Roast Belly Pork

Pork is the ‘red meat’ of Chinese cuisine and is served to celebrate very special occasions. For example, before we would set off to visit our ancestors’ shrines close by the Buddhist temple, in Chicago, my mother would send me to the local Chinese grocery to pick up a piece of roast pig that would be part of our offering to our ancestors. If I arrived early enough in the morning, I could smell the still-warm pork’s toastlike fragrance, which filled the store. Occasionally, returning home with the prized pork, I would succumb to temptation and break off a sliver of the crackling. I still remember it as the most satisfying pork I have ever eaten.

Now, living far from Chinatown, I have duplicated this childhood delicacy by roasting a piece of belly pork. It works quite well and is easy to do. Your ancestors will be as pleased as I am sure mine were. This delectable crispy treat is perfect with rice.

Belly pork with rind may be ordered from your butcher.

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Ingredients

  • 1×1.35 kg (3 lb) joint boneless belly pork, with rind
  • 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
  • tablespoons five-spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Method

Pierce the rind side of the pork with a sharp fork or knife tip until the skin is covered with fine holes.

Insert a meat hook into the pork to serve as a handle. Bring a pot of water to the boil and, using a large ladle, pour the hot water over the rind side of the pork several times. Set the belly pork aside.

Heat a wok until it is hot, then toss in the salt, peppercorns, five-spice powder, black pepper and sugar and stir-fry the mixture for 3 minutes, until it is hot and well mixed. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. When it is cool enough to handle, rub it on the flesh side of the pork.

Hang the meat up to dry for 8 hours or overnight in a cool place or in front of a fan.

Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F, gas mark 8).

Place the pork rind side up, on a rack, in a roasting tin. Pour about 240 ml (8 fl oz) of water into the roasting tin. Roast for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 130°C (250°F, gas mark ½) and continue to roast for 1 hour. Turn the heat to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) and cook for another hour. Finally, turn back up to 230°C (450°F, gas mark 8) for a final 15 minutes. Remove the pork and allow it to cool. Then carve it into bite-size pieces, arrange on a platter and serve.

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