the skin in long strips, about 5 mm apart. Score just deep enough to reach the first fat layer but refrain from cutting through the fat. Move the tray and scored meat to the sink. Keeping the meat slightly slanted with the help of the tray, generously splash the skin with vinegar and rub in between the scoring. Drain all the vinegar off and let stand, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the all the spice oil ingredients together. Place a foil covered tray on the oven floor and a wire rack in the middle. Preheat oven to 220°C, convection fan (if available) on.
Pat dry the skin with kitchen towels. Repeat the vinegar rub process again, this time also adding the kosher salt. Pat dry and remove the excess salt. Flip the belly slab over and lightly score the underside, criss-cross about 2 cm square apart. Pat dry and apply the spice oil mix on the underside and four sides of the pork belly slab. Flip the meat over, leaving the skin side clean. Season skin with salt and pepper to taste. To prevent the meat from curling, pierce through the slab with an oven-safe metal skewer. Place the meat into the oven directly on the prepared wire rack. Roast for 20 minutes.
Turn down the temperature to 180°C and roast for another 20 minutes.
Turn the oven to grill and increase the temperature back to 220°C. Keep the oven door shut for the next 20 minutes. Some parts of the crackling may be slightly burnt, these bits can be scraped off later. After 20 minutes, remove the roast and rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Meat keeps well covered in the fridge for a week. Only slice the portion required for serving to keep it moist. To get crispy crackling from leftovers, place the sliced meat skin side down on a hot cast iron pan for 3-4 minutes.