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I made this for lunch the other day for the first time after comparing tons of online recipes, and I must say- never have I experienced an atmosphere so electric with anticipation in this house as at the possibility of achieving hawker-standard siew yoke at home.
Thankfully to our collective yelps of delight, the results were just totally, unbelievably perfect! Crisp crunchy golden-orange crackling and succulent just-fatty-enough layers of pork, the entire toppling pile of siew yoke was wiped out between the three of us in no time.
Be warned however- the whole kitchen will smoke up and your entire oven will be covered in oil splatter. It is totally worth it though if you don't mind a bit of cleaning up- the meat truly tastes like it does back home and if Arivind is anything to go by, your nearest and dearest who get to eat it will hail you as God. Funny how much street cred crackling can get you :)
Crispy Chinese Roast Pork Belly (Siew Yoke/Siobak)
Clean 1 kg pork belly and dry thoroughly (I do this by putting the meat skin side down on some kitchen towels after washing).
Stir together the following ingredients to form the marinade:
½ tbsp sugar *optional*
1 large or 2 small cubes nam yue (red fermented/preserved beancurd-available in jars or tins in Asian shops)
½ tbsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
Score the flesh part (not the skin) of the pork belly lightly in diagonal lines and rub in the marinade well. Place the joint in a foil-lined roasting tin, marinated side down so it can sit and absorb the flavours.
Score the skin part this time, using a sharp knife and being as thorough as possible. Rub in lots of salt all over, deep into each cut.
Leave the joint uncovered overnight to dry completely. Room temperature is fine in cold climates like London, but you should refrigerate the meat if it's hot where you are.
When ready to cook, lift the joint up and place a flat wire rack underneath to enable fat to drip off into the pan. Pat dry if there is any moisture left on the skin and bake in the middle of a 200C/395 F fan-assisted oven.
After 20 mins, remove and stab the skin all over as much as possible using two forks, one in each hand (I find this much steadier and faster than just using one hand). Drizzle the skin all over with a few tablespoons of rice vinegar.
Return the pan to the oven and switch it to grill/broil setting (upper heat only) at very high heat, about 250C/485 F. You will see the crackling start to bubble and pop wherever you poked with a fork. Grill for a further 30 mins, opening the oven door intermittently to let smoke escape, until the skin gets slightly burnt and charred. Don't worry about the blackened bits- it can be removed easily and is essential to ensure the crackling achieves the correct crispiness.
Once cooked, remove from the oven, scrape off any burnt parts with a serrated knife and leave to rest 15 mins before chopping.
Cheat tip: if any parts of the skin are still soft, just take the joint out of the oven and flip the entire thing upside down onto a large frying pan on the stove, skin side first (you can also cut it into more manageable pieces first if you like). Sear the skin on high heat with no added oil, until everything pops and crisps up. Watch out for oil splutter!
Listen to the satisfying crunch as you cut your siew yoke into chunks.
Save the cleaning up for later and devour with hot steaming rice. Make sure not to leave leftovers- the crackling goes soft when left overnight.