Sunday, August 7, 2011

Siu Youk - Chinese Crispy Roast Pork

One of our lunch time favourites is a bowl of Chinese Noodle soup. It’s our usual lunch in London. Light tasty and nutritious. I have already sung praises of a Soup lunch in my post on Pho Ga. Crispy pork is a very very tasty add on in a bowl of Noodle Soup. This brings me to the point of this post.

Pork belly is a cheap cut of meat which is delicious when slow cooked. The belly is very forgiving cut of meat and remains moist and soft even if you abuse cooking times. The rendering fat keeps the meat hugely moist. You would have seen Cantonese restaurant with roast pork, duck, and goose hanging in the windows. This is a clichéd photograph of any `Chinatown’.

Roast Pork Cantonese style comes in two broad varieties. The more popular is the vividly red barbecued pork belly that is sweet called Char Sui. It’s often filled in Chinese Pork Bao or the Roast Pork Puffs standards in a Dim Sum Menu. The other variation is a crisp pork belly which is a sort of yellow colour and known as Siu Youk. The skin on this pork belly is crisped up, it becomes what we know and love, Crackling! This is not as sweet as Char Sui.

Getting a suitable, accurate recipe to make Siu Youk became a minor obsession. I spent hours trawling the internet and compiled, distilled and adapted several recipes before I deemed it fit to attempt making Siu Youk at home. So we trudged off to Highland Cold Storage, Anup Hukumchand’s pork shop at Dadar to get a bit of Pork Belly. We got an 800 gram slab of pork belly and set about prepping and making the Siu Youk.

This is the recipe we used. It is a compilation/distillation of several recipes.


1 pork belly about 750 grams all bones removed. Scored and prepped as described below.

For Marinade

2 tablespoons Miso paste
1 table spoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder
Water to mix or better still Shaoshing wine or even Indian Port wine.

Day 1
The first thing is to wash the meat, dry it with some kitchen paper and score it. The Skin has to be scored much more densely. You should run your knife at less than 1 cm gaps both horizontally as well as vertically. Be careful to not cut thru the skin to the meat. Next, turn the belly over and score the meat side. Here you could score much less densely leaving gaps of about 2-3 cms. Once again be sure to not cut thru to the skin. Once you have done this rub salt into the skin only and place the whole slab on a rack in the fridge overnight skin side up. This helps extract water from the skin to help it get crisper when cooked.
Day 2
The next day, make a marinade which you need to rub into the meat side. Be sure to apply it in the cuts as well and see that all the meat side is covered. Keep the marinated meat, meat side up, on a rack in the fridge overnight.
Day 3
Now you are ready to cook the piggy.

Preheat the oven to 220 C and switch on the fan if the oven has one. On a lower rack place a roasting pan filled with water. Place the pork belly directly on a rack, skin side on top and put the rack on top of the water filled baking dish. The idea is that the steam will keep the meat moist while the skin gets crisp. Also the rendering fat will drip into the water.

Turn the oven down after 20 minutes to 180 C. Continue to cook for a further 30 to 40 minutes depending on the thickness of the belly. By this time the skin would have started to blister. At this stage, brush some ordinary white vinegar on the skin and place it back in the oven and switch the oven to the `broil’ setting. After a few minutes you will see the skin really blistering and even blackening. Don’t worry. Once the skin has blistered completely remove from oven and let it cool. Scrape of the browned parts with a sharp knife. It’s quite easy. Piggy is now ready to eat.

Take a heavy knife and simply press down firmly and chop the belly into strips and then cubes. Do not try and slice with a sawing motion. The skin will tear off. The results are totally delicious.

We were amazed how well this turned out. A couple of minor glitches. The belly was just not thick enough. This is a problem with Indian pigs. They are small and the belly does not have much meat. The second was that we had slightly less salt and sugar in the marinade. I have adjusted the quantities in the recipe.

Do try and make this at home if you have an oven and can get pork belly. It’s a cheap cut of meat and the results are really fantastic. The photos are proof of really how easy this is. Enjoy.

Siu Youk Pork in Chinatown London

Cleaned, skin side pork belly

Cleaned, scored meat side of pork belly


Marinade applied on meat side

After 20 mins at 220 C

After 30 mins at 180 C

After another 6 mins under broiler at 220 C

After another 3 mins under broiler at 220 C

Siu Youk ready to eat

Siu Youk with stir fried tofu, pak choy and prawns

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