1. Pork belly -
try to get one with even thickness, it will make the best evenly cooked crackling. Look for pork belly with lovely ribbons of fat streaking through it.
2. Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine) -
sub for dry sherry (near perfect) or Mirin (very good sub). If you can't consume alcohol, just skip it and add an extra 1/4 tsp salt. Read here for more info.
3. Chinese Five Spice Powder -
a spice mix used in Chinese cooking with 5 spices that's widely available at everyday supermarkets.
4. Rock Salt
is called for because it's easy to remove and also the salt doesn't slip down into the holes which would make the pork too salty.
5. Skin piercing
- If you pierce the fat too much (a bit is ok) or flesh, 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.
6. Broiling -
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!
7. Foolproof Easy Method -
Use this if pricking is all too hard. Makes super crispy crackling and the same juicy flesh, but without the bubbly crackling. It's really really good and super easy. Read in post for more information.
7. Servings -
- Follow recipe up to and including brushing with vinegar but do not prick skin.
Cover skin with rock salt per recipe, OR use 1 cup kosher/cooking/table salt (enough to cover skin about 3 - 5 mm / 1/8 - 1/5" thick). If you use fine grain salt, make sure the foil is VERY snug around the edges - if salt falls down the sides, it will make the flesh salty.
Roast per recipe and scrape off salt.
Instead of flicking to grill/broiler, turn the oven up to 240C/465F. For this method, oven works better to make skin crispy.
Place pork on a rack and return to baking tray, roast for a further 30 minutes or until crackling is golden and crispy.
Pork belly is very rich so a 1 kg / 2 lb raw piece (shrinks to about 700g/1.4lb) 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!
8. STORING / MAKE AHEAD:
Cook per recipe, including crispy skin. Once cool enough to handle, separate crispy skin from meat. Cool, THEN cover and refrigerate separately - crackling stays crispy! Reheat meat in microwave and reheat crispy skin just until warmed in oven at 180C/350F (~ 5 minutes). Because crackling stays crispy even after refrigeration, reheating for the skin is JUST to reheat, not to crisp. Don't take the skin too far in the oven, it starts to lose crispiness, believe it or not!
9. 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), and a Gordon Ramsay cooking show (can't remember which one!).
estimate, taking into account 1/3 cup of fat that is discarded from the foil.