Roast field&flower pork belly – siu yuk (烧肉)

Pork belly, how I love thee. I have previously rhapsodized about the beauty of a cooked pork belly – whether with crispy crackling, slow cooked to gelatinous perfection or even double or triple cooked. Whereas my last experiment was in slow cooking – this next one is in perfecting the crunchy crackling.

My field&flower box provided a 1kg slab (£10), complete with two nipples. I have never seen a pig nipple on a belly – but there you go. I guess the supermarket stuff is sanitised within an inch of its life. The recipe I went for is in celebration of Chinese New Year today – siu yuk, or roast pork belly with a cracking crackling. The name literally means ‘burnt meat’, and you are supposed to cook the crackling under a high heat until blistering and charred.

I prepared the pork belly a day in advance. Making cuts in the fatty skin, I rubbed plenty of salt into it. Turning it over, I patted a marinade over the meat, made from 2 tsps five spice, a large pinch of white pepper, and 1 tsp salt. It’s important to dry out the skin as much as possible by putting it in the fridge over night (skin side up).

The cooking part is really easy. I placed the pork belly on a rack above a tray filled with water (which keeps the meat tender while cooking in high heat). Then I put it in the oven at 220C for 30 minutes, until the skin browned. I took it out and poked the skin some more, and then put it back in at 200C for 90 minutes. It’s important to periodically take it out and prod the skin a bit more, and top up the tray with water. When it came to the end, I put the grill on until the skin started blistering.

Siu yuk is one of the greatest inventions of Chinese cuisine, sigh. A good siu yuk can move a man to tears. It’s a textural adventure in your mouth, from crack to crunch to the crumble of perfect, juicy pork under your teeth. Cube it, and serve dipped in hoisin sauce, or sweet chilli sauce. You can eat it as a starter by itself, or as part of a main meal. For Chinese New Year I will be eating it with noodles, which signify LONG LIFE.

Happy New Year to all my friends, family and readers.

P.S. I ate that nipple. It was weird at first… but good.


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