Crispy cantonese roast pork (Siu Yuk)

I had many versions of this recipe. My grand aunt's version, a complex Heston Blumenthal's scientific version which I came across many years ago to numerous recipes from well-known bloggers all claiming supremacy over others with a set of undebatable steps you must follow to attain the ultimate crispiness. Some recipes comes with very fancy marinates such as fermented bean curb or chinese rose wine, others prefer simplicity by sticking to the basic 2 of salt and spice. In my opinion, the art to make terrific tasting crispy cantonese roast pork is not about the ingredients, it lies in the cooking method - Moisture is the enemy to crispy skin. How dry is the skin? Is their enough pricks? This is to allow the heat to penetrate the fat and bubbles up through the tiny holes frying the skin crisp. If you prink the skin too deep into thereat, you will allow juices to escape which hinders the fry process with less desirable crackling. The quality of the belly? This recipe is reliant on your getting your hands on a really good piece of pork belly, properly reared, and striped thickly with fat.
So, after tons of researches, here are some of the methods I gathered. As I studied, the basic principles of great crispy skin seems simple enough. But which school of thought leads to the holy grail of consistency to good crispy golden cracklings with moist tender meat? 

• Pre-salted, patted dry, liberally oiled then salted
• Salted, blow-dried, salted, anointed with hot fat
• Scalded, aired, massaged with salt
• Patted dry then stored uncovered in the fridge, salted at the last minute

Well, the recipes and methods are as good as home cooking can be but I knew there was something more to this to give it the restaurant glory? 

Which was the right one? Many years ago, I started experimenting with different methods. It was not until last month when someone booked me for a 2 day private class to learn how to make this dish that I began to dig in and scratch my head to perfect this recipe. Hence, my on going trials to create the restaurant grade roast pork.

Until one afternoon, my aunt hearing news that I am making this at home, she rush down to reveal me on the secret method of salted crust, saving me more experimental time. Like with all good chefs, she knew what went missing by looking at the skin when I pulled out from the oven. This is the most perfect method attained so far:

• Blanched, patted dry, pricked, Salted, blow-dried, stored uncovered in the fridge, salt crusted.

Well, my student was tremendously happy with this… 

1 kg Pork belly
five spice powder

Blanch the whole pork belly in boiling water for about 20 minutes, until around 70% done, and the skin is softened. Remove and pat dry. Prink pork skin all over with prink or a fork as evenly as possible (1hr). Drying the skin with kitchen paper as you go.

Combine salt, 5-spice powder and white pepper in a small bowl. Rub the marinade all over the meat portion only. If any marinade gets on the skin, rub it off with a paper towel.

Rub more salt on the skin massaging it in. Place pork belly on a plate, uncovered, skin side up, blow dried for 10 mins and let it marinade overnight in the refrigerator. The purpose is to dry the skin thoroughly and also to allow the marinade to seep into the meat.

When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 250 degrees C. Place the pork on a rack set over a roasting pan. Wrap the meat sides with foil and cover the skin with a thick layer of salt. Pop the pork in the oven on the top rack for 20-30 minutes. Depending, on thickness of the pork belly slab, you might want to leave in the oven for another 15 minutes, lowering the temperature to 200 degrees C.

Take the pork out, turn the heat up to 250 degrees C, or however high your oven goes. Remove the pork and scrap off all the salt on the skin. Brush the rice wine vinegar over the top of your pork. Then pop it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes or so, until the top skin layer has bubbled up and looks all puffy, crispy and actually even a little charred. 

When cool to touch, scarp off the charred bits to reveal the golden crisp skin.

- till next post, ss

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