100% Crispy Roast Pork Belly Recipe 脆皮烧肉食谱

Pork is my favourite meat and in future years, it may become the only meat I’ll eat. That’s because I have developed sensitivity to the gamey smell of other meats like beef and especially that of lamb and mutton. Chicken, the frozen ones, are also showing potentials of going into my taboo list, thus I am always interested in good pork recipes or restaurants that serve delicious pork dishes, particularly roast pork belly. I have always wanted to roast my own but the steps shown online seemed complicated some with drying time as long as four days in the fridge. Lacking the fat poker gadget, I’ve shelved the idea of roasting pork. Maybe this Christmas?!

Anyway, I’m an avid fan of Alvin’s (Chef and Sommelier) and Mark’s (Makoeats) food diaries. You may find their names familiar as I eat with them whenever chance permits. They are on my blog see post links below. Not only are both of them food lovers, they are also great cooks that have been featured in the news! Alvin has roasted countless pork bellies for family and friends over the years.

Recently, I have been seeing them posting pictures of their home-made roast pork belly again and that did it for me! It’s time I made my own with or without the *pig sticker!

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This piece of pork belly is 1.8kg.
The butcher promised me that this cut is especially good for making Siew Yoke as it has the right meat/fat ratio.
Rinse and scrape the skin side with a sharp knife (holding at an angle) to remove excess hair and scum on the pork skin. Rinse well again and pat dry with paper kitchen towels. Repeat the pat-dry process until the slab of pork belly is thoroughly dry.

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After rinsing and patting dry the meat thoroughly, make scores on the skin to expose fats without cutting through to the meat.
Alvin said pen knife works wonder so we bought one from the stationery shop. If you have the special gadget for pricking the pig’s skin, use that but remember not to poke too deep or it may pierce into the meat (then juices may escape during cooking and that will ruin the crispness of the roast pork).

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Sprinkle and rub salt only on the scored skin.
On the meat side, dry rub with salt, black pepper and 5-spice powder.

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Make sure to rub the spices onto the sides also but do NOT spill over to the skin side.
Place the pork belly on a rack with a tray below and begin air drying under a fan (my fan was directed at meat full blast).

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After drying the pork belly under a fan for 10 hours, most part of the skin was dried hard as shown by the reddish brown colour.
The meat on the side had also changed to maroon hues like cured ham.
The red circle showed some whites which means the skin is not dehydrated enough yet.

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While this is not the usual side vegetables when serving Chinese roasts, Alvin had recommended them as a base for keeping the meat moist.

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Crush garlic with skin on.
Cut the yellow onions into thick rings.
Cut carrots into halves and coarsely shred them like “French fries”. Do the same for the celery.

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Preheat oven to 200°C (I like to preheat slightly higher than stipulated temperature as heat is lost when we open the oven door and putting in these two heavy trays took more time than shoving in a tray of cookies).
Sprinkle a little salt and black pepper over the vegetables.
Reduce heat to 180°C and place prepared pork belly skin side up on a rack in the middle of oven and place the vegetables on an aluminium foil lined tray just below the pork belly to catch the oil and juices.
Roast pork belly and vegetables for 2 hours, turning both trays around after one hour. Also, you may need to give the vegetables a few quick stirs to mix them evenly with the oil and juices.

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Pump up the oven heat to 220°C – 240°C depending on your oven.
Alvin starts with 220°C and then 180°C for the next 2 hours.
Mark uses reverse method slowing cooking at 180°C for 2 hours first then 220°C (sometimes 240°C) for the next 30 – 40 minutes.
You have to know your oven temperament. Since I do not, I had a hard time this round but I’ve learnt what to do next time.

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I roasted the pork belly and vegetables at 180°C for 2 hours and then turn up the heat to 220°C.
Within a few minutes, the pork skin puffed up very nicely.

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My children said this was the ugliest but tastiest Siew Yoke they had eaten.
The fats melted in the mouth, the flesh fork tender and the 5-spice definitely gave this dish its umami component! Ooh, Mommy! Pun intended.

100% Crispy Roast Pork Belly Recipe 脆皮烧肉食谱
(adapted from Chef & Sommelier’s tried and tested foolproof recipe with my own experience inserted in parenthesis)
Ingredients:
1.5 – 2 kg Pork Belly with unbroken skin and even layers of fat and meat ratio – think streaky bacon and back bacon. You want streaky cut. Since it is difficult for the butcher to get exact weight when cutting slabs, I got a 1.8kg block instead of 1.5kg but thats not a problem since the seasoning is “guesstimated” amount.

Seasoning (Dry Rub):
Salt (I used less than 1 tablespoon in total for both skin- and meat-side).
Ground Black Peppercorn (I just ground enough peppercorns to cover the surface of meat-side).
5-Spice Powder (this is not in Alvin’s recipe but I like this spice and the “Happy Family” house brand from Sheng Shiong supermarket is not overpowering. I had very little left in my packet from the making of Ngoh Hiang, about 1g).
2 Onions, sliced thickly.
2 Carrots, peeled, halved length way and cut into finger-length.
2 sticks Celery, cut into finger-length. I used the whole package and that could post problem, see explanation below.
1 head Garlic, broken into cloves, skin on and smashed lightly with blade of knife.

Method:
Rinse and scrape the skin side with a sharp knife (holding at an angle) to remove excess hair and scum on the pork skin. Rinse well again and pat dry with paper kitchen towels. Repeat the pat-dry process until the slab of pork belly is thoroughly dry.

Using a sharp knife (Alvin said pen knife works wonder so I got one), make scores about centimetre apart through the skin into the fat in a criss-cross pattern, throughout the whole skin surface. It is very important to NOT cut into the meat!

Sprinkle salt from high and rub them right into the scores. Brush off any excess salt from the skin (mine was ok, all absorbed) and flip the meat over. Season evenly the underside of the belly with salt, black pepper and 5-spice powder.

Leave the piece of marinated meat in the open, preferably some where windy. Alvin’s trick is to place a blowing fan directly in front of the belly for *hours. Scoring and drying the skin will reward us with the crispy crackling of a good belly roast.

Preheat the oven at 220°C.

Place the pork belly, skin side-up, in a roasting tray (big enough to hold the belly and all the vegetable) and place in the hot oven for half an hour until the skin of the pork starts to puff up, turning into crackling.

Lower the temperature to 180°C and roast for another hour.

Remove the belly from the oven. Carefully lift the belly up and transfer to a chopping board. Pour the oil from the belly into a container. (What did he do with the oil? I poured mine into chicken stock and made egg drop soup. Bring to boil and skim of excess oil and serve).

Alvin said “My trick is to place a blowing fan directly in front of the belly for hours.” In his video, he mentioned overnight. How many hours is hours and how long is overnight, more than 12 hours? I felt very uneasy with the idea of air-drying raw meat in Singapore’s humid weather so I asked Mark, hoping he can tell me exactly the duration of the drying process as he had made roast pork with Alvin’s recipe before.

Mark said he kept in the open for 6 hours. Mine was not dry after 6 hours and was not as dry as what I see in Alvin’s video (presumably he dries them longer, overnight remember?). In the end, I made do with 10 hours of drying under direct fan at full blast. I think I can push to 12 hours next time.

Alvin starts with 220°C and then 180°C for the next 2 hours. Mark uses reverse method by slowing-cooking at 180°C for 2 hours first, and then at 220°C (sometimes 240°C) for the next 30 – 40 minutes. Mark said, “You have to know your oven temperament”. Since I do not, I had a hard time this round but I’ve learnt what to do next time.

Anyway, I decided to follow Mark’s method of roasting as I had to do some urgent grocery shopping. Reverse cooking bought me some time and I came back in time to turn up the heat for the roast’s last 30 minutes.

Here’s what I did:
Preheated oven to 200°C (conventional, top and lower heat on).

Placed the pork belly and vegetables into the middle of oven and turned down the temperature to 180°C and set the timer to one hour.

One hour later, the trays were turned around (had instructed the domestic help to do so before leaving) and allowed to roast for another hour. Also, disturbed the vegetables to help them mingle with the fats dripped from the pork in upper deck during this time. The vegetable tray had quite a lot of oily fluids, probably of the excessive amount of celery I’ve used. Alvin’s recipe had called for 2 stalks but I’d used the whole head. Luckily, my pork was roasting on its own rack so it wasn’t soaking in the liquids.

2 hours later, I turned up the heat to 220°C and changed the oven mode to convection setting – meaning the fan blows warm air all around the inside of the oven, promoting rapid and even heating. Within a few minutes, the pork skin puffed up very nicely into crispy crackling but unfortunately (or fortunately depending if you liked it that way), the crackling was also charred unexpectedly within such a short time frame. Luckily, I did an unintended check on the roast! Immediately, I reduced the heat to 180°C and went back to standard mode, no fan!

At this juncture (2 hours into roasting), the pork appeared perfectly cooked. Although the pork looked ready, kiasu me had to make sure the meat was indeed scrupulously cooked through. I cannot emphasised enough I like my pork meticulously cooked and especially when this piece had been out in the open for more than 10 hours, I wanted to make sure all bacteria were killed! Alvin and Mark both said the total cooking time was 2.5 hours. So I persevered. The skin charred further, and unsure if it will continue to brown uncontrollably, I tented a foil and loosely cover the crusted skin and resumed roasting for the rest of the 15 minutes.

Recalling now in amusement, I had sat on the kitchen floor, in front of the oven throughout the last 30 minutes of roasting the pork and a couple minutes more for the vegetables!

The pork was ready but the liquid on the vegetable tray did not dissipate. I had to drain away the excess liquid from the limpy vegetables, return to broil on high heat in the oven (250°C – use visual judgement so as not to over-char them). Next time, I will use lesser celery as I believe they peed. Lol… All said, the vegetables were very tender and tasted shiok! Actually I don’t mind using a whole head of celery again. Just drain and broil!

A very big THANK YOU to Alvin See and Mark Ong for sharing this simple and delicious 100% Roast Pork Belly Recipe (脆皮烧肉食谱) with me and the world!

Happy cooking, eating and bonding 🙂

Click here for Chef & Sommelier’s Roast Pork Belly Recipe.

Click here for Bulgogi Ssam A la Mark Ong.

See other marinade for Roast Pork Belly here.

See previous posts of our food adventures here:

DELICIOUS BONELESS CHICKEN RICE @ KATONG SHOPPING CENTRE

NONYA KUEH 娘惹粿 @ GLORY CATERING

GIN KHAO – THAI STREET DELIGHTS AND MORE!

AMBENG CAFE BY UMMI ABDULLAH @ EAST VILLAGE

SHIOK FOOD AT BLK 86 BEDOK NORTH STREET 4

Pig Sticker.
Photo credit: Adam Liaw

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