Chinese people love pork. I mean, REALLY love it. Pork shows up in so many dishes, I genuinely cannot imagine what Kosher Chinese food would be like. Perhaps only the Italians come close to exalting the pig as much. In fact, my grandmother would substitute Italian proscuitto for more difficult to find Yunan ham in soups and vegetable dishes.
My parents remember in the impoverished years right after World War II, Hong Kong diners would order a tiny portion of pork with their meals – and then rub the meat on their lips so they would be glossy with fat, proving that they could afford to have glorious pork.
And there is no pork dish more glorious than roasted pork (or sui yuk). It is present at every important occasion and celebration. I have seen crispy roasted suckling pigs carried into a banquet halls on the shoulders of waitstaff to blaring Chinese music, the pig’s eyes replaced with flashing red lights. Weddings, births, funerals, roast pork is always present.
I’ve never thought that you could make Chinese roast at home, assuming that it was an arcane and difficult process. But in our golden technological age, the prism of Youtube provides the answers.
I mean – that looked down right simple! So I got to work. I can’t really provide a recipe per se for quantities, but as the Italians say, quanto basto! Buying a good piece of pork belly is the key to this roast. What you want is not lots of fat, but nice distinct layers of fat.
I poked the skin with bamboo skewers until it was all goose pimpled, then rubbed the flesh with about a teaspoon of Chinese cooking wine (rum makes a fine substitue) and seasoned it with salt, white pepper and five spice powder (taking care to keep the skin clean). I’d suggest taking it easy with the five spice powder which can be overpowering. Then I let the marinated the pork belly sit in the fridge overnight (which also lets the skin dry out).
When ready to roast – I made aluminum foil boats, and crusted the skin with salt (but forgot the vinegar – damn!).
Roasted at 400 for 50 minutes and then, brushing off the salt crust and raising the belly on a rack, broiled until the skin crackled. The effort was really minimal – and the payoff was hugely delicous.
The resulting roast was much less salty and more subtle than store bought. I am definitely doing this again – but change up the spicing. Perhaps rub with fennel seeds snd black pepper for porchetta, or herb de provence and garlic for a more Southern French point of view.
Now I can celebrate every occassion with Chinese Roast Pork – like when the weekend rolls around, when I beat my high score on the X Box (Far Cry 3!), or when I get hungry….. no flashing red lights required!