Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chinese Roast Pork (Siu Yuk)

There can never be too many recipes for chinese roast pork (or "siu yuk" as commonly known in Cantonese). Over the years, I have attempted various recipes and methods for achieving the perfect crackling - crispy and brittle enough that it doesn't break your teeth when you bite into it. It has always been a hit and miss for me. Either the skin doesn't fully crackle all over (leaving some parts soft and chewy), or the meat's dried out, or the crackling is burnt in some parts. But now, I have successfully made the almost-perfect roast pork, twice in a row. Woo-hoo! I must be doing something right there?

There's nothing particularly difficult about making roast pork (except the part where you have to prick a zillion holes in the skin). You just need the right ingredients, the right technique and the right tools. Someone gave us a pork-skin-pricking tool for Christmas two years ago, which you see below. Roast pork fanatics who make their own at home might have this tool, which is available in Malaysia and Singapore. I don't know what it's called, but it's made of wood with a bunch of super sharp needles at the end. If you don't have one, just use a sharp pointed knife to prick the skin, or simply score it (with a knife, of course) at 1/4 inch intervals. However, this special tool will yield the perfect crackling every time. If you have a metal meat tenderizer, that might actually work too!

This recipe has worked really well for me and my oven. Yes, my oven can be temperamental sometimes, especially when the heat doesn't distribute evenly. This time, I used fan-forced in first 50 minutes to achieve an evenly roasted golden crackling, and it worked! I then turned down the heat to let the pork continue cooking until tender. I also added a tray of water below the roasting rack to keep the meat from drying out in the oven. A brush of vinegar on the skin helps to attain a crispier crackling.

I found that it was not necessary to pour boiling water over the skin (to open up the pores). This step yielded a "harder" and crunchier skin. So my recipe only requires covering the raw pricked skin with plenty of salt, leave it to dry out in the fridge, and then brush off all the excess salt before roasting. The result was a much more brittle and crispy crackling. But then again, I bought the pork from a different shop, so maybe one pig was more thick-skinned than the other. I don't know, but it's still crackling, and crackling rocks!

Chinese Roast Pork (Siu Yuk)
Serves 8 | Prep 20 mins | Wait time 120 mins | Cook time 120 mins


1.3 kg (2.8 lbs) pork belly, skin on
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vinegar, for brushing

Marinade (mix well in a small bowl):
2 tsp five-spice powder
1 tablespoon sea salt (cooking salt)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sugar
2 cubes red fermented beancurd
1 tsp vegetable oil


  1. Rinse the pork under the tap and drip dry. Then, pat dry all over with a few paper towels.
  2. Place on a chopping board, and poke holes all over the skin, as many as you possibly can. Use the tip of a sharp knife, or ideally, "The Pork-Skin-Pricking-Tool".
  3. Turn the pork over skin side down. Rub the marinade all over the meat, including the sides of the pork.  Avoid getting any on the skin.
  4. Carefully turn the pork over onto a clean plate, skin side up. Check that the skin is dry, if not pat well with paper towel.  Rub 1 tablespoon salt all over the skin until evenly covered.  This will draw out the moisture.
  5. Place the pork in the fridge, uncovered, for 2-4 hours.
  6. When ready to roast the pork, preheat oven to 230C fan-forced. 
  7. Remove pork from the fridge. Use a paper towel to wipe off all the salt from the skin. Pat the skin dry. Place pork skin side up on a metal rack over a roasting tin. Fill the roasting tin with 1 inch of water. Place the roasting tin on the middle rack and roast for 30 minutes. Once the skin starts to crackle (about 30 minutes later), brush some vinegar over the skin and place the pork back in the oven. Continue to roast for 20 minutes until skin has fully crackled and is lightly golden. Watch it constantly to make sure the crackling doesn't burn!
  8. Once crackling is nicely coloured, turn the oven temperature down to 180C (switch the oven to conventional - I turned off the fan-forced mode at this stage). Continue to roast for a 60-80 minute so that the meat is tender.
  9. Remove from oven and let pork rest and cool down for 30 minutes before chopping into bite-sized pieces.  You will need a sharp cleaver for this. Enjoy while meat is warm and crackling is super crispy.
Note: This will be perfectly complemented by a sweet and sour chilli dipping sauce. Recipe below:

Vinegar Chilli Sauce

1 long red chilli, chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of salt

To prepare the sauce, use a mortar and pestle to pound the chilli until fine, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add more sugar/salt if necessary. Transfer to a small bowl and use as a dipping sauce.