Sunday, 5 May 2013

Chinese Roast Belly Pork (燒肉)

Hello! It has been a long time, I hope everyone is well! :-)

Now that I am spending a lot more time at home I am getting to cook more too.  In my last job, things got so hectic I rarely had time to sleep never mind eat!

One of my family's favourite food is Chinese roast belly pork (肉) - slices of moist, spicy, salted pork topped with crisp, crunchy crackling.

The following is a recipe for a small to medium size piece of belly pork.  You will need:

Salt - lots of it.  Have a whole carton to hand.
A roll of kitchen towel.
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice.
3-4 garlic cloves.
1 teaspoon of sugar.
Four long meat skewers that is the length and width of the piece of meat (metal is better as wood can break, and you won't be able to get the pieces back out due to the thickness of the meat).
A multi-pin spiker - to make the crackling rise.  You can find this in many Chinese supermarkets.
One sharp knife.
Oven set to 250ºC at the start.
An oven tray with a rack.

Working in the kitchen sink, submerge the piece of belly pork in a large bowl or tub of hot water.  This is to wash the skin and meat of impurities and is the first step to removing excess oil from the skin.

Remove the meat from the tub and place on a large-enough meat board or a clean worktop, skin-side up.  Dry the meat and skin with kitchen towels.  Using your fingers as a rake, run your fingers all over the skin, pressing down hard.  Now, sprinkle salt over the skin.  Using the palm of your hand,  rub the skin all over, hard.  Leave the meat for 20 minutes.  These abrasions help remove the oils from the skin, so to make the crackling less fatty and more crunchy later on.

Take the meat to the sink and rinse the meat under very hot water.  Place the meat again on the worktop and dry the meat and skin well.  Ensure that the worktop is also dry.  Have the belly pork meat-side up this time.

Using a sharp knife, make multiple straight cuts in the meat, approximately quarter the width deep and of equal lengths apart.  This is to ensure that when roasting the meat it is cooked all the way through.  Now using the skewers, insert carefully these through the meat, one quarter the width deep, with two skewers going through longways and two lengthways, each going all the way through.  When roasting any kind of meat the loss of water causes the meat to shrink in size and lose shape.  By skewering the meat this way you are creating a structure, so that the meat stays flat and square-like.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice.  Peel and finely chop the 3-4 garlic cloves.   Mix the dry ingredients well first, then add the garlic and sprinkle the mix all over the meat.  Using the palm of your hand, rub the salt, sugar, spices and garlic into the meat carefully and push some this into the cuts you made in the meat earlier.

Carefully turn over the belly pork and place skin-side up onto an oven tray that has a rack.  Now with the carton, generously pour salt all over the skin, so that you get a thick white layer all over with no skin visible.  Take real care NOT to get salt on to the meat -when doing the edges of the skin, use one hand to hold the carton and the other hand to block the edges, so that the salt will not go over on to the meat underneath.  Failing to do so will result in extremely salty meat at the edges - so much so, it will not be edible and you will have to cut these bits off...which is a waste. 

(The purpose of the high amount of salt is to draw off as much water as possible from the skin in roasting without it burning and also keeping it dry).

With the meat on the oven tray, place this carefully into the oven preheated to 250ºC.  Turn this down now to 200ºC.  Roast the meat with the salt on for 1 hour.

When 1 hour is up, remove the tray from the oven.  Carefully scrap off all of the salt.  Using the multi-pin spiker, spike the skin all over and place the meat back into the oven.  Roast again for 45 mins to 1 hour. 

And there you are - Chinese roast belly pork! The meat should be slightly salted and spicy and moist.  This is despite the roasting time as the fat in the belly pork preserves the mositure.  The crackling should be crisp and crunchy.  You can carve this into rectangular pieces and serve with rice and vegetables.  You can also cool the meat and store it in the freezer.  We find that after thawing when you reheat with tin foil around the meat and leaving the crackling exposed makes it the crackling even more crispier.

Many thanks to my Dad for teaching me this - 爸爸!






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