In Chinese restaurants in the Philippines, it is called lechon Macau—a slab of pork belly roasted until the rind is browned and crisp. Chinese crispy roasted pork belly is similar to the Filipino lechon kawali but the cooking methods differ. While lechon kawali is boiled in salted water prior to deep frying, in the Chinese version, the meat goes directly into the oven and no frying is required. The pork is roasted in medium heat for an hour or longer, depending on the volume of the meat, then the temperature is cranked up to allow the rind to turn brown and crisp.
Except for curiosity, there really was no reason for me to cook crispy pork belly any differently from how I’ve cooked it in the past. My method is a combination of Filipino and Chinese cooking methods—I simmer the pork in highly salted water then stick it into an extremely hot oven. I’ve always been more than happy with the results. But, like I said, I was curious. I wanted to compare. So, yesterday, I roasted pork belly the Chinese way.
I rubbed the meat (not the rind) with a mixture of salt, pepper, ginger powder and five-spice powder. I placed the pork belly, skin side up, on a rack which I sat inside a baking pan.
The pork rind was covered with a blanket of salt which was supposed to draw out the moisture to help the rind turn crisp later.
Into a 350F oven went the pork belly where it cooked for an hour and a half. I took the pork out of the oven and raised the oven temperature to 475F.
Meanwhile, I removed the hardened salt covering the pork rind.
Back into the oven went the pork where it roasted for another half an hour.
Yes, the rind was crisp. But, in comparison to lechon kawali, it did not puff like it does when the pork had been pre-cooked on the stove top. You can compare the photos in this post with the ones in the lechon kawali with no deep frying post. The photos pretty much tell the story. As for the meat, it wasn’t as tender nor as juicy as lechon kawali.
Still, this is a cooking technique worth learning if only for the convenience of using only one pan in the entire process. It’s less work than making lechon kawali.
Chinese Crispy Roasted Pork Belly
- 1 kilo pork belly
- 3/4 cup rock salt
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder mixed with 1 tablespoon rock salt
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Wipe the pork belly dry with a kitchen towel. Place on your chopping board, skin side down.
- Mix together 1 tablespoon rock salt, the five-spice powder and ginger powder. Rub on the meat, not the rind.
- Transfer the pork belly to a rack nestled inside a baking tray.
- Spread the rest of the rock salt on the pork rind.
- Pour enough water in the baking tray to reach a depth of two inches. The bottom of the pork should not touch the water. The water will create steam to help keep the meat moist. It will also catch the fat. If you don't add water, the rendered pork fat will burn.
- Roast the pork belly at 350F for an hour and a half.
- Take the pork out of the oven.
- Turn up the oven temperature to 475F.
- The salt blanket on the pork rind would have hardened; just remove it and discard.
- Put the pork back in the oven and roast for another half an hour.
- Take the pork out of the oven and place on the chopping board. Let the meat rest for about ten minutes before chopping into two-inch squares.
- Serve your Chinese crispy roasted pork belly with a dipping sauce made by mixing together hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce and chili oil. Use more or less of each ingredient to suit your taste.
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