Sunday, August 29, 2010

Siu Yuk: Chinese Roast Pork


As crazy as it may seem, there was a dark time in my life when I gagged at the thought of eating a piece of meat with any visible fat or skin on it.  The texture of fat and the thought of eating something that could contribute to heart disease scared the crap out of me.  Being a fat kid who loved to eat in my youth, this aversion perplexes me now that I think about it.


Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the past few years that I started liking siu yuk: Chinese roast pork.  I feel like I really missed out all the times my family would get Chinese BBQ, which always included an order of Chinese roast pork.

The first step in making Chinese roast pork was to make my own freshly ground five spice powder.  I’d never used Szechwan pepper before and frankly didn’t know what it looked like, so it was exciting to utilize them for the first time.  They’re the deep red pods seen above.


Typically the entire pig is roasted for Chinese roast pork, but I wanted to concentrate on what’s considered by many as the most sought after part of Chinese roast pork: the belly.  In order to get the skin extra crispy, it’s heavily salted to draw out as much moisture as possible and let to sit overnight.  The skin and meat are also rubbed with five spice powder.  During roasting, the skin is brushed with vinegar to promote the crackling and bubbling of the skin.


The alternating layers of fat and lean is what makes the belly so desirable, while the crispy skin adds much needed texture to the bite.  Sometimes it can feel a little too fatty though, and I’m not afraid to trim off a layer or two of fat.


About a year ago, I heard of Momofuku’s now infamous pork belly buns.  They reminded me of the traditional preparation of Peking duck, but with pork belly instead of duck.  Taking that as inspiration, I made my own steamed bao from scratch and slapped a couple pieces of the roast pork, green onion, and Hoisin sauce in between the bun.  Needless to say, it turned out to be a winning combination.

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