No one does crispy pork belly like the Chinese. Shatteringly crisp, golden, bubbly crackling and perfectly seasoned juicy pork. This is how they make it. (It’s easy!)
In my humble opinion, the Chinese are the undisputed king of two things: crispy duck and crispy pork belly. It’s unlikely that I will ever share a Peking Duck recipe because it’s really hard. Too hard to make properly in an ordinary home kitchen.
However, crispy pork belly is another story. The next time you stroll past your local Chinese BBQ store and gaze lovingly / longingly at the hunks of juicy pork with the gorgeous almost impossibly crispy, puffy crackling, just remember this: IT’S EASY TO MAKE YOURSELF. You can, you will, you must.
Try it once, be blown away by how good it is, and lull yourself into the confidence to believe you can take on your local Chinese BBQ master!
There are two secrets to perfect crispy pork belly that the Chinese discovered. (I credit them for this genius discovery, but I’m not actually sure if they discovered it):
1. Pricking lots of holes in the skin = puffy crackling with bubbles. This is what makes all the difference, yielding that beautiful bubbly crackling that is so unique to Chinese pork belly. The puffiness is what makes the crackling so special, creating an almost delicate crumble when you bite into it. Super crispy (you can HEAR it in the recipe video below!) but it crumbles beautiful. As opposed to super hard crackling that snaps that can be too hard for some people (yes, there’s such thing as crackling that’s too hard!).
The Chinese have a special tool that they use to prick the skin. Me, I have my Basic Instinct moment and use an ice pick. It works remarkably well. But anything that is pointy and sharp will work just fine – for example, metal skewers.
And yes, if you find it all too hard, you can skip this step. More on that below in the alternative easier method. 🙂
2. Roasting covered in rock salt = crispy crackling. Salt draws moisture to the surface, helping to guarantee you’ll get crispy crackling every single time. And yes, it works whether you do the pricking or not. Again, more on that below.
The pork flesh is infused with subtle flavour by marinating it in classic Chinese flavours – Chinese cooking wine (or dry sherry), five spice powder, salt and white pepper. I know there are some Chinese pork belly recipes “out there” that don’t marinate, but I really think it’s worth the time to do this otherwise the flesh somewhat lacks Chinese flavour (in my humble opinion).
THE ALTERNATIVE METHOD:
No Skin Pricking, Crispy but not Puffy, Almost Foolproof
If you don’t have something suitable for or are having troubles pricking the skin, don’t be sad! There is another way to Chinese Crispy Pork Belly heaven! With this alternative method, there are only two differences: no need to prick the skin, and after removing the salt, roast longer rather than grill/broil to make the skin crispy.
The skin will not be bubbly crispy, but it is a super crisp crispy. When you break the crackling, it will snap cleanly rather than partially crumbling which the puffy crackling does (which you can see in the video).
And here’s the thing that might seal the deal for many: it’s very close to foolproof compared to the traditional Chinese method. As I found out to my own detriment, if you are too enthusiastic with the pricking and pierce too far into the fat (or even worse, into the flesh), the juices will bubble up onto the skin, and the wetness as the skin is being grilled/broiled will cause little splotches where the skin is not super crispy.
Doesn’t the crackling using this simple Alternative Method look almost impossibly perfect?? Check out that colour!
Oh! And if you need help choosing which one you want to make and also feedback on this Chinese Crispy Pork Belly, this is a text message from my friend Ada. She’s Chinese-Australian and as obsessed as food as me, one of my official taste testers. I gave her a container of each type of pork belly.❤️
I realise there’s a lot of information in the above, so I though it would be useful to finish with a summary. ❤️
- Real proper Chinese Crispy Pork Belly has a golden puffy crispy crackling that almost crumbles when you bite into it. It’s complete and utter bliss to experience!
- In order to make puffy crackling, you need to prick lots and lots of little holes in the skin. If you accidentally prick too far into the fat under the skin, or even worse, the flesh, this may cause juices to bubble to the surface which may result in some splotches that are not 100% crisp. The Chinese have a special tool to do this. I use an ice pick (aka my Basic Instinct moment ?).
- Pricking the holes can be a pain unless you have a suitable tool. If it’s too hard, skip it and opt for the Alternative Method.
- The Alternative Method yields a crackling that is a beautiful even golden brown without puffy bits. It is super crispy. The crackling snaps rather than crumbles like the authentic Crispy Chinese Pork Belly. It is still a stunning crackling that many people dream of. ☺️ This method is very easy with guaranteed crispy crackling, every single time. The one downside is that the edges of the pork will be very slightly overdone because it requires a longer roasting time to achieve the crispy crackling (but it doesn’t really matter because pork belly is so fatty and juicy).
To all crispy skin lovers out there, this one is for YOU! – Nagi x
PS Oh wait, it’s also for Chinese New Year which is this Saturday here in Australia! It’s also Australia Day tomorrow – lots of celebrating!! ❤️
- 800 - 1.2kg / 1.6 - 2.4 lb pork belly , skin on
- 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp white vinegar (helps conduct heat evenly)
- 200 g / 7 oz rock salt (Note 6)
Use an ice pick, sharp metal skewer or another tool to prick tons and tons of holes in the skin. Be very careful not to pierce into the fat or flesh. (Note 1)
Turn the pork belly upside down. Rub the flesh (not skin) with Chinese cooking wine, dribbling it on gradually.
Sprinkle over five spice powder, salt and pepper. Rub all over flesh (not on skin).
Turn right side up and place in a container. Dab skin dry with paper towels. Refrigerate uncovered for 12 hours (max 24 hours).
Preheat oven to 180C/350F (all oven types).
Remove pork from fridge. Place onto a large sheet of foil. Fold up sides of foil around the pork to enclose it snugly (see photos in post or video) with a 1.5cm / 2/5" rim above the pork skin (to hold salt in).
Transfer pork to baking tray. Dab skin with paper towels.
Brush skin with vinegar.
Spread rock salt on the skin (the foil edges will stop it from falling down the sides).
Roast for 60 minutes.
Remove pork from oven and transfer onto work surface.
Switch to grill/broiler on medium high. Move shelf so it is at least 25cm/10" from the heat source.
Fold down foil and scrape all the salt off the top and sides. Return pork only (i.e. discard foil) to baking tray.
Place under grill/broiler for 20 - 25 minutes, rotating tray once, until skin is golden, crispy and puffed. (Note 2)
For this method, 1 cup table salt (enough to cover skin about 3 - 5 mm / 1/8 - 1/5" thick) can be used. (Note 6)
Skip the skin pricking but follow same steps up to scraping off the salt.
Instead of flicking to grill/broiler, turn the oven up to 240C/465F.
Place pork on a rack and return to baking tray.
Roast for a further 30 minutes or until crackling is golden and crispy.
Remove pork onto cutting board. Slice into 1 - 1.5cm / 2/5 - 3/5" thick slices, then into smaller slices like pictured in post or into squares.
Serve with ordinary mustard - not spicy, not Dijon, just ordinary American or other yellow mustard (yes really!). Sometimes it is served with white sugar on the side too - I don't use this.
1. If you pierce the fat (too much - a bit is ok) or skin, then after you remove the salt crust and place it under the grill/broiler, juices will bubble up onto the skin and prevent the skin from getting crispy. It's not the end of the world if you have a handful of pricks that went too deep, you will just get tiny splotches or little strips of crackling that's not 100% crispy.
2. Ensure the pork isn't too close to the heat source. That's the key to an even golden crackling, rather than burnt splotches here and there. The further away it is, the better!
3. Pork belly is very rich. Having said that though, be aware that it shrinks almost 30% after cooking. So a 1 kg / 2 lb pork belly will end up being around 700g / 1.4lb. For me, that serves 6 - 8 people as part of a multi course meal or as a starter. I don't serve pork belly as a main because I find it too rich. In the photo pictured in the post with the slices, that is the sort of starter I would do. It's plenty!
4. STORING / MAKE AHEAD: Crackling this good stays crisp even once cooled and refrigerated. But despite what you may think, it doesn't REHEAT crispy. I've even read forums where Chefs grapple with this problem! The meat itself reheats beautifully, and in fact, cold pork belly meat is not very nice in my opinion because the fat becomes rubbery. So what I do is separate the meat from the crackling then reheat the meat only and let the crackling come to room temperature. It's still super satisfying! PS The other chef trick is to prepare the meat separate from the skin and make the skin just before serving, but you can't do that with this recipe. The Chinese BBQ Stores keep the pork warm i.e. it doesn't cool down.
5. Serving: Because it's so rich, serve in either small bite size pieces or small slices, like pictured in post. Typically it's served with yellow mustard and sometimes white sugar (I don't use sugar). Serve with some slices of cucumber and radish and/or red cabbage for freshness (I don't use dressing). Makes a lovely platter to share or individual starters, or for a multi course meal.
6. Table salt can be used for the Easy Method but you need to ensure the foil is extra snug to stop it from falling down the sides and/or don't cover pork all the way to the edges. If table salt is used for the Proper Method, you will find that the pork is too salty as it will penetrate into the holes.
7. Recipe created / adapted from numerous sources over the years, including but not limited to: Woks of Life, Chinese Crispy Roasted Pork by Garden Time (this is my main reference point for the traditional method), a Gordon Ramsay cooking show (can't remember which one!), this pork belly recipe by Kirbies Cravings.
8. Nutrition per serving, assuming 8 servings. See below for full details.
Chinese Crispy Pork Belly recipe video! Be sure to have the volume on so you can hear how crispy it is!!!
Chinese Crispy Pork Belly nutrition estimate. This one is very hard to calculate because of the enormous amount of fat / juices that is discarded.
LIFE OF DOZER
I imagine this is the sort of thing he dreams about in his slumber ???