Revised and reposted on 6 May 2018
Original post published on Jun 12, 2015
I managed to pick up a few more tips in the last 3 years and have updated the recipe for a juicier, more flavourful sio bak! It’s one of those things that is really worth doing at home as it is relatively easy and you are sure to get a few “wows” and “oohs” which is really satisfying!
Chinese roast pork is something you can easily do at home. My last recipe was published in 2011 and since then I have refined the method to produce a skin that is even more crisp! The key to a shatteringly crisp rind is a two part process where the skin is roasted till it is charred, then the top layer is scrapped off. What results is a layer of epidermis (skin) that is thin and as crisp as a potato chip!
Here is what you need:
Pork belly 1.5 – 2kg (Fresh pork is best)
Salt 2 Tbsp
White pepper 1 Tbsp
Five spice powder 2 tsp
Ground ginger powder 2 Tbsp
MSG 2 tsp or substitute with 2 Tbsp Nam Yu (fermented bean curd)
Note: Sand ginger powder, 沙姜粉, sha-jiang-fen is excellent for sio bak. You can get it at some medicinal shops or at Victoria Wholesale centre. Replace the 2 Tbsp of ground ginger powder with 1 Tbsp each of sand ginger powder and ground ginger powder.
Rice Vinegar 1 Tbsp
Here is the step-by-step method
1. Stab pork all over to produce hundreds of tiny puncture holes in the skin. You can do this after the blanching step or before and after if you are kiasu (play safe) or if you just want to vent your anger. (It’s quite therapeutic).
Update: You only need to stab it after blanching. Blanching the skin first will make it easier to stab the pork. Make sure you stab it deep enough (at least 3mm deep). What you are trying to do is to make a hole past the epidermal layer (tough skin layer) so that any air bubbles that develops under the epidermis will escape during the cooking process. If you don’t do it properly, the bubbles will lift the epidermis off the fat layer and your crackling will not be even.
2. Prepare a water bath with a rack with the water level just half a cm higher than the rack
3. Place the pork belly skin side down and cook for 3 mins.
4. Thoroughly cool the pork belly under running water
5. Make slit across the bottom-est layer of the pork belly. Cut across the grain so that the pork will not curl up when it is roasting. It also helps the spice rub to penetrate the meat.
Update: Dry the skin and apply the vinegar to the skin surface at this stage (instead of later) and lay it flat onto the cutting board so that the skin absorbs the vinegar evenly.
6. Mix the spice rub
7. Apply the spice rub all over the meat (not the skin)
8. Leave to cure over night in the fridge. Cover loosely with baking paper so that air can circulate and dry the skin.
Update: Sprinkle 2 tsp of of salt over the skin layer before leaving it in the fridge
9. After curing overnight, use a paper towel to brush off the excess salt. Then insert two skewers crosswise through the meat. This will prevent it from curling during the roasting process.
10. Roast at 180°C for 1 hour 10 mins or until the meat is cooked through.
Update: I now use a Miele Steam Combi oven to roast the sio bak. I set the oven to 150°C, 80% humidity for 45mins followed by 180°C, 20% humidity for 45mins. This results in a very juicy and tender sio bak! In a conventional oven, use the same temperature settings but start with 1 cm of water in the tray under the rack. Remove the water after the first 45mins (if it hasn’t already evaporated) and turn the oven up to 180°C for another 45mins.
11. Remove the pork from the oven and switch the oven to grill mode at 250°C. Meanwhile brush some rice vinegar on the skin side. Once the grill is ready, grill the pork on the upper shelf of the oven till the whole of the surface of the skin has bubbled and there are areas of char. This should take around 5 mins.
Update: No need to brush the vinegar anymore. It was already applied in the marinating stage.
12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 mins. Lower the temperature of the grill to 200°C.
13. Using a serrated knife, scrape of the top layer of the rind.
14. Brush on some cooking oil and sprinkle 1 tsp salt evenly over the surface and return to the oven and grill at 200°C until the rind is golden brown.
Update: No need to add any more salt. Just use the oil collected in the tray to brush the skin.
15. Allow to cool before chopping into 1.5cm chunks of crispy, juicy goodness. Enjoy!
Update 1 Oct 2015
The spice mix has been updated!
Update 6 May 2018
Made updates to several steps in the cooking process and added the video below:
Thanks to personal Chef Benson Tong for his help with this recipe