My last post has only been a few days ago, but I’ve always been accustomed to my daily routine of visiting my blog, seeing my site stats, cleaning my google reader by visiting other food blogs, that a few days without a lot of blog activity from my end seems like forever. Not really forever, a hundred years perhaps.
But I do have good reason for being strangely inactive – I have a new job! Well, like my old one, it’s only part-time, two months tops, but right now, this new responsibility keeps me busy. The workload is pretty intense despite my short stint, so the past few days have seen me adjust and push blogging to the backseat. This is really because food blogging takes a lot of time and energy – from editing photos, encoding/editing recipes to creating the story. It’s time and energy I need to exhaust elsewhere, because I desperately need money and food blogging doesn’t really pay the bills. And man does not live off his mom alone.
Since I don’t get to channel every ounce of energy into cooking, blogging, and eating (ehem), I just really hope I can still churn out great attempts at cooking. BUT I’M HERE and I’M BLOGGING!
Over the weekend I did get to cook pure awesomeness for my grandma’s birthday.
Let me tell you about my grandma: she’s eccentric, loud, incredibly thrifty and, dare I say it, an amazing homemaker, cook and baker. She defied the odds by proving that you don’t have to be a victim of your past and circumstance. Born into poverty and without making it past the 6th grade, together with my grandfather, she managed to build a name for herself in the direct sales industry, send her children, including my mother, to school, and pretty much pave the way for a good, secure future for her children and their children. You can’t really do that without determination and intelligence. One time my mom hinted that if grandma would have just finished her education, she would be smarter than all her children put together.
Growing up with her, she would be quick to declare my laurels to anyone who would listen. Embarrassing, really.
According to her, it’s a fact that all her grandchildren are good singers and dancers. Well, I beg to digress but that’s not really the point. My mom always tells me that she’s proud of all her grandchildren.
Because she’s Chinese and I’m extremely subtle, I made her a Chinese-style oven baked roast pork belly with the crackling. This was a gargantuan achievement for me because Grandma (and the whole family) enjoyed it and was amazed at how the skin was so crispy like chicharon. I got this from Christine’s Recipes, a food blog dedicated to Asian cuisine.
This recipe reminds me of two things: 1. this tastes exactly like Lutong Macau’s roast pork belly and 2. the aroma really reminds of the food courts and restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau, which makes sense because Chinese five-spice is an essential spice to have in Chinese and Macanese cuisine.
Watching the skin silently crackle and explode in the oven, from little tiny bubbles to full-blown crispy crackling, is an amazing sight. The trick here is to get the skin really dry.
This is something best reserved for a weekend lunch with the family. In order for you to get this on the table by lunch time, start at around 9:00 AM because cooking times may vary depending on how large the pork belly is. Forget the lechon kawali, because this is so much better and less oily because it’s baked, albeit still fatty. And trust me, this is magnificence on a plate that really deserves a place at the table.
Chinese Style Crispy Pork Belly/Siew Yuk (adapted from Christine’s Recipes; serves 6 – 8)
- 2.5 kg pork belly
- 1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine, optional
- to taste, rock salt
- 6 – 7 teaspoons salt
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 4 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- To prepare the seasonings: Combine salt with sugar, pepper and five-spice powder well. Set aside.
- Use a knife to scrape away any impurities and hair. Rinse thoroughly.
- Blanch in boiling water for about 20 minutes, until around 70% done, and the skin is softened. I used a large wok and filled 1/4 of it with water. I carefully placed the pork belly in, and to make sure that the meat is fully submerged in water, I just added a glass or two as needed and allowed it to boil.
- Drain well and wipe dry with paper towels.
- Place the belly on a large platter or tray, meat side up and skin side down
- Use a knife to make a few small slits on the meat and up the sides but not on the skin, so the seasoning will be absorbed better.
- Evenly brush the meat with the rice wine (optional). Let it rest for around 20 – 30 minutes.
- Coat the meat BUT NOT THE SKIN with seasoning mixture, otherwise, the five-spice will darken the skin.
- Flip the meat so the skin is now facing upwards.
- Using thick kitchen towels, evenly pat the skin dry. This is important so the skin can properly crisp up.
- Using a small knife with a sharp tip OR fondue forks, gently poke the skin to make little holes all over the skin. Christine recommends not exerting too much force that the holes have gone through deep into the fat. But still, you can go crazy poking holes all over. During this time, preheat the oven to 200 C/395 F if you intend to cook it immediately.
- Pat dry the skin a second time, making sure that there is no visible moisture left behind. Alternatively, you can also wrap the meat, but not the skin, with foil and leave it to dry inside the refrigerator overnight. I didn’t do this but the skin was still really crispy and the meat flavorful. Leaving it overnight however, most probably intensifies the flavor.
- When ready to cook, place the belly in a large roasting rack lined with aluminum foil to catch the drippings. Pour around ¼ cup water onto the foil so when the drippings will fall, it will not burn.
- Evenly season the rind with rock salt.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about one hour to one hour and ten minutes.
- Turn the heat dial to ‘broil’ and roast for another 20 minutes, or until the rind has sufficiently and evenly crackled.
- At this point you may notice that some parts of the skin appear to have charred too much. DO NOT PANIC. You can easily remove the charred bits by scraping it with a knife.
- When done, remove from oven, chop it into your desired serving sizes – cubes or strips and serve warm with rice, with soy sauce and vinegar on the side. Enjoy!