As I’ve mentioned before, the Chinese believe that having meat or even just a lot to eat is a sure sign of prosperity.
If you’ve ever been to a Chinese wedding at a Chinese restaurant, you’ll know what I mean. It’s an 8 to 10 course meat and seafood fest, with vegies just there for aesthetic reasons.
I loved those banquets (I’m at an age where pretty much all my friends are married, and I now have to wait for the next generation to offer me such a feast). I could never pace myself properly and was always almost too stuffed to eat the moreish carb-rich longevity noodles they serve at the end. I said almost, because you need to balance all the protein with something and it may as well be a plate full of white noodles. And then it would be disrespectful not to eat the desserts on offer…
Many years ago, a Chinese friend’s dad came home grumbling about a Chinese couple’s wedding he had attended at the Hilton Hotel in the city. He complained about only being served 3 courses, how they brought out huge plates but didn’t fill them up – there was only a tiny bit of food in the middle, and the only option for dessert was the wedding cake! He consoled himself by driving down to Chinatown afterwards for congee with salted pork and century egg for supper.
The same thought process applies to Chinese New Year – duck, chicken, pork, beef, fish, prawns and abalone – preferably all served in the same meal. The goal is to stuff yourself to the brim, and the aim is to still have food left over because it means you’ll have a prosperous year. And who doesn’t want a prosperous year?
One of my favourite meats is pork belly with crispy skin. The Chinese sometimes refer to pork belly as ‘three layered meat’, but I think ‘three layered fat’ is more to the point. However, meat (and fat) this tasty shouldn’t be shied away from – just embrace the amazing flavoursomeness, the juicy, tender layers of white pork lovingly sandwiched between soft, melt-in-your-mouth fat, topped off with crunchingly fabulously fatty crackling… just don’t embrace for too long or too often. It’s definitely a sometimes food!
With Chinese New Year just around the corner, in honour of those gluttonous protein packed banquets and looking forward to many more, here’s my easy crispy skin roast pork belly recipe.
Crispy Skin Pork Belly
Serves: 6 people
- 750g pork belly (ask your butcher to score the skin for you)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 day before:
- Scrape the bristles off the pork rind if there are any
- Dry the pork rind with a kitchen towel
- Rub the pork with the salt and spice
- Leave uncovered overnight
- Take out the pork an hour before cooking
- Preheat oven to 240 degrees celsius
- For the sauce, combine the ingredients and set aside
- Place pork, skin side up on a rack in a roasting tin
- Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees celsius
- Cook for 40 – 45 minutes until crispy
- Let the pork rest for at least 10 minutes and cut into pieces
- Serve with the sauce, rice and vegies
- Yes, you do need to prep this up the day beforehand (I sometimes do it 2 days before) because you want to dry out the skin as much as you can – this helps with the crisping process. The advantage of doing the prep the day before is that all you have to do on the day is pop it into the oven.
- Score the skin in widths that you would like to serve the pork in. This makes life easier because you can just slice along the score lines when you’re ready to serve.
- The skin should crackle and bubble. During the cooking time, if the skin isn’t bubbling or blistering – take the pork out and brush the rendered fat sitting on the bottom of the tin onto the skin – this will help the crisping process.
- The lemon in the hoisin sauce helps to cut through the fattiness of the pork.