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While roast pork is a staple of family reunion dinners, it’s not commonly prepared at home because it’s so widely available from Chinatown BBQ shops. You almost always find a side of roast pork hanging alongside strips of char siu and whole roast ducks. Cooking roast pork yourself, however, is incredibly rewarding and much easier outside Asia, where a hot oven can easily overheat a small apartment kitchen.
Pork is served during holiday times because it represents strength and wealth. This roast pork recipe produces a delicious centerpiece for your meal with succulent, juicy meat and crispy, crackling skin. Best of all, it’s easy to make and pairs well with whatever else you might be serving, a good meal for a beginner Chinese chef to tackle.
Roast pork is made from pork belly. You can generally buy this cut from any Western grocery store, though I always prefer buying my meat from a Chinatown butcher counter. For some reason, a good spot that butchers its meat freshly each morning like D&K Market in Oakland gets the ratio of fat and meat just right. You’ll want about 2 1/2 pounds for this recipe.
Fortunately, there’s not too much that’s complicated about this recipe, which steps down the pressure level if you happen to be preparing your first big family meal around the holidays. Get started the night before by marinating the meat and then roast it the next day in the oven. That’s all there is to it!
Here’s how to make roast pork, step-by-step. The detailed tutorial with pictures and directions is at the bottom of the page.
Your turn! What tips can you share from your family’s recipe? Want to ask a question before you start cooking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
Roast Pork Recipe
Makes: 6 Servings | Prep Time: 20 Minutes, then Overnight | Cook Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
2 1/2 pounds pork belly, with skin left on
1 bunch of cilantro
soy sauce, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce, for dipping
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons cilantro, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1. Place the pork on a cutting board with the skin side down. Using a needle or the tip of a knife, prick the meat all over at close intervals. Combine all the ingredients from Seasoning A in a small bowl, then rub the mixture onto the meat.
2. Turn the meat over, so that the skin is now on top. Again, use a needle or the tip of a knife to prick the skin all over at close intervals. Combine the ingredients from Seasoning B in a small bowl, then rub the mixture onto the skin.
3. Place the pork on a dish with the skin side up and leave uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Preheat the oven the 480 degrees. Roast the pork, skin side up, for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and roast for another 50 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven.
5. Set the oven to broil and return the pork to brown for 10-15 minutes, until the skin is browned and bubbly.
6. Slice the pork into long strips and then cut into thin rectangular pieces. Arrange on a serving platter, garnish with cilantro and serve hot or cold along with white rice and the soy, oyster and hoisin dipping sauces on the side.
Get started by collecting your ingredients. Along with 2 1/2 pounds of pork belly, you’ll be creating two seasoning rubs — a dry rub for the meat and a vinegar rub for the skin.
Start with the meaty side of the pork belly. Prick the entire surface of the meat with a knife point or needle to help the seasoning rub sink in. Next, mix the dry seasoning ingredients together and rub vigorously into the meat.
Flip the pork belly over and repeat the pricking on the skin side. The more holes the better! Combine the wet seasoning ingredients and rub into the skin. I used a Chinkiang vinegar, but really any Chinese vinegar will work.
Place the meat in heatproof dish with the skin side up and then let it sit uncovered overnight in the refrigerator. Leaving the meat uncovered helps it dry out a bit.
Here’s what the pork belly looks like after marinating in the refrigerator overnight. Note that I’ve transferred the pork to a roasting pan — use something with high sides as the pork will shed quite a bit of oil while roasting.
Roast the meat for 10 minutes at 480 degrees, reduce the heat to 350 and then roast for an additional 50 minutes. Finally, set the oven to broil and brown for up to 10 minutes until the skin surface is bubbly.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Here’s what the pork looks like at this stage — the meat is juicy, while the skin is nice and crunchy.
Cut the pork into long strips (you’ll see I have two long strips above) and then into thin rectangular pieces. Arrange on a serving platter, garnish with cilantro and serve, either hot or cold, with white rice and the soy, oyster and hoisin dipping sauces on the side.
HT: Recipe adapted from Chinese Feasts & Festivals: A Cookbook.