Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cooking: Roast Suckling Pork Belly - Asian Style

Roast Suckling Pork Belly. One of the favorite dishes during the Asian holidays. Normally, we buy a couple pounds from an Asian barbecue place. But this year I wanted to be daring. This year, I was going to roast my own pork belly. And damn, it was the best choice ever.
It all started with this recipe from Saveur. Once I read it. I was hooked. I couldn't just make that though. Nope. I had to make a whole feast to celebrate the Lunar New Year. This is how my mind works.
The recipe starts with a nice piece of pork belly. It was bone in, skin on. All four pounds of this lovely thing ready to become something special.
I took my handy dandy jaccard tool and pierced minuscule holes all over the skin. Then I scalded the skin with a boiling mixture of baking soda and water. I did this over the sink on a rack. It's much easier than holding one end with tongs and pouring with the other as the recipe suggested.
Then I flipped it over and scored the meat side lengthwise. I cut pretty deep into the meat so the marinade can seep in nicely overnight.
And here's the marinade which is a mixture of siao shin wine (I didn't have rice wine or sake), sugar, fermented bean curd, salt, and five spice powder. This was some pungent stuff.
I poured it all over the meat and rubbed it in. Blot the skin dry then set the pork belly in the refrigerator overnight uncovered. Since the marinade had a pretty strong smell, I made sure I had a couple of cut lemons and baking soda sitting close to it. I didn't want to contaminate anything else in the there.
The next day, the pork comes out and sits on a wire rack set in a pan. Put some skewers through the meat to prevent it from curling as it cooked.
Then into the oven at 375oF until the internal temperature reached 160oF (about 2 hours). I put a meat thermometer into the pork belly before it went into the oven. Take the thermometer out and then broil the skin under it bubbles and caramelizes. This is where the skin gets super crispy after rendering out from the roasting and the hot fire of the broiling. Do not skip this step.
After broiling, let the meat rest until cool enough to handle with your hands. Remove the skewers and chop the meat up into smaller pieces. The first piece was amazing. Juicy and tender meat. The fat was mostly rendered and the skin was incredible. Can you see how thin the skin in on each piece? That's how to do it properly. I kept the pork warm in the oven (uncovered) until ready to serve. The skin did not suffer.

Recipe below is adapted from Saveur's recipe for Crispy Roast Pork (Siew Yoke)

Roast Suckling Pork Belly - Asian Style
1-4lb slab pork belly
1 1/2 tbsp baking soda
5 tbsp Chinese rice wine, sake, or siao shin wine, divided
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mashed red fermented bean curd
1 tbsp fine salt
1 1/4 tsp five spice powder

1 . Place pork on a work surface, skin side up. Using a pork-skin pricking tool or a carving fork, prick skin all over, making hundreds of small holes that just puncture the surface.
Set pork on top of wire rack in sink. Dissolve baking soda in 5 cups boiling water (be careful as the water will boil up when baking soda is added). Slowly pour the baking soda mixture in a thin stream over pork skin to scald it.
3. Transfer pork to a work surface, skin side down. Using a knife, score the meat, making 1"-deep parallel slits spaced 1" apart.
4. Combine 3 tbsp rice wine, sugar, bean curd, salt, and five spice powder in a small bowl and pour marinade over the meat. 
Rub marinade all over the meat, pushing it into the slits.
5. Transfer pork skin side up to a baking dish. Wipe any moisture from skin with a paper towel. Refrigerate pork belly uncovered overnight to let marinate as the skin air dries.
6. Heat oven to 375°. Thread skewers horizontally through the meat layer of the pork belly (to prevent the pork from curling as it cooks). Transfer pork skin side up to a rack set over a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Wipe skin again with a paper towel.
7 . Pour remaining rice wine over skin and brush to distribute. Pour hot water into pan to a depth of 1/4". 
Pour more water into pan halfway through roasting process. Cook pork on center oven rack until a thermometer inserted into thickest part reads 160°, about 2 hours.
8. Remove thermometer and raise heat to broil and cook until skin is blistered and browned, 5–10 minutes. Before serving, let pork rest 15 minutes. To serve, cut into 1" pieces.


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