Updated: Jan 31, 2022
by Amy & Julie Zhang from The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook: Over 100 Favourite Recipes from a Chinese Family Kitchen (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Mum’s Cracking Five-spiced Roast Pork Belly
Nothing says banquet like a succulent slab of pork belly encrusted in five-spice powder & topped with a delightfully light & crispy crackling. A few clever tricks from Mum will help you to achieve that bok bok cheow (super-crispy) crackling: prick the skin all over while it is hot out of the poaching liquid, & pat on a layer of salt to dry out the skin during roasting.
1kg slab belly pork, about 4cm thick, skin on
2 tbsp salt
For the rub
2 tsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
1½ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. On the meaty side of the pork, make a series of parallel cuts about 2cm apart & to within 1cm of the skin. Place the pork, skin-side down, in a large stockpot & cover completely with boiling water. Use a heavy bowl to weigh the pork down if it starts to curl up & simmer gently for 10 mins. Transfer the pork, skin-side up, to a plate & leave to cool slightly.
2. While the pork is still hot, hold 12 bamboo skewers as you would a fat pencil & prick the pork skin all over. (Or Nigel says, you can use a metal or wooden skewer, fork or sharp knife). Make sure to pierce right through to the fat layer. Flip over.
3. Combine the ingredients for the rub together in a small bowl & apply all over the meaty side of the pork, making sure to get into every crevice & avoiding the skin. Place the pork, skin side-up, on a wire rack set inside a roasting tray.
4. Use a long sharp knife to scrape excess moisture away from the skin, & dab away with kitchen paper. Spread the 2 tablespoons of salt over the skin in an even layer & roast the pork for 40 mins. Keep an eye on the skin & if any liquid pools on the surface, dab it away with kitchen paper.
5. Switch the oven to the grill setting & increase the temperature to 240C/475F/Gas mark 9. Peel off the layer of caked salt & dab the skin dry. Raise the pork so it is now 5cm from the grill element, keep the door ajar & grill for 10-15 mins. If one area browns up faster than the rest, cover with foil. The pork is done when the skin forms layer upon layer of crackly bubbles. Cut into bite size pieces, and serve.
Five-spiced Pork Belly with Spring Onions & Sweet Soy
As much as we obsess over Mum’s Cracking Five-spiced Roast Pork Belly, with its light & airy crackling, we have always looked forward to ‘the day after’ when the crackling has inevitably lost its crunch. It’s an unspoken practice in our family for any leftovers from roast day to be whipped up into this simple dish for the next evening’s supper. As the pork belly bathes in a sweet soy sauce, the once-crispy crackling becomes slightly tacky to the bite while the sauce becomes infused with five-spice.
400g cooked Mum’s Cracking Five-spiced Roast Pork, chopped into 2cm pieces
6 slices ginger, cut into matchsticks (Nigel suggests a thumb sized piece of peeled fresh ginger)
10 Spring onions, cut into 3cm lengths
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve
For the sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce (Nigel says you can use 2 tbsp of regular soy sauce)
¼ tsp dark soy sauce (Nigel says you can omit if necessary)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1. Mix all the sauce ingredients with 150ml water in a bowl, then set aside.
2. Put a medium-sized pan over a medium-high heat & fry the pork pieces cut-side down in a single layer until they are golden & singed like bacon. You should be able to see that some of the fat has rendered out. Flip the pork & keep sizzling until the underside is singed.
3. Add the ginger & stir-fry until fragrant, then reduce the heat to low, add the sauce mixture & cover. Simmer for 4-5 mins, then uncover. As the sauce reduces & the sugar caramelizes, it will turn dark & syrupy. At this stage, add the spring onions and 1 teaspoon water. Stir to wilt the spring onions slightly, then serve with the steamed rice.